5 best ways to practice gender sensitivity

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Gender diversity and gender sensitivity often deal with various issues involved in making women, men, and non-binary gender categories (gender categories that do not fit the male and female binary) have equal standing both in private and public life. Gender sensitive efforts ensure that exclusion and discrimination based on gender or gender identity do not happen allowing everyone to have equal opportunities, contribute fully to society, and generally live happy and progressive lives.

Newcomers to Canada can contribute to the promotion of gender sensitivity by practicing the following:

  1. Learning more about it

    The Manitoba Human Rights Code preamble starts with this line: “Much discrimination is rooted in ignorance and education is essential to its eradication…” This points to the importance of keeping informed in order to prevent ourselves from making mistakes that can be hurtful or harmful to others. If concepts of gender identity, gender equality/equity, sexual orientation or LGBTQ rights are new to you, make an effort to read about them. Your local library is a great source of information on these topics. You can also search through the internet for materials. Organizations in Manitoba like SERC (Sexuality Education Resource Centre MB) or Rainbow Resource Centre have online resources, events (seminars, trainings), support projects and other activities that can help you become more informed about these issues (for sample materials, see Community Resources below). You can also check out Manitoba Education’s list of LGBTQ Resources for more sources of information.

  2. Keeping an open mind

    Keeping an open mind means suspending your judgement while learning about gender issues. This is essential when you want to understand things fully. Don’t look at information only through the lens of your own experience, beliefs or principles and try to understand what other people may be experiencing or feeling. This will help you develop empathy and a greater respect for others who may be going through a harder journey than you.

  3. Knowing the law

    Human Rights law protects people against gender discrimination. In Manitoba, the Manitoba Human Rights Commission is responsible for administering the Human Rights Code. The Code explicitly prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of a person’s gender or actual or perceived gender identity. It also outlines ways by which employers and service providers may provide reasonable accommodation that does not cause undue hardship. To know more about human rights protections, read Discrimination based on gender identity and The Human Rights Code.

  4. Standing up against harassment of any kind

    Do not tolerate any kind of discrimination or harassment by speaking out when you see it happen, be it gender, race, or age-related (or any other type for that matter). For instance, do not join or encourage it when someone says an anti-LGBTQ comment or joke. How would you feel if they were saying anti-immigrant comments or jokes? Let them know that it is demeaning, offensive and hurtful. Be inclusive and try to be a friend to everyone.

  5. Practicing respect and kindness

    The best way to show sensitivity is to always start at a genuine place of kindness and respect. After all, we are all people, regardless of gender. Practise empathy and think twice before you do or say anything that may offend others. Make it your policy to use respectful communication at all times. Contribute and work towards a gender inclusive environment so that everyone can live and work in peace and to the best of their abilities.

With thanks to Muhammad Ahsan, Education Program Coordinator of Rainbow Resource Centre for reviewing the article and providing a list of definitions of LGBTQ2SQ+ terminology. Thanks too to Mike Tutthill, Executive Director of Rainbow Resource for his assistance.

Some terms you may want to know:

Please note that English is a fluid language in which terms, definitions and meanings change over time, culture, political climate, and geography. The following serve as working definitions that provide an initial foundation of understanding.

Homophobia/Biphobia/Lesbophobia/Transphobia – The negative attitudes and behaviours against, or cultural and social aversions toward individuals who identify or are perceived as being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, Two-Spirit, or queer. Harassment, bullying, violence, discrimination, isolation are some forms of such phobias.

Heterosexism – A bias towards, and assumption of, heterosexuality. Often subtle, but nonetheless pervasive, heterosexism implies the expectation that live heterosexually and operate within engrained gender role stereotypes. Heterosexism is also the belief in the superiority of heterosexuality. Those that do not live or subscribe to this “norm” are viewed as deviant, radicals and threats to the very fabric of a community or society.

Ally – A person who supports the civil and human rights, and gender equality and equity of sexual and gender minorities. Allies proactively challenge homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, heterosexism and other forms of systemic and individual oppression.

Definitions from Rainbow Resource Centre.

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Community Resources

You can read and/or download informational brochures from the Rainbow Resource Centre site.

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