Pride week sparks conversation about language and gender identity
REGINA – With an increased number of people becoming confident enough to make their transgender identities public, a larger conversation surrounding language is underway.
Incorrectly using ‘he’ or ‘she’ can be embarrassing and emotional for both people in a conversation.
“What do you call a young child who is gender diverse? A little boy or a little girl?” said Mikayla Schultz with TransSask Support Services and the Gender Equality Society of Saskatchewan. “What other options are there?”
Jett Brewer began transitioning to a man two years ago and says he’s OK if people use the incorrect pronoun. However, in his position at TransSask, he hears from people who would feel offended.
“Store clerks and things like that, the people that I’m going to interact with, they either get it right or they get it wrong,” said Brewer. “When you got people that have been hurt their whole lives, it’s only natural that they are going to have a hard time dealing with that as well.”
The conversation about gender identity has been evolving in recent years and is still advancing.
“I equate our understanding of transgender issues or gender identity to where we were with sexual orientation over thirty years ago,” said Dr. Kris Wells with the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services at the University of Alberta.
“Still largely stereotypical, pathological, and I think that’s why there’s still such a heightened concern and sensitivity around language.”
Facebook recently added more than fifty gender identifiers for people who don’t simply identify as ‘male’ or ‘female’, illustrating the diversity within in the transgender community.
“Young people today will identify themselves as transgender, trans, gender creative, gender independence,” said Wells. “One young person said it the best, ‘I just put it in a blender and I mix it all up. I’m a gender smoothie.’”
Online guides exist for how to use gender neutral language and the correct pronoun but Brewer’s advice is to just to have that conversation with the person in front of you.
“I think most people would appreciate that you would take the time to ask them rather than just assuming and starting off a dialogue with something that may be offensive.”
The Queen City Pride parade is planned for downtown Regina beginning at 12:00 p.m. Saturday.