Ideas That Work: Pronoun 'Preferences' Aren’t Really a Thing


The movement for diversity, equity and inclusion in surgery is particularly vital for the wide variety of patients who visit facilities for care. No matter who a patient may be, or what their background is, they should feel accepted, respected, understood and valued at every step of their surgical experience. One seemingly small but crucial component of this is how you ask for their pronouns. Specifically, don’t ask for “preferred” pronouns. By asking for “preferred,” you might think you are being considerate, but the truth is that it might be taken as insulting by the very people you are trying to make feel welcome. “Gender pronouns are not preferences,” says Cheryl Leong, a licensed therapist and founder of Leading with Consciousness, a leadership development coaching and diversity, equity and inclusion consulting company. “Remove preferred pronouns from your forms — just ask for pronouns. Even if a patient chooses to leave it blank, having it on a form speaks to how you know that gender is not binary and you want to use the right pronouns. This increases psychological safety.”

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