Review language in service policies
It’s important to make sure the language in your policy documents is inclusive and expansive.
Spend a moment reflecting on all the times we collect gender information – is this necessary? Can we shift ‘s/he’ to ‘them’; can ‘mother’ become ‘parent’ or ‘family member’?
If we decide we do need to collect gender, consider whether you support gender expansion – genders beyond the binary (2 gender model/ boy:girl). It’s probably easiest to have a free text box for gender identity rather than trying to list all the possibilities.
When collecting information on family structure and the important people in the child’s life, consider whether the language allows for all family structures/doesn’t make assumptions about family structure. Remember, a child may have 2 mums, have a dad only who isn’t in another parenting relationship, be cared for primarily by their grandparent, live with a parent’s spouse who doesn’t have a particular parenting identity or relationship.
Here’s a table to help you audit your documentation – add others that are relevant to your context
Here are some considerations that came out of our conversations with LGBTIQA+ families:
Not assuming parent role or role on forms, or even that the child has 2 parents. They may only have one; they may have 3 or 4.
Don’t ask for relationship to child on emergency form – let the person enrolling the child decide who they trust in an emergency, and not force them to out themselves if they don’t feel comfortable or ready
Use gender neutral language – parents/special adults/families instead of mum and dad and folk or people instead of men and women/ ladies and gentlemen.
Ask people what pronouns they use on enrolment forms and when you meet them for the first time. This is simple, when you meet someone for the first time, introduce yourself. I am going to pretend to be my best friend, she has a binary gender identity. She would say ‘Hi, my name is Monique, I go by she/her pronouns. What about you?” Whereas I would say “Hi, my name is Rachel, I use pronouns R, them, they and theirs. What about you?”
This kind of introduction is becoming more and more common, and is a great opportunity to engage in some gentle allyship with families who haven’t come across the cultural practice before.
Don’t make assumptions about a person’s gender identity based on their caring responsibility within the family or the way they dress.