5 best ways to practice gender sensitivity

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Gender diversity and gender sensitivity often deal with various issues involved in ensuring that 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. We don’t want exclusion and discrimination based on gender or gender identity to happen. We want to allow everyone to have equal opportunities, contribute fully to society, and generally live happy and progressive lives.

There are several ways by which newcomers can contribute to the promotion of gender sensitivity:

  1. Learn more about gender issues

    “Much discrimination is rooted in ignorance and education is essential to its eradication…” (Manitoba Human Rights Code preamble).
    Making an effort to know about the concepts of gender identity, gender equality/equity, sexual orientation or LGBTQ rights is the first step towards gaining some understanding. Education counteracts false beliefs and actions that can be hurtful or harmful to others.

    Your local library is a great source of information on these topics. Meanwhile, organizations in Manitoba like SERC (Sexuality Education Resource Centre MB) or Rainbow Resource Centre have online resources, events (seminars and trainings), support projects and other activities that can help you become more informed (for sample materials, see Community Resources below). You can also check out Manitoba Education’s list of LGBTQ Resources for more sources of information.


    Sexual orientation and gender identity, Osmosis

  3. Keeping an open mind

    This means suspending your judgement as you learn more and understand issues about gender. Open-minded people look at information not only through the lens of their own experience, beliefs or principles; they put themselves in other people’s shoes to understand what they may be experiencing or feeling. In this way, they develop empathy and a greater respect for others who may be going through a harder journey than they are.

  4. 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 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. Know more about human rights protections by reading Discrimination based on gender identity and The Human Rights Code.

  5. Standing up against harassment of any kind

    Do not tolerate any kind of discrimination or harassment by speaking out when you see it happen. Not joining in when people make anti-LGBTQ comments or jokes also helps. Words do matter and they can hurt others. Put yourself in other people’s shoes: how would you feel if they were saying anti-immigrant comments or jokes or if they’re making fun of your ethnicity? Be inclusive and try to be a friend to everyone.

  6. Practicing respect and kindness

    The best way to show sensitivity is to start from 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.

Article updated September 15, 2020.

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

Find more resources on the Rainbow Resource Centre site.

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