The HouseProud Pledge
It's been over two years since we launched the HouseProud Pledge. Since then over 50 social housing providers have reached out to us about the scheme and over 30 have gone on to sign up, with 7 achieving Pledge Pioneer status and 2 getting to Pledge Plus. The Pledge is now a significant tool, ensuring that LGBTQ+ people get a better and inclusive housing service from their landlords. We would like to say a big thank you for your amazing achievements in making this happen.
With this success also comes the need to review how the Pledge is operating. We’re determined to make sure that the scheme continues to go from strength to strength and can develop and grow. We want to particularly focus on how we involve residents more, and ensure that applicants are supported on the journey to be awarded Pledge status. We’re also keen to assess whether HouseProud, with its volunteer steering committee, can best offer this support and continue with robust oversight. Our review will set out a plan on how best to achieve this, and we will update the scheme in Autumn 2022.
If you are an organisation wanting to sign up to the Pledge scheme, we still want to hear from you. Please register your interest by sending an email to HouseProud_LGBT@outlook.com. We’ll send you an initial confirmation, and then contact you in the Autumn with the next steps.
If you are an existing organisation in the scheme who has been awarded Pledge status, we’ll contact you regarding the process for reassessment in the Autumn. In the meantime please continue to use the award status and be proud of the achievement.
If you are working towards the pledge but have not yet submitted your evidence for assessment, we will contact you in Autumn regarding the process for submission.
We would like to thank you all for your support, and please look out for further announcements in the future!
The HouseProud Management Committee
International Women's Day 2022
#breakthebias - our week of blogs
This International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month we're sharing the lived experiences of women and LGBT+ women in the workplace and in housing. We've explored a range of areas where women face discrimination and stereotypes, providing links to resources to help #BreakTheBias
6. How can we support our staff and residents who have disabilities?
by Lynne Nicholls
Events Officer – HouseProud Vice Chair of the Board - WATMOS
The disabled rights movement shares many parallels with the LGBT+ movement. It took protests by disabled people to force the government to act, leading to the landmark introduction of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. Thisbmade it illegal to discriminate against disabled people in connection with employment, the provision of goods, facilities and services or the disposal or management of premises.
In 2010 the Equality Act defined disability as 'a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on your ability to carry out normal day- to-day activities' and placed a duty on employers to make “reasonable adjustments”.
The ONS found the negative social impacts of the pandemic have been greater for disabled people. Among people who indicated that their wellbeing had been affected by Covid-19, 46% of disabled people said the pandemic had a negative impact on their mental health. This compares with 29% for non-disabled people.
We have a long way to go to #BreakTheBias surrounding disability, not just as employers but in the services, we provide and how we provide them.
In Housing we have a greater imperative to act as we provide people’s homes as well as employment. And let’s not forget 8 out of 10 disabled people acquired their disability, so it can affect anyone at any time: anyone of our staff, residents, or customers.
Infographic from Purple Changing the Conversation
As human beings we have more than one identity, I identify as a daughter, wife, Yorkshire lass, Carer, Christian, Cis gendered, Bisexual, Dyslexic and Disabled. These identities all combine to make me who I am, how I experience the world/workplace, and the privileges I have.
‘The whole is greater than the sum of the parts’
My experiences of being a young carer, managing diverse teams, being neurodivergent and having invisible disabilities have certainly allowed me to see bias first hand. For example, why does it take a Pandemic for business and the Housing Sector to see the value in flexible working and reasonable adjustments?
Pre-pandemic it was nearly always a battle to get agreement for staff to have the reasonable adjustments they needed to enable them to fulfil their role without a detriment to their health. Whether that be through long protracted processes or a belief that the organisation knew better than the employee what they needed. Often a little creative thinking and a flexible interpretation of the policy was all that was required.
As we return to ‘the new normal’ please take a people centric approach, listen to your staff, and really consider why an adjustment cannot be made. If the answer, is we have not made this type of adjustment before, then that is not a good enough reason to deny it.
Some conditions at the point of diagnosis as considered disabilities such as Cancer, HIV and MS. Other conditions can be considered a disability under the Equality Act 2010 if they have a 'substantial' and 'long-term' negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities. This can include invisible conditions such as asthma, arthritis, lupus, and endometriosis.
