Cat Palmer: It's Pride Month, be a stronger ally through inclusive language and inclusive spaces | Opinion | Salt Lake City Weekly

Cat Palmer: It's Pride Month, be a stronger ally through inclusive language and inclusive spaces 

Hey Ladies

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Gender-neutral phrases like “Hello, friends” or even “Y’all” can help everyone and anyone to feel included. - CAT PALMER
  • Cat Palmer
  • Gender-neutral phrases like “Hello, friends” or even “Y’all” can help everyone and anyone to feel included.

Editor's note: The following article was published as part of City Weekly's 2023 Pride Issue.

"Table for two, ladies?" the host at a five-star Park City resort asked us. "Right this way, ladies," they directed as they showed us to our table.

My spouse and I were both wearing the types of suits one would most likely find in the menswear section of a department store. My spouse is gender-neutral, uses they/them pronouns, has been on testosterone for two years and has a gender marker X on their government documents.

We are not "ladies."

I eventually asked the host to use more inclusive language, explaining that we don't always know to whom we are speaking. And even if our intent is to flatter or be polite, there are many ways to do that without using gendered language. When I encounter service industry employees who already do this, I notice and appreciate it. That training and awareness makes me far more likely to frequent the establishments I know aren't going to misgender their customers.

Truth is—there are so many ways to be inclusive of everyone, and most of them will take minimal effort from you.

For example, words like "sir," "ma'am," "ladies" and "gentleman" are not as polite as they once were. I know many people mean well and it can be a hard habit to break, but the fact is that when you use these words, you may be shutting a large group of people out of the opportunity to receive your message at all.

Plus, you are assuming a person's gender based on how they look, and the sound of a person's voice does not always match their gender (even outside of the LGBTQ+ community). Please find another way of greeting people.

"Hello there!" is completely fine. When approaching a table, "Hello, friends," or simply "Good evening," will do. When greeting an audience, consider using, "Welcome, distinguished guests." When you're talking to a classroom: "Good morning, children!" Or, for any of the above audiences and more, take a page from the Southern handbook and just use "y'all." It's inclusive and fun to say!

Being aware of trans- and non-binary-friendly language is a form of allyship. If you work at, or frequently visit, a company that has outdated forms (looking at you University of Utah Medical Centers—love that rainbow U and your presence at Pride, though!), consider starting a conversation with HR or management suggesting the addition of boxes for gender marker X, non-binary, or simply "other."

Do you go to places with single-use restrooms that could easily be converted to any-gender restrooms? Many places in town have moved to this model, and it matters.

My spouse is one of many people who do not use the restroom when they are in public because of the number of cis-gendered women approaching them in the restroom to tell them they are in the wrong space. We recently discovered Refuge Restrooms, a website and app crowdsourcing non-gendered restroom locations—please use this and add to the growing list of safe spaces for our trans and non-binary friends.

My spouse had an awful experience at a certain downtown mall a few months back. They were denied the use of a family single-use restroom and were told they had to use the women's restroom by security. My spouse had to cross their legs, hold their pee and come home. This is not an allyship. (Speaking of restrooms, having period products available in all facilities is allyship.)

I know that it can feel strange at first when you shift your language. This is especially true when you're using new pronouns for a person you've known for a while.

I am still learning this lesson. Not long ago, I falsely assumed a person's pronouns were the same as they were when I last saw them. I apologized and got their pronouns correct for the rest of our time together, but I should have asked again that day.

People will not be offended if you ask their preferred pronouns. They will, instead, be grateful you're giving them an opportunity to be seen and heard.

And at the end of the day, isn't that what we all want?

I assume if you are reading this you are an ally who wants to learn and do better. For this, I thank you.

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Cat Palmer

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