Gender diversity – what does it mean?
The dictionary definition of diversity is:
the practice or quality of including or involving people from a range of different social and ethnic backgrounds and of different genders, sexual orientations, etc.
You may ask how I can speak with any authority on this matter. This year, my child had the courage to tell me that they are non-binary. They had been scared to talk to me about it, scared of the reaction they may get. Some parents don’t react very well. It has been a journey of understanding over the last year for us all and we have a way to go. It is important to remember that people don’t turn non-binary or trans gender or gay, it is not a phase they are going through, they have always been that way. It just takes time to figure themselves out.
Our goals as photographers.
Our goal is to get a great natural picture of all students, with minimal disruption to the school day and to adhere to all the school policies and rules while we are working there. It doesn’t matter if we agree with the school policies. I’m sure we have all been into a school and don’t agree with something they are asking us to do, but we do it non-the-less.
Understanding and Acceptance.
Firstly, we need to understand and accept that there are more than two genders. Put simply, there are more than you realise; men, women, trans men, trans women, gender fluid, non-binary the list goes on. I will not get into the gendering or labelling of groups and let you investigate further. There are plenty of websites where you can find the information. It may help to open your eyes to the diverse world we live in today.
Pronouns and Names.
If a person is trans gender, they might use different pronouns than you would assume. For example, a non-binary student could use the pronouns they/them. They may also use a different name than was assigned to them at birth, a gender neutral name. If using barcode or QR codes with the student names on, take care as this could be their old (dead) name.
As a school photographer, we have very little time with our subjects. Probably the minimum of around 6 secs, and up to around 20 secs depending on what you are photographing; one, two, or three poses. So how can we find out if the student before you is trans or non-binary and uses different pronouns in such a short time period? The answer is you can’t, but you can look out for signs and use non-gender specific language.
Reading the signs.
There are a few very easy things to notice when a student is coming towards you for their photo. Some will wear a badge to let you know their preferred pronouns; he/him, she/her, they/them and many more. Some may be more subtle and wear a bracelet in the non-binary or trans gender colours, or have a bag. These are all signs that can be read very quickly as they approach your photography station.
Non-Gender specific language.
The way that we communicate with people can have an impact on how they feel and inevitably make for better photos . If you are unable to determine someone’s preferred pronouns, try to use non-gender specific language when addressing students and staff.
For example, here is some gender specific language:
“Hello miss, have a seat, look this way……..“
“Ladies please queue on the other side……..”
“Good morning ladies and gentlemen….”
If you drop the gender from these sentences, it makes little difference to the structure of them but can make anyone who doesn’t conform to their birth gender feel more comfortable, which will hopefully give you a more natural photo and better sales. If you have the students names on a card, use it, taking care to make sure that is the name they prefer to use. “Morning please sit down, Karen is it?”, this will always be the best approach and also seem very friendly and welcoming.
Some other safe non gender names to use,
Buddy, Boss, Kiddo, Mate, Friend, Champ, Dude, Superstar.
Here is a link to more gender neutral names: Gender inclusive forms of address
Please see below the flags that represent some of the gender groups.
I know that there will be people that feel this is the world gone mad, but if we look back 60 years wasn’t that what everyone was saying about the gay community? We are just at another pivotal point of learning. We don’t always need to fully understand, but we do need to respect other people.
Remember, people don’t turn non-binary or trans gender or gay, it is not a phase they are going through, they have always been that way. It just takes time to figure themselves out.