Endometriosis affects 1 in 10 women; it takes years to diagnosis and there is no cure. I have lived with this condition for years and often the best you can do is manage the symptoms such as extreme pain which can be as painful as experiencing a heart attack.
When you introduce your menopause policy, extend that to supporting women in what comes before. For example, what is your organisation doing to address period poverty for your staff and residents?
Dyslexia is recognised as a disability within the meaning of the legislation because individuals with dyslexia are substantial disadvantage within the workplace when compared to those who are not dyslexic.
My personal journey with dyslexia has been one of shame, before with the help of organisations such as Made by Dyslexia, I embraced it as my superpower.
This shame was reinforced in my early career by a manager who insisted that I write the flipchart in our group and when I fed-back for the group, they proceeded to point out my spelling mistakes in front of the whole conference. From then on, I did not always disclose I was a dyslexic at work as I was worried it would affect my career.
Has your organisation reviewed your policies and processes through a neurodivergent lens if not, why not? You are missing out on a range of in-demand skills.
My mum has a physical disability, which means we have always had to carefully plan to go outside to ensure where we were going was accessible, including public transport and other public services.
As employers we have a duty to ensure our workplaces are accessible, however, if they are accessible, it is often only in certain areas. I knew of one occasion when a colleague arrived at the office and could only go as far as the lobby. Clearly more needs to be done in our workplaces and when building homes as there is a shortage of accessible homes in both the private and social housing sectors.
How is your organisation addressing these issues?
The benefit of diverse teams is well documented, and this has been recognised by the Housing Federation in the 2020 Code of Governance. The code is explicit in the board's role in taking an active lead in committing to equality of opportunity, diversity, and inclusion in all of the organisation’s activities as well as in its own composition.
How does your organisation's board measure up?
"With great power comes great responsibility"
We have the power to change the experience both in the workplace and in people’s homes, I urge you and your organisation to act now and #BreakTheBias.
5. Head Coverings
By Puja Mitra
Events Officer, HouseProud
Inclusion and Diversity Lead, Ark
Women wear head coverings, for a variety of reasons from religious, traditional, safety and for fashion.
My mother-in-law who lives in India started wearing hijab a few years after I got married. Since that time, I have heard and seen few people judge her and make comments which now I realise are clearly micro-aggression. I reflected deeply about this on World Hijab Day in 2022 following reading a powerful blog from a colleague.
As someone who has been married to a Muslim family and as part of my role as D&I professional, I have found that women of colour who wear headscarves are often discriminated in society and workplace and data supports the same.
In my journey of being an ally to women who wear headscarves, I have also found women who are from LGBT+ community who wear headscarves, face bias, micro-aggressions and other forms of discrimination.
These blogs and talks helped inform me of the lived experiences that women who wear head coverings face.
I urge you to read, listen and consider - are you and your workplace doing enough to #breakthebias?
Because I Wear Hijab People Don't Expect Me To Be Queer
Wearing a niqab and identifying with queerness is not a paradox by Hafsa Lodi
What does my headscarf mean to you? | Yassmin Abdel-Magied
4. Including Trans Women in the Workplace
by Sophie Collinge
Trans Officer, HouseProud
This International Women’s Day is an opportunity to reflect on the world we strive for, one which is diverse, equitable and inclusive. As a trans woman I have always felt passionate about those goals and how they can be achieved for all people who have had experiences of being a woman.
Knowing I was a trans woman was the easy part, and something my innate nature reminded me of daily. But to transition was a far more difficult undertaking. In large part this was because for a long time Trans people lacked the visibility in society to know whether diversity extended to them, equitability included them, and inclusiveness would be offered to them. Negatively impacting my career in Housing due to transitioning was a real fear.
It was this time, the first week of March, four years ago that I sat in a large waiting room nervously wondering what was going to happen in the next few hours. This was not my appointment at the Gender Clinic, that had been scheduled for the next week, this was the Old Bailey and I there for jury service. In a rapid series of events, I was made to cancel my appointment but then be rejected for the trial and the rest of jury service anyway. This major setback would be for me the catalyst to transitioning at work, and within a month I had achieved that.
The Housing Association I work for, worked closely with me and by every measure my transition at work was a success. But up until that point I had no idea that it would be. While companies have progressed a long way since 2018 with a focus on accepting and accommodating for Trans and Non-binary people, a policy or set of practices does not complete the full picture. A company needs to both externally and internally show that it welcomes and provides for Trans and Non-binary staff. This means easily available to read policies, related intranet and website content, seminars on inclusivity and recognition of the LGBT+ staff contributions.
