Championing neutral terms


By Draiton Berridge, Support Worker

Transgender Awareness Week is a useful time for us all to reflect on our styles of communication. Everyone has a preference of address – pet names, nicknames, or our titles. I’m happy to announce that Riverside has accepted my title as Mr, though there was some dispute over the accolade ‘Thane of Whiterun’.

At Riverside, there’s a focus on using neutral language to better support customers, and I would like to draw attention to trans-inclusive conversation. We can credit Transport for London’s approach to switching out binary ‘Ladies and Gentlemen’ announcements on the Underground for ‘honoured guests’, ‘dear customers’ and ‘hello everyone’.

Group identification can be altered to say ‘team’, ‘gang’ or ‘crew’ rather than ‘Project Assistant girls’ or ‘Housing Team lads’.

The sense of erasure a transperson can experience by using gender-specific terminology such as ‘hello ladies’ or ‘dear sir/madam’ can be easily diverted with a simple ‘hello everyone’.

Inclusive greetings can have a huge impact on people who may not have disclosed their sense of self to others, or do not identify within a prescribed binary.

We will never know what anyone else is experiencing deep inside. The best we can do is challenge assumptions and champion neutral terms which create welcoming environments for anyone.

By wearing inclusiveness on our sleeves, we challenge bigotry and bring inclusive terms into familiarity – I wish ‘they’ as a singular pronoun could become common. Responsibility is on all of us to create safe and supportive environments.

Riverside has made some proud achievements in 2017, being the only housing association to have stalls at two consecutive Sparkle events and extending openness to a high numbers of rough sleepers impacted by gender and sexuality discrimination to name a few.

Additionally I want to spread appreciation of Riverside’s Transitioning at Work policy, which among other things allows staff time off to attend trans health clinic appointments.

Missing appointments creates instant discharge from services, questions an individual’s motivation and puts you right back at the start of a two year waiting list. Hormone-dependant and at the mercy of doctors for physical and mental wellbeing, these policies are fundamental to survive as a transperson in the workplace.