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September 29, 2023

The Impact of Inclusive Language in Your Photography Business

As a professional photographer, understanding your client's needs and treating them with dignity and respect is fundamental. This article delves into the significance of employing gender-inclusive language and gender pronouns to include a diverse range of clients. Learn how to revolutionize your client relationships and lay a strong foundation for respect and open communication in your business!


What Are Gender Pronouns?

Pronouns are how people identify themselves apart from their name, and ultimately how we refer to another person when conversing with them, speaking about them to others, or referring to them in written communications. Here are some ways gender pronouns are used in conversation: 

•    “Her kittens are so cute.”
•    “His cat, Theo, is very mischievous.” 
•    “I would love to meet their dog!” 

In these examples, her, his, and their are all gender pronouns. Gender pronouns function to identify another person without using their name. They are used in place of a proper noun to shorten a sentence and indicate a key feature of one’s identity. Oftentimes, people will assume what another person’s gender pronouns are based on their physical appearance, but this method of identifying someone is not ideal for reasons we will cover.


What is Gender Identity and Why Do Pronouns Matter?

Gender identity refers to one’s innate sense of gender. If we imagine gender exists on a spectrum with “male” and “female” at either end, some people feel they exist in a gender category that is different from the one they were assigned at birth. Others may feel that their gender identity exists somewhere in between these two poles. People who refer to their gender as non-binary (and often use they/them pronouns) generally describe their gender identity as falling outside this scale entirely. 

While all this information may be new to you, the greatest lesson to take away from the gender spectrum is that gender identity may not always be clear or visible to others. 

When we take the time to ask what another person’s pronouns are, we establish that we respect their identity and that we’re taking the time to learn how to address them properly. This is especially important for transgender and nonbinary people who have historically struggled on issues of equality and acceptance. If you're looking for a guide to gender identity terms and correct pronoun usage, NPR has an incredible article for that.  

Research shows that using a person’s correct pronouns has a huge impact on their mental health and well-being. What better place is there than your business to make others feel comfortable and safe to be fully themselves?


How to Be a Great Ally

You’ve just taken the first step in educating yourself a little about gender pronouns, so what’s next? Creating a space that makes everyone feel included takes work, continued awareness, and additional steps to promote inclusion in your business


Respect Confidentiality

Make sure that you are establishing trust with your client at all stages of communication and keep personal information private. Not everyone who is comfortable sharing their gender identity with a trusted professional will want their identity openly disclosed to others. Keep this in mind and ask any necessary questions when interacting with your clients.


Use Gender Inclusive Language 

According to the United Nations, gender inclusive language refers to a way of speaking and writing that does not discriminate against a particular sex or gender identity. It’s a way of discontinuing the use of gender stereotypes in our language that negatively affects others.   

An example of gender inclusive language being put into effect would be a wedding photographer changing their materials to use terms such as “Partner/Spouse” in addition to or instead of “Wife/Husband.” For another photographer they might consider using the phrases “Hello Everyone!” instead of “Hey Guys!” in the first sentence of their email newsletter.

When you begin considering all the places where gendered language and gender pronouns appear, you’ll be surprised. We are surrounded by them every day in every part of our lives. Here are just a few ways to make your business a beacon of inclusion to a diverse range of clients! 


Introduce Yourself: Email Signatures 

An easy way to introduce the topic of pronouns is by including them in your email signature for your business. This will signal to anyone reading your materials that you’re interested in learning what their pronouns are too. View an example of what this looks like in practice.


Use Professional Tools

Many professional tools such as LinkedIn, Zoom, Slack, Instagram, and Facebook allow users to add gender pronouns to their bio or profile. By normalizing the act of sharing your pronouns, you’re helping to create a welcoming environment for clients to reach out to you!


Update Your Website 

You may also find that your website can use a slight revamp to include additional options for people to share their pronouns when filling out a request form or contacting you. Consider all the areas within your business practice and documentation that could be edited to include pronoun options. Remember this very small change to your business will go a long way!

Incorporating gender inclusive language changes into your business might take some time, but the effort is worth it. By embracing gender-inclusive language and showing respect to everyone's pronouns, you not only affirm your commitment to equality and respect for all, you set a positive example within your industry. Stay informed, continue to learn, and keep pushing the status quo for a more inclusive and respectful professional environment.