‘What helped me was being able to tell my team in my own way and when I was ready. As a Repairs Operative one thing that was challenging was finding safety gear and uniforms suitable for women another was not having a clear transitioning at work policy. ‘
Repairs Operative – G15 organisation
‘Having the support of the LGBT+ and gender networks really helped make the process of telling people I was transitioning at work be less daunting. But not having staff, managers and HR trained in using the policy meant it was a challenging at times.’
Housing Support Officer – G15 organisation
Trans and Non-binary staff may not want to or be ready to disclose this fact about themselves. Trans women in particular may feel vulnerable if having transitioned in a previous company to making it public knowledge again that they are Trans. This means that companies must take steps to be inclusive and show that they are welcoming from the beginning, and not wait until a member of staff declares they are changing their gender status or choosing to transition in the workplace.
If we’re bringing people into a space to have a collective mission to work together, then we need to get to know people more individually and say, ‘what is it that you need to succeed in this environment?’.
For the Trans and Non-binary people entering the workforce in 2022 I hope they don’t need a significant event like I had to make the gender change they desire in the workplace. For them I hope they just need to take a moment to check the company Welcome Pack to then know that it will be fine.
What can your housing organisation do?
Work with your LGBT+ network and/or gender networks, trans and non-binary staff and external organisation such as Gendered Intelligence when reviewing and developing a transitioning at work policy.
Have a transitioning at work policy and ensure it includes non-binary identities.
Ensure the policy has guidance for staff, line manager and HR with a glossary of terms.
If you have a dress code policy, ensure its inclusive of all gender identities
Ensure that HR and anyone who manages staff are trained on the policy and guidance.
Have specific training for all staff on gender diversity.
Look to other sectors such as the great work being done by Trans in the City
For some further helpful information on transgender inclusion in the workplace watch:
3. Writing an inclusive menopause in the workplace policy.
by Jamie Hickling
Area Manager - WLM, West London Mission
I wanted to think about what we can do in the workplace to support people through the perimenopause and beyond. In particular, I wanted to listen to experiences of women, trans and non-binary people and those across queer communities with a view to contributing to our organisation’s first policy on menopause in the workplace.
“I felt alone, but actually now the conversation is becoming more open there’s an opportunity to become more of level playing field for everyone so that doesn’t need to happen to someone else.”
“Talking to your Mum is not always possible for queer people and there are different experiences across class and culture. Reaching out for help is hard but after talking, I felt so much better. ”
“The housing sector is not always like a corporate office and sanitary provision can vary from building to building.”
Just a handful of great blogs, podcasts and other platforms:
Davina McCall: Sex, Myths and the Menopause
I can roll off that ‘not all women bleed, and not everyone who bleeds is a woman’ almost in rote after spending ending a lot of time being lucky enough to discuss this. I need to remember that for some this is a large concept to get their heads around if they haven’t had the opportunity for the same conversations- so having time to think through this and space to ask questions is key to getting any support right across organisation.
Gay and bi women, trans and non-binary people must be included into the fabric of any workplace policy (not only because it is law- but because it’s the right thing to do, please don’t think of this as an ‘add on’). To be inclusive, people should not have to make brave leap to ‘disclose’ their menopause, but have the structures in place where it’s clear that we are an organisation where it’s OK to talk about your menopause.
What can we do…
Menopause is a health issue, yet only a third of people tell their employer and seek support in the workplace- being far more likely to tell line managers and colleagues rather than occupational health or HR. Sending a clear message that your organisation is open and supportive can be the biggest factor to start conversations within teams.
Understanding that there is ‘no one face of the menopause’ means the policy has to be clear to all and relevant to those that need guidance on the best supportive approach.
Here's what I recommend
Create a culture open to talking about all life events
If you don’t have one, write a supportive policy
Properly fund research
Review facilities provision across any gendered spaces
Great resources for developing your approach to Menopause in the workplace:
I hope to share our policy when complete and keep the conversation going.
