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How to Use Gender-Inclusive Language in Dance Spaces

Updated: Jun 8, 2023


Using gender-inclusive language is important for the health and safety of both dance instructors and students. Gender-inclusive language supports people of all marginalized genders, including transgender men, transgender women, non-binary folk, and gender non-conforming folk.


Language is constantly changing, and we will need to adapt to new ways of talking and thinking to continue to support gender-inclusive communication. This guide may be updated to reflect respectful language as it changes.


Gender-Neutral Language

The singular “they” is grammatically correct and should be used to refer to:

  • An unspecified person

  • A person whose pronouns are unknown, or

  • A person who uses they/them pronouns.

Example: Before a dancer enters the studio, they should check-in with the studio host to make sure they are accounted for.


Do not assume a person’s gender or pronouns. When communicating with or about instructors, students, or other dancers, do not address them as Sir, Ma’am, Mr., Ms., Miss, or any other language that assumes gender. Only use honorifics (Mr./Ms./Mx.) if the person has indicated their desired honorific. The gender-neutral honorific “Mx.” is pronounced mɪks (micks) or mʌks (mucks).


Omit unnecessary references to gender. Do not call attention to gender, gender expression, appearance, or other identities. For example, is it important to the context that a dancer is a woman, or that an instructor is transgender? If not, remove the language. When referencing in other languages, opt for gender inclusion. In Spanish, for example, many South American countries have adopted the “e” in place of “o” when referring to groups.


Example: Todes elles están interesades en diversidad e inclusión.

Exclusionary Language

Inclusive Alternatives

He or she, (s)he, s/he

They

Him or her

Them

His or Her(s)

Their(s)

Men and women

Ex: “The men and women dancing in Studio 1...”

People, dancers, folks, etc.

Ex: “The people dancing in Studio 1…” “The folks..." "The dancers..."

Both genders

All genders

Opposite gender, opposite sex

Different gender, different sex

"Hello, ladies and gentlemen" or "Hey guys"

Hello, everyone! Hello, all!

Husband or wife

Spouse, partner

Father or mother, sister or brother

Parent, sibling

Transgender-Inclusive Language

Always use a person’s chosen name and pronouns. A person’s name and pronouns are not optional or “preferred,” and their correct name and pronouns must be used every time.


Use “gender” instead of “gender identity.” Saying that someone “identifies as a man” or that their “gender identity is non-binary” marks them as different and undermines their gender. Just say, “He is a man,” or “They are non-binary.”


Use “gender identity” only to specify or draw a distinction between gender identity and expression. Example: The student group recognizes diversity of both gender identity and gender expression.

Invalidating Language

Validating Language

Preferred name and pronouns

Name and pronouns, chosen* name and pronouns

*Use “chosen” only when distinguishing from deadname.

______ identifies as ______

Ex: Carl identifies as male.

______ is ______

Ex: Carl is a man.

People who identify as non-binary

Non-binary people

Women and transgender women

Women, or transgender and cisgender women

Other Language to Avoid

This list is not comprehensive, and it is subject to change. Offensive language is listed here only for the purpose of education. It should not be used in any other context.

Offensive / Outdated Language

Correct Language

Transgendered

Transgender

_____ is a transgender.

_____ is transgender.

Transgender is an adjective, not a noun.

Transman, transwoman, trans male, trans female

Man, woman, transgender man, transgender woman, trans man, trans woman (include space)

Males, females

Men, women

Sex reassignment surgery, sex change operation

Gender confirmation surgery

Sex Change

Transition

Biologically male / female, born a man / woman

Assigned male / female at birth It is very rarely appropriate to talk about a person’s sex.

Real name, birth name

Deadname

Do not use a person’s deadname. Always refer to the person by their chosen name.

Discussing Masculine, Feminine, and Gender Neutral Energies

Movement is not gendered. Dance forms are not gendered. When we tell ourselves and others that certain movements or dance forms are more masculine or feminine, we then create a box around who can and cannot execute these movements.


Instead when describing execution or dance style, refer to masculine, feminine, and/or gender neutral energies, and recognize that no body is restricted to any energy and there is space for all energies in all movement.


Resources

To learn more about the topics discussed in this guide, please see the following resources:

City of Madison Gender-Inclusive Language Style Guide

Inclusive Language Content Guide

Transgender Style Guide

What Is the Singular They, and Why Should I Use It?

Trans-Inclusive Design



Learn more about how Rae Studios' More Than Movement creates safe and inclusive spaces at raestudios-sf.com/post/morethanmovement.


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