Hoyleton Youth and Family Services

The Importance of Language

Common Language Terms



    • Gender identity & expression defined.
      • Gender Identity: One’s internal sense of being male, female, neither of these, both, or another gender(s). Everyone has a gender identity, including you. For transgender people, their sex assigned at birth and their own internal sense of gender identity are not the same. Female, woman, and girl and male, man, and boy are also NOT necessarily linked to each other but are just six common gender identities.
      • Gender Expression/Presentation: The physical manifestation of one’s gender identity through clothing, hairstyle, voice, body shape, etc. Most transgender people seek to make their gender expression (how they look) match their gender identity (who they are), rather than their sex assigned at birth.
      • Sex Assigned at Birth: The assignment and classification of people as male, female, intersex, or another sex based on a combination of anatomy, hormones, and chromosomes. It is important we don’t simply use “sex” because of the vagueness of the definition of sex and its place in transphobia.
      • Sexually Attracted To: Sexual Orientation. It is important to note that sexual and romantic/emotional attraction can be from a variety of factors including but not limited to gender identity, gender expression/presentation, and sex assigned at birth.
      • Romantically/Emotionally Attracted To: Romantic/emotional orientation. It is important to note that sexual and romantic/emotional attraction can be from a variety of factors including but not limited to gender identity, gender expression/presentation, and sex assigned at birth.
    • Let’s talk about pronouns
      • Not everyone identifies with, nor uses, binary pronouns (she/her/hers, he/him/his). When addressing someone whose pronouns you don’t know, it’s always good practice to default to gender-neutral language (they/them/theirs). Or if you know their name– use it until you know more about their pronouns.
        • Some example pronoun usage:
          • Madison got a new sweater, they look great in the color green, don’t they? I think green is their favorite color!”
          • “The person on stage has a wonderful singing voice; I wonder if they take singing lessons? I will ask them after the show.”
        • Practice. It’s totally possible to become awesome at incorporating non-binary and/or gender-neutral pronouns into your daily vocab– and doing so is an affirming act of support for people who identify as such. A simple way to practice is to use a persons chosen pronouns in day-to-day conversation (whether or not they are present).


  • Socioeconomic Status


  • Religion


  • Ability


    • Common Microaggressions
      • Person-Centered Language: It is important to see every person as an individual. Try using “person with a disability,” putting the person before the disability. This can help combat harmful stereotypes that may arise.
      • Definition: According to the U.S. Department of Education, a person with a disability (1) has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of that person; (2) has a record of such an impairment; or (3) is regarded as having such an impairment. “Americans with disabilities are a group of approximately 40.7 million people that today lead independent, self-affirming lives and who define themselves according to their personhood—their ideas, beliefs, hopes and dreams—above and beyond their disability. Since the mid 1900s, people with disabilities have pushed for the recognition of disability as an aspect of identity that influences the experiences of an individual, not as the sole-defining feature of a person” (https://www.adl.org/resources/backgrounders/brief-history-disability-rights-movement).
      • Quick Video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zKyjshcxbI0
      • Heroic and Inspirational: Seeing a person with a disability as heroic and inspirational communicates low expectations and reduces the wholeness of the individual to merely an object of inspiration for the non-disabled. Stella Young, an Australian disability activist discusses the harms of inspirational objectification of persons with disabilities. Examples include, “you are so brave” and “the only disability in life is a bad attitude.” Advocates encourage us to frame it more as being fully capable with appropriate adaptation and modifications, to value genuine achievement by individuals with a disability, and always assume competence.
      • Non-apparent disability vs. Hidden or Invisible disability- which term is correct

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