2. Caring Responsibilities
by Dewbien Plummer
Diversity and Inclusion Lead, HouseProud
Head of Housing Strategy, Royal Borough of Greenwich
A few weeks ago, my first child turned 18. I found out I was pregnant on my first day as a Housing Officer. Mortified, I hid it at first, terrified they’d think they made a mistake hiring me. When I did eventually tell my boss, he was great about it. Even so, I worked myself half to death worried that I’d lose my job. I remember being heavily pregnant & going in on a Saturday to catch up with work. I forgot to display my parking permit & my car was clamped and towed away. It cost me about £250. Eventually my body said no more, and I stopped working.
After six weeks of bed rest, high blood pressure & an emergency c-section, baby arrived healthy and well.
For a long time, I was ashamed of that experience. Why did I feel it necessary to push myself so hard? Was I imagining things?
I got my answer about 3 years later. When I first came back to work after maternity leave, I unsuccessfully applied for an internal promotion. Years later the hiring manager – a mother – came to me and apologised. She confessed that she had not given me the role, despite me being the best candidate, because when she had first returned to work after having a baby she had really struggled. She assumed it would be the same for me.
“One of the most important things to say about the gender data gap is that it is not generally malicious, or even deliberate. Quite the opposite. It is simply the product of a way of thinking that has been around for millennia and is therefore a kind of not thinking. A double not thinking, even: men go without saying, and women don’t get said at all.”
― Caroline Criado Pérez, Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men
When men & women first enter the workforce, the wage gap is minimal. But once the first child is born, the wage gap continues upward on a steady trajectory, finding it’s resting place as the gender pension gap (37.9% in 2019/20 in the UK, twice the level of the gender pay gap that year – 15.5%).
‘Either the mother commits to the working practices of dominant masculinity, that is a boundless time schedule, a suppressed personal life and a reduced investment in care, reinforcing what some mothers feel is a destructive work paradigm, or they must accept lower-status work. Most mothers who stay in work in the UK choose the latter option’ (Cahusac and Kanji, 2014).
Gender wage gap by time to/since birth of first child Source: BHPS 1991-2008 and Understanding Society 2009-15 presented in (Costa Dias et al., 2018)
During their careers, women tend to work in lower paid jobs/sectors, have more time out of the workplace and require more flexible working arrangements to meet their caring responsibilities. Part-time working has been proven to have a detrimental effect on career progression.
Globally, on average, women take on three times as much unpaid care work as men. Unpaid work includes caring for children, other dependants, and the household. (ActionAid, 2017) This extra work leads to ‘time poverty’, negatively impacting women’s health, well-being, and earning capacity.
It’s no surprise then women report feeling they need to ‘behave like men to get on’, downplaying their caring responsibilities to avoid stigmatisation. In some studies women reported being pushed towards or held in devalued roles, due to a perceived fit with their gender-stereotypical skillsets.
Women and certain racial ethnic groups from working class backgrounds can face a distinct double disadvantage fitting the image of an ‘archetypal’ candidate and describe that the process of suppression and assimilation as exhausting, carrying significant emotional cost. Women from the LGBT+ communities also face additional pressures as carers as there are often additional barriers to accessing support.
The overarching theme in all the studies is the conflict between the way that we work (e.g., long hours), and our caring responsibilities. The pandemic has changed the reality of working life for all and made a way for try something different. Enabling women, (everybody), to fulfil their full potential in the workplace, is something we should all expect as standard.
Caring work is the backbone of society and allows all other work to continue. Although this post is about women with children, caring responsibilities can affect any of us at any age and come in many different forms; relatives, pets, plants and most importantly self. Do your part to #BreakTheBias.
Action organisations can take
As an organisation, review your policies through a carer’s lens are they fit for purpose, if not changed them.
Report on your pay gaps for gender, disability, ethnicity, LGBT+ and look at it intersectional; that way you have better data to address inequities.
Set up carers' networks so that people have a place to seek support and you have a sounding board.
Promote organisations that support carers.
Ask your Boards, Executives, Managers, Team leaders to Read ‘The Power of Diverse Thinking’ by Mathew Syed who extols the virtue of cognitive diversity. Cognitive diversity, differences in perspective, insights, experiences & thinking styles, is different but related to demographic diversity (gender, race, age etc).
1. Starting OUT in Housing
by Harriet Proffitt
Young People's Officer, HouseProud
Lead Project Manager, Notting Hill Genesis
I started working in housing when I was 24, the same year I finally came out to my parents. I’d come out to some friends in my 20s and finally built up the courage to tell my family when I had returned from travelling.
