He/She/They: Prioritising Preferred Pronouns
You’ve probably seen the following popping up on social media profiles or email signatures after people’s names: she/her, he/him, they/them, or even they/he or she/they. But what does it mean?
It’s actually not that complicated! Pronouns simply replace a proper noun, or name, in conversation. Instead of saying “That’s Trevor’s coat” you could say “That’s his/her/their coat.”
Pronouns have been deep within the ongoing conversation of gender and gender identity. Before we dive into how to correctly use personal pronouns, let’s define the differences between sex, sexual orientation, and gender.
Sex refers to a person’s biological status and is typically assigned at birth (male, female, intersex).
Gender is often defined as a social construct of norms, behaviors and roles that varies between societies and over time (man, woman, nonbinary).
Sexual orientation refers to physical, romantic and/or emotional attraction to members of the same and/or other genders (straight, gay, bisexual, lesbian, etc.)
See how they’re all different? It’s important to note that no matter what someone was assigned at birth (male/female/intersex), their gender identity exists separately. It’s gender identity that tends to influence pronouns.
Pronouns & Business Travel
Using a person’s correct pronouns is a matter of respect, and organizations around the world are listening. In a landmark move, The U.S. Department of State announced that from April 11th, 2022 people seeking a U.S. passport can mark their gender as non-binary X, and huge step forward in affirming gender identity. However, the Department also leaves this sobering reminder: “While the United States Government issues passports with the X gender marker, it cannot guarantee your entry or transit through other countries. You may face entry restrictions in countries that do not recognize the X gender marker. Before you travel, check with the foreign embassy or consulate in the United States for more information.”
If you know your traveler has an X on their U.S. passport, you’ll want to ensure you’re sending them to locations that will honor and affirm their gender identity and not put them at an increased risk. As of 2023, 64 UN member states still outrightly ban LGBTQ+ people.
If you need more information on the LGBTQ+ environment in a particular country, you can check out the Country Information page on the State Department’s website:
Gender Identity and Travel Technology
Once you know a traveler’s personal pronouns, it’s important you make sure their gender identity is affirmed throughout the travel process. While many HRIT systems have started to include pronoun selections in their employee profiles, it’s a bit more complicated for travel tech.
There has been positive movement toward making travel tech more gender-affirming. United Airlines and American Airlines both let travelers choose a non-binary gender identifier when booking trips, and as of February 2023, the FCM Platform also lets travelers choose pronouns that reflect their gender identity on their travel documents, either F, M, U, or X.
But while many companies in the corporate travel industry are working together to ensure technology supports travelers of all genders, the profile still needs to sync with other systems to really operate seamlessly. Michel adds, "Not all GDS and OBT systems currently support X or U gender markers or non-gendered titles, which could cause a break in the connection between systems." Airlines, hotels, TMCs and other travel organizations all need to collaborate to address the barriers to a seamless travel experience for transgender and non-binary travelers.
The journey of affirming gender identity in travel still has a long way to go, but the first place we can start is with our tech and policies. Talk with your Account Managers and let them know your organization’s desire for more gender inclusivity, especially adding personal pronouns. Now that the U.S. is accepting non-binary identifiers on passports, and more and more countries around the world adopt this change, the need to for our tech and procedures to adapt is more important than ever.
There are simple things you can do to start your organization on the right path to gender equity and inclusion. Encourage employees to include personal pronouns in their email signatures, virtual meeting profiles, and nametags at in-person events. Switch to HRIT systems that support personal pronouns and pass out literature that helps employees and business travelers understand the importance of respecting personal pronouns and gender identity. Together, we’ll make the business travel world an even more inclusive place.