Supporting the LGBT+ community on gender identity

Supporting LGBT+ people, patients and staff across north east London is a key priority for North East London Commissioning Alliance (NELCA).

Within our organisation we ensure that our LGBT+ staff are well supported and contribute their views and experiences, but we also stand as an ally in raising awareness of inequalities faced within the LGBT+ community.

One of the ways in which we are doing this is to encourage staff to include their pronouns within their email signature to express gender identity.

What is gender identity?

Gender identity is a way to describe how someone feels about their gender. Someone might identify their gender as a man or a woman or something different. This is different from your sex, which is related to your physical body and biology. People are assigned a gender identity at birth based on their sex.

When talking about gender there can be a lot of words and phrases used that people may not have heard before. We’ve listed some below, but there are others that you may hear:

  • Gender expression – How a person chooses to outwardly express their gender, within the context of societal expectations of gender. A person who does not conform to societal expectations of gender may not, however, identify as trans.
  • Gender dysphoria – Used to describe when a person experiences discomfort or distress because there is a mismatch between their sex assigned at birth and their gender identity. This is also the clinical diagnosis for someone who doesn’t feel comfortable with the sex they were assigned at birth.
  • Transition / transitioning – The steps a trans person may take to live in the gender with which they identify. Each person’s transition will involve different things. For some this involves medical intervention, such as hormone therapy and surgeries, but not all trans people want or are able to have this. Transitioning also might involve things such as telling friends and family, dressing differently and changing official documents.

There are lots of other terms that people use when talking about gender. An individual’s gender identity is very personal, so people may use different terms or labels. Some examples are listed below.

  • Trans / Transgender – An umbrella term to describe people whose gender is not the same as, or does not sit comfortably with, the sex they were assigned at birth. Trans people may describe themselves using one or more of a wide variety of terms, including (but not limited to) transgender, transsexual, gender-queer (GQ), gender-fluid, non-binary, gender-variant, crossdresser, genderless, agender, nongender, third gender, bi-gender, trans man, trans woman, trans masculine, trans feminine and neutrois.
  • Cisgender – Someone whose gender identity is the same as the sex they were assigned at birth. Non-trans is also used by some people.
  • Transsexual – This was used in the past as a more medical term (similarly to homosexual) to refer to someone whose gender is not the same as, or does not sit comfortably with, the sex they were assigned at birth. This term is still used by some although many people prefer the term trans or transgender.
  • Non-binary / genderqueer – An umbrella term for people whose gender identity doesn’t sit comfortably with ‘man’ or ‘woman’. Non-binary identities are varied and can include people who identify with some aspects of binary identities, while others reject them entirely.

What are pronouns (or “gender pronouns”)?

Pronouns are used in language all the time when we refer to ourselves or other people. Examples of pronouns you might use to refer to others are:

  • he / him / his – for someone who might identify as male.
  • she / her / hers – for someone who might identify as female.
  • they / them / their or ze / zir / zie – for someone who might not identify strictly as male or female, these pronouns are considered ‘gender neutral’.

Including a person’s gender pronouns in an email signature has become common practice for many organisations. By adopting this practice in ELHCP, it will help to:

  1. Avoid misgendering staff which can be hurtful for trans and non-binary people, but also embarrassing for people who don’t identify as trans or non-binary,
  2. Show support to our trans and non-binary staff in expressing the pronouns that they would like people to use,
  3. Normalise discussions on gender identity within the workplace and wider health and social care services.

Further reading

UPDATED: 30/03/2023