Victoria University acknowledges International Pronoun Day on 20 October and recognises the right for people to choose how they refer to themselves to reflect their gender identity.
In today’s The Conversation, VU Clinical Psychologist Dr Glen Hosking says using a person’s correct pronoun fosters an inclusive environment and affirms a person's gender identity.
Referring to people by the wrong pronouns can make people feel dismissed and disrespected, leading to mental health issues, while research supports that using correct pronouns and names can reduce depression and suicide risks.
“There is a difference between sex and gender. Sex refers to the physical differences between people who are female, male, or intersex. A person typically has their sex assigned at birth based on physiological characteristics, including their genitalia and chromosome composition. This is distinct from gender, which is a social construct and reflect the social and cultural role of sex within a given community."
Gender identity can change over time
“People may identify with genders that are different from sex assigned at birth, some people do not identify with any gender, while others identify with multiple genders. These identities may include transgender, nonbinary, or gender-neutral. Only the person themselves can determine what their gender identity is, and this can change over time,” says Dr Hosking.
It is recommended that workplaces and organisations start supporting people’s use of self-identified first names (in place of legal names given at birth) and self-identified pronouns (in place of assumed pronouns based on sex assigned at birth or other's perceptions of physical appearance).
“You can't always know what someone's gender pronouns are by looking at them, by their name or by how they dress or behave. It is important to be open that gender is a non-binary concept and be open about their gender identity,” says Dr Hosking.