Why is Gender Inclusive Language Important in Medicine?
Gender-inclusive language shows respect and open-mindedness through positive and accurate representation. The aim is to communicate without excluding people. Not everyone identifies as male or female and some people’s gender identity is along the spectrum between the two, while others do not identify with a gender at all.
This week, I interviewed Dr. Ryan Nall from the University of Florida (UF), who attended UF for undergraduate studies as a Political Science major and for medical school. Dr. Nall is currently a physician and assistant professor at UF Health Internal Medicine. I interviewed Dr. Nall to gain his viewpoint on gender inclusive language and how important it is for physicians to implement this in everyday practice.
Question #1: How were you introduced to gender inclusive language?
Dr. Nall: Through my residency at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, I saw how the intake sheets were labelled with male and female identifiers solely. Later, I was a part of care clinics conducted at Fenway Park where the check in sheets had options in terms of identifying gender and there were posters identifying diverse gender roles. Through small interventions and meet and greets, I soon realized how gender is beyond binary and I was able to gain a better understanding of the importance behind identifying appropriate gender roles and pronouns.
Question #2: After learning this, how have you implemented this in your daily practice?
Dr. Nall: Not only have I made this a part of my practice to have everyone be aware of using appropriate gender roles, but I have implemented this as a physician in an equal access clinic. It is important to make this a long-term change in the daily lives of physicians rather than in specific occurrences. Surveys and stories from patients also helped me improve personally as to how to correctly address patients. Assumptions and mistakes are made at times (since everyone is human), but it is the act of improving and working on gender inclusive language daily through talks and care; these assumptions drive a wedge between the physician and patient relationship.
Question #3: What do you have to say to students and physicians just learning about gender inclusive language?
Dr. Nall: Focus on moving away from assumptions and try to understand what pronouns are and how to use them; this is essential in the development of gender inclusive language in your vocabulary.