What’s in a name? Gender identity and respect

At some training sessions I have attended, ice breakers have included asking people to say something about their names. I find this problematic although it does present an opportunity to explore wider issues.

We as trainers, need to be mindful of the implications of asking people to talk about their ‘names’. It has the potential, sadly, to be oppressive and demeaning.

Here are just some reasons why:

  1. People who are trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming regularly find themselves having to explain their names for example: why it isn’t their birth name, why it doesn’t conform to gender norms, why it doesn’t conform to their gender appearance, why it is just one word, when did they change their name, why did they pick that name and so forth. Unfortunately, people are asked to justify their choices. Also remember that not all trans people choose to be out. Names matter – many are linked to personal journey’s – we need to respect this.
  2. People who have gone through a significant traumatic event often change their names – to try and find some peace and distance as they try to heal.
  3. People fleeing domestic violence and trying to build their lives often change their names too.
  4. People who have emerged from abusive situations may change their names to create a distance and minimise a trigger effect.

Best practice is to impact assess all training modules/sessions to ensure they are inclusive, fair and respectful.

If you are running a training session or you are a trainer and you have not impact assessed your activities and training