To support our extended community of Host Families and other volunteers in practicing respectful gender equity and diversity, Pearson College UWC Faculty member, alumnus (YR 38) and Houseparent Lucas Olscamp (he/they) recently created a user-friendly and engaging guide available in a variety of formats.
“We believe all individuals — no matter their race, ethnicity, nationality, beliefs, language, sexuality, or gender identity — have a right to be treated with equal respect and opportunity,” Olscamp says. “The framework provided in this guide is not only useful for everyday practice but offers critical tools in contextualizing and honouring the incredible diversity of our (campus and alumni) community.”
Incorporating a user-friendly and visual approach, the guide touches upon key concepts such as gender diversity, use of pronouns and respect accorded when one avoids making assumptions about others’ gender identities.
Gender diversity is an umbrella term to describe gender identities that demonstrate a diversity of expression, beyond having to choose to express oneself as either male or female—the gender binary. This diversity also extends to folks who do identify as male or female but disagree with the “traditional” standard of what this means in society. The guide notes:
- Every individual has a right to be referred to by the name and gender pronoun of their choice.
- Presenting as gender diverse is not about attention seeking or receiving special treatment.
- It is all about embracing one’s authentic self.
“This information can be difficult to process for some, and that’s okay,” suggests Olscamp. “What is important is that we show respect towards gender diversity and are open to accepting individual choices that anyone makes about their life and their identity.”
Respectful Pronoun Use
Pronouns are words such as he, she or they are used in place of names to refer to an individual. Simply put, pronouns are how we want to be talked about by others. Pronouns, like names, are part of one’s identity and are meant to be empowering, not confusing. A respectful practice is to introduce yourself with your preferred pronouns and ask the other person about their preferences.
As the guide notes, people may make assumptions about the gender of another person based on their appearance, voice, or name and assign gendered pronouns accordingly. Automatically calling someone with short hair and a beard “he”, or someone else “she” because they are wearing a dress or skirt is not always correct or respectful.
Olscamp reminds people that it is okay to get pronouns wrong, but everyone benefits if, after doing so, you apologize and ensure you correct yourself moving forward. He adds the guide shares information important for everyone, not only for gender-diverse individuals.
“We all experience gender differently; there is no one way to be a man or to be a woman, or anything varying from this,” says Olscamp. “Our students, like most humans, are still discovering who they are and what it means to be themselves.”
Long-time host family volunteer, Joannie Challenger, echoed her support for this initiative. “We found it really helpful,” she says, adding that she hopes other volunteers, and people across the community, will also find it useful.
The guide is designed to share, teach, and empower gender equity and diversity for all. Anyone is invited to view, use and download the Guide to Understanding Gender Equity & Diversity at Pearson College UWC from our website.