It’s clearly been a while since I’ve posted, but I’m going to get back up on that dinosaur and get a few things out there!
The article below came to my attention through Facebook and talks mostly about baristas but has great points and advice for anyone working in the service industry. Of course we can expand that out to anyone who works face-to-face with the public on a regular basis to think about our arts venues – museums, theatres, cinemas – and also any arts practitioners who are engaging directly with the public including children. So that might include when artists are working in schools, or in a Q&A session after a performance, or during a performance if there is audience interaction.
It’s very easy for us to fall into habits of using gendered terminology with people we’ve just met and are facilitating and it’s almost always unnecessary. Seemingly simple phrases like “Hello, boys and girls!” put an emphasis on people’s genders as the most important part of their identity and for some people that can be uncomfortable. Also, as the article states, “when you habitually gender everyone, you will eventually misgender someone. Misgendering hurts, largely because it is so unnecessary and could be avoided with a little more education. Not everyone fits into the binary words people are accustomed to communicating within, and not everyone who does fit into the binary might look like people expect.”
It makes me think of shows where a kid’s been pulled up onto stage as a volunteer and the performer refers to them as he before asking their name and finding out they’re a girl or other gender. It’s one of those potential car crash moments that just isn’t necessary!
With a little thought and effort, we can make our interactions with the children we meet in our work much more inclusive. I hope this article gives some ideas and understanding about why it’s important to look at the language we use.