Misgendering: Causes, Consequences and Prevention

Transitioning into their true gender is an essential and rewarding phase in life for transgender people.

Misgendering occurs when individuals continue to refer to a transgender person using terminology related to their identification before transition.

Misgendering happens when people purposefully or inadvertently refer to a transgender person, using language related to their identification before the transition that doesn’t correspond with their declared gender.

Just imagine a situation when you are called the erroneous pronoun (“he” instead of “she” and vice versa) many times a day. It could happen in person, over the phone, or by email.

Each time misgendering occurs, you must determine if it is worth it to correct that individual or simply ignore it. Having to face this experience daily is emotionally draining and demoralising. Misgendered individuals feel dismissed and invisible; therefore, it may negatively affect their mental health and their capacity to perform in the workplace.

What are the Causes of Misgendering?

There are many reasons why misgendering occurs.

For instance, individuals may identify certain primary or secondary sex features that a person possesses and make conclusions about this person’s gender based on that.

These features include:

  • facial hair or lack thereof
  • a wide or narrow range of voice pitch
  • visible chest muscles or their absence
  • genitals

People who have not updated their gender markers may experience misgendering in situations when official IDs are required, such as in public offices, schools, and hospitals. According to the information on their IDs, most people assume that they are male or female.

It is possible that misgendering is intentional, but it can also be just an accident. Those who have prejudiced views towards transgender people can use misgendering as a form of abuse and harassment.

Misgendering in the Workplace: How to Avoid It

Some people have argued against using gender-neutral pronouns at work, especially “they/them/theirs,” although the general acceptability of the singular “they” has risen in recent years.

It is not uncommon for human resources professionals and supervisors to be called upon to address incidents related to gender bias. The simplest technique to address misgendering in the workplace is to write a comment in an online chat or an email that reads, “Just a polite reminder that this person uses “they/them” pronouns.” Addressing misgendering is much easier with this strategy in place. It also demonstrates to others that a correction can be done in a polite manner, which is vital for demonstrating respect and inclusion for transgender colleagues.

Using gender-neutral language is the best way to avoid misgendering.

Here are a few examples:

Instead of “fireman” or “policeman,” use “firefighter” or “police officer.”

Say “everyone” instead of “ladies and gentlemen.”

Instead of saying, “hello gentlemen,” say “hello everyone.”

Pay attention to your speech and look for opportunities to use gender-neutral terminology.

Even though you still make mistakes, it is crucial to keep practicing and using the correct terminology! You can show your respect and support towards your transgender coworkers if you use appropriate pronouns, honorifics, and names to address them. As a result, you contribute to creating a more welcoming work environment that benefits all employees.

Skip to content