Starting my first real office job threw up some complications on whether I had to carry on leading a double life again or if I felt comfortable to be my true authentic self. I’m sure every young gay person goes through the same struggle of feeling like you’re living with this secret which makes you different to everyone else. Every teenager spends their high school lives trying to fit in and be “normal”, but when does this end? Do we all carry this on for the rest of our lives? School drama changes into office politics, still trying to blend in and do what you can to further your career and “fit in”. Don’t get me wrong of course there are people who break this mould. As a gay person I still look to these loud figures who are so out and proud and don’t seem to care what anyone thinks of them. I think surely this is exhausting, how do they find the strength to be like that?
By the time I began my career in housing, and working with colleagues of varying ages and cultures in such a diverse workplace, I was unsure of whether I should come out. One of the women I worked with was a similar age to me and had similar interests, so we struck up the beginning of a workplace friendship. One day at the printer she complimented me on the perfume I was wearing and how nice it was. She then quickly remarked “Don’t worry I’m not a lesbian though!” at this point I froze; this was my moment to say “Well I am” but instead I decided in that split second to laugh along and mumble something along the lines of "Oh yeah, good".
After this I distanced myself from her and decided to keep my personal life personal.
Probably about a year later I became closer with some of my teammates, these women were all in their 40s or 50s. I looked to them as mother figures, like my aunties. One of them even used to bring me in some food if she knew I had spent all my pay too quickly. We all used to sit and have lunch together, me enjoying all their stories and office gossip. One lunch I was the focus of their attention, they knew I loved to socialise and spend time with my friends at the weekend. One of them asked if there was a man on the scene? Here again was my opportunity to open up and reveal myself. Instead, I laughed it off and said my love life was non-existent. Many months later again the topic came up, this time in a one-on-one lunch with one of my closest team colleagues, who was my favourite ‘auntie’. When we were out for one of our lunches, she asked me how my non-existent love life was and if I had a man yet. I thought this is it now or never, I managed to finally mumble the words “Well actually I’m gay, i don’t like men” She took a moment and said “Well never would’ve guessed that! So, is there a woman on the scene??” and carried on as normal, just wanting to know more about my life.
After this it built my confidence to feel comfortable to open up to more people in the office, sharing my true self with them but these were people I considered my friends at work. I still found it hard to open up to those who I saw just as colleagues. When I moved offices, I was lucky enough that my manager was part of the LGBTQI+ community, she was getting married that year to her partner and she wasn’t afraid to share this with colleagues. Seeing her be confident enough in herself to share every aspect of her life with those she worked with, not just her work friends. Gave me the confidence to do the same. Its not always easy and some days I don’t feel like sharing anything with anyone.
Some colleagues have reacted in a way which disappoints me and makes me distance myself from them. But now as I’ve reached my 30s and moved away from my turbulent 20s, I’ve realised how damaging it is not to accept and love who you are. I’ve finally understood now when friends have said to me in the past about me receiving a homophobic reaction to coming out, that’s it’s not a reflection on me but of them.
If you are starting out in Housing, Housing Diversity Network have a great mentoring programme that runs from September to June each year. Applications for the September 2022 open on Monday 12th April 2022.
Another way to seek support and meet people is to join a staff Diversity network in your workplace. Outside of your workplace you could join HouseProud a free network for LGBT+ people who work in social housing. You join as an individual, perfect if you are not yet comfortable being out in your own workplace.
Meet your new Steering Committee members!
We've got a lot lined up for you
As we kick off 2022 with the hope to get back to a blended mix of online and in-person events (and maybe some Prides!) HouseProud is pleased to announce that we have some exciting new faces on our Steering Group Committee.
We're especially pleased that three of them work for organisations who haven't been on the steering committee before!
Joining as Male-identifying Co-chair is Jamie Hickling, (top right) a leader from the West London Mission (WLM)
The new Young Persons Officer is Harriet Profit (bottom left) who is a Lead Project Manager at Notting Hill Genesis.
Joining us to mastermind our amazing events is Puja Mitra, (bottom right) Diversity and Inclusion lead at the educational charity Ark, and you'll remember Puja from our event last year on building inclusive workplaces.
Our new Diversity and Inclusion role is filled by Dewbien Plummer (top left) who is Head of Housing, Strategy, Technology and Improvement at the Royal Borough of Greenwich
Jamie says, “HouseProud has been a real lifeline for me in terms of development opportunities and support networks. I’m pleased to be able to support the work of HouseProud as Co-chair and look forward to strengthening the unity of purpose over the next year'
We hope you will join us in welcoming them to your network!
This is the space to see what the next events are that you might like to join. A lot of our work relies on availability of speakers and if we're meeting in-person, premises, but this is the rough outline for what we have coming up for you..
All our Members and Affiliate Members receive emails before each event and becoming a member is easy - you just need to contact us and let us know that you'd like to join. If you identify as LGBT+ and work in social housing or care, then you can be a member. Straight allies or LGBT+ people working in other sectors are affiliate members.
We're working on an in-person Networking Evening for International Women's Day - Breaking the Bias - details very soon.
Following our members' feedback, we are terribly excited to launch four CPD Professional Development Sessions.
These will cover both personal development and social housing functions
We are planning our presence at the Prides!
We are looking at Brighton Pride, Black Pride, Trans Pride, Bi Pride and Essex Pride
Has your employer signed up to the HouseProud Pledge yet?
We're really pleased to announce that we now have the following housing providers signed up to the HouseProud Pledge. This is our unique accreditation which aims to deliver lasting positive change for our LGBT+ residents and service users. Although many are at different stages of the Pledge, they are all showing the commitment to make this change. Not on the list? Want to know more?
Click this link
Clarion; Riverside; Quo Vadis Trust; Anchor; Notting Hill Genesis; Network; Irwell Valley; Sir Josiah Mason Trust; Royal Borough of Greenwich; Home Group; Homes for Lambeth; London Borough of Lambeth; Orbit; Mosscare St Vincents; L&Q; Swan; Onward Housing; Weaver Vale Housing Trust; Prospect Community Housing; Providence Row; Grand Union Housing Group; Great Places Housing Group
Let's make housing 'Dementia Out'
Bring Dementia Out is LGBT Foundation’s programme to address the challenges faced by LGBT+ people living with dementia and those who are supporting them. The aim of the programme is to address a lack of LGBT+visibility and awareness in care and housing services.
Bring Dementia Out provides free training to support dementia care and housing organisations to understand and address the challenges LGBT+ people living with dementia face.
Anecdotal evidence from Bring Dementia Out tells us that LGBT people living with dementia face particular challenges when accessing dementia care services and housing providers. These challenges include, but are not limited to; organisations are often heteronormative and cis-orientated, there are often issues arising around next of kin (even for married same sex couples) and other supporters being excluded from care decisions, and a return to being secretive about sexual and gender identity for fear of discrimination from care and housing providers. Trans people living with dementia in particular may not remember they have transitioned, or are wrongly gendered by care and housing providers.
Bring Dementia Out is able to provide support and guidance to a broad range of organisations working in the care and housing sectors to ensure they are confident to deliver on the needs of LGBT+ people living with dementia.
For further information or to book free training please contact email@example.com
HouseProud Stands with Everybody in the LGBT+ Community
In the light of the recent news that the LGB Alliance has been given charitable status in England and Wales, and the debate of Trans exclusion that this organisation has generated, HousePround would like to reiterate that it is an inclusive organisation for all members under the umbrella term LBGT+.
Our organisation is about support for minority groups represented by both sexuality and gender identity. Although there are distinct differences between the two, what the individuals all have in common is being a part of groups that have been marginalised by society and often discriminated against. Our mission is safe and equal environments for all LBGT+ staff who work in social housing and for all residents who identify as LBGT+ individuals.
For Trans Visibility Day let's discuss pronouns!
By Sophie Collinge,
pronouns she, hers,
HouseProud Trans Officer
The Transgender Day of Visibility, 31 March, is an annual recognition and awareness day that celebrates transgender and gender non-conforming people’s many contributions to society across the world, while also raising awareness of discrimination faced by them. In light of this, there is one aspect in which everyone can easily be more inclusive and supportive, and this is in respect to pronouns.
Personal and possessive pronouns describe the words used in place of a person’s name in speech and writing. They enable the speech and text to flow more easily and allow us to refer to someone where their name is not known. But our use of these pronouns is heavily based around being gender specific.
If you were to retell an incident you had with a stranger it would be easy enough to avoid involving their age, race or religion, but difficult to avoid including their sex. This is because our language is hardwired to define everyone by a male or female gender for every situation. Traditionally we use he/him/his when referring to a male and she/her/hers for female and it is ingrained in our learning to reference all individual people this way. It is clumsy, often leading to a simplifying use of the male pronouns when either gender could be applicable, and increasingly a cross section of society does not want to always be defined by their gender.
For transgender people, who often have a long journey when transitioning, understanding and using their preferred pronoun can be of vital importance to their self-esteem and wellbeing. Those transgender individuals who live their lives with people who use their correct pronouns have been found to suffer less depression and have a significantly reduced level of suicidal tendencies than those who are subjected to frequent misgendering.
But pronouns are equally important to nonbinary individuals. Nonbinary describes anyone whose gender identity or experience cannot be exclusively described by using the terms ‘man’ or ‘woman’. For them being nonbinary is a gender identity and not a form of gender expression. Their identity and experiences can encompass both masculine and feminine traits and does not align with the sex and gender-based attributes imposed at birth. In essence, the gender identity a person uses to describe themself does not necessarily tell you what pronouns to use and so it is important that we address the current flawed system in which gender based binary pronouns dominate.
There are several types of personal and possessive pronouns and to be inclusive of everyone we should be aware of the variety. They are:
• binary pronouns, such as she/her/hers and he/him/his
• gender-neutral pronouns, such as they/them/theirs
• neo pronouns, such as ze/hir/hirs or ze/zir/zirs
• multiple sets of pronouns, such as she/they or he/they
Some individuals may even be accepting of any pronouns being used. If it is the case, then do so respectfully. Alternatively, some nonbinary people do not use any pronouns at all and feel most affirmed and respected when only being referred to as their name. If someone does not share their pronouns freely, you should respect their decision and avoid pressing the subject further.
If you are unsure of what terminology to use in a given situation, defer to gender-neutral language as this is typically seen as inclusive. These pronouns are already commonly used when we do not know a person’s gender and are not just for describing more than one person. For instance, we all use statements such as ‘they will call back if it’s important’ and ‘someone left their coat behind’ and we know there is only one person in question. By keeping this in mind when referring to a nonbinary person, or in any case where gender is uncertain, we can build on our inclusivity.
But reviewing our use of pronouns should also go beyond transgender and non-binary equality. Being compelled to use gender specific pronouns not only rarely serves a benefit but can create mistakes and result in causing offence to anyone. These mistakes could be made when someone is androgenous or in written communication where the gender may not be apparent by the person’s name. Furthermore, gender specific pronouns are often sexist. When the gender is unknown or there is uncertainly the default is often the masculine pronouns. This generic use of masculine terms is not just a disservice to women but can also lead to mistakes and reinforce stereotypes.
It is important to remember that although for most people their pronouns are not something that they give much thought to, to others they are a core part of their identity that is complex, nuanced, and sometimes hard to explain. The best action you can take to help and be inclusive is to listen and to be open to learning. A person’s pronouns cannot be assumed and the best way to confirm is by simply and politely asking or by introducing yourself with your own pronouns. This will then give them an opportunity to share theirs. You can also help with inclusivity by including pronouns in your email signature and social media profiles. It will demonstrate that you care about individual’s preferences and prevent accidental misgendering.
HouseProud featured as
National Housing Federation launches first ED&I report for the UK
HouseProud was especially proud to have been mentioned in the NHF ED&I report published this month. and available for download here
Housing Diversity Network and the NHF gathered evidence and experiences around equality, diversity and inclusion in the housing association workforce.
Insights are from a range of sources, from literature and data sources to more informal evidence, such as media pieces, organisational case studies and personal experiences. It focuses primarily on sources from the last 15 years (insights older than 15 years are legislative). Insights were loosely coded by protected characteristics in the Equality Act 2010.
The insights address the following questions, which they structured the report around:
What is current landscape of equality, diversity and inclusion in the housing association sector?
What are people’s experiences of equality, diversity and inclusion within the sector?
What are the challenges that the sector faces with regard to equality, diversity and inclusion?
Is there a need for change? If so, what?
What can we learn from other whole- sector approaches