NHS workers have been told they are ‘privileged’ if they do not have to worry what pronouns people will assume they use.
Official guidance also warns staff it is ‘oppressive’ to use the wrong term to refer to a trans or non-binary patient.
Some hospitals threaten employees with disciplinary action and even prosecution if they fail to use a colleague’s correct pronouns.
Others provide a long list of little-known terms used by some people including ‘ze’, ‘sie’, ‘hir’, ‘co’ and ‘ey’ – but say that others insist on only being addressed by their name and not referred to in the third person at all.
It comes after The Mail on Sunday revealed that some ambulance trusts are now telling 999 operators they should ask callers for their pronouns rather than risk misgendering them by saying sir or madam.
NHS workers have been told they are ‘privileged’ if they do not have to worry what pronouns people will assume they use. Official guidance also warns staff it is ‘oppressive’ to use the wrong term to refer to a trans or non-binary patient (stock photo)
Lottie Moore, head of Biology Matters at think-tank Policy Exchange, said: ‘No one should be expected to say or believe someone is of the opposite sex, nor should they be expected to state their own pronouns.
‘Compelled speech has no place within any public institution within a liberal democracy. Identity politics does not belong in healthcare.’
Equality and diversity policies obtained by the Mail under the Freedom of Information Act show that dozens of NHS trusts urge staff to announce their own pronouns when meeting patients for the first time.
Guidance used by both University Hospitals Sussex NHS Foundation Trust and Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust states: ‘When someone is referred to with the wrong pronoun, it can make them feel disrespected, invalidated, dismissed, devalued, triggered, alienated, or often, all of these things.
‘It is a privilege to not have to worry about which pronoun someone is going to use for you based on how they perceive your gender.
‘If you have this privilege, yet fail to respect someone else’s gender identity, it is not only disrespectful and hurtful, but also oppressive.’
The Sheffield guide says using gender pronouns ‘sets a tone of respect and allyship’ and suggests staff include theirs in email signatures ‘to help make this a normal part of our working lives’.
It admits it may feel ‘awkward’ asking at first, but adds: ‘It is always more awkward getting it wrong or making a hurtful assumption.’
Mid Cheshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust provides a list of dos and don’ts regarding pronouns, including ‘Don’t say someone’s pronouns aren’t real (e.g. Mx, Ze, Xe)’ and ‘Don’t say using “they” as a pronoun isn’t grammatically correct’.
United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust says: ‘Some non-binary people prefer to use gender neutral pronouns such as “one”, “ze”, “sie”, “hir”, “co”, “ey”.
‘Some genderqueer people prefer to be referred to alternately as “he” and “she” (and/or gender neutral pronouns), and some people prefer to use only their name and not use pronouns at all.’
The Trust says it expects all its employees to use a colleague’s new names and pronouns once they have transitioned, adding: ‘Failure to do so could lead to disciplinary action under the Trust’s disciplinary policy and/or prosecution.’
Similarly the Sussex guide warns: ‘Any members of staff who refuse to use the name, pronouns or gender deemed appropriate by another member of staff will be seen as acting in a harassing and/or discriminatory manner and may be subject to disciplinary procedures.’
It also says that in maternity departments, ‘pronouns are essential information during handover of care, to allow respectful communication from all members of staff’.
North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust tells staff not to ask patients: ‘What pronoun do you prefer?’ It states: ‘A person’s pronouns and identity are not a preference.’
George Eliot Hospital NHS Trust explains that the lack of a gender neutral pronoun in the English language has been criticised and that ‘the dichotomy of “he and she” in English does not leave room for other gender identities’, adding: ‘This can be a source of frustration to the transgender and gender queer communities.’
Read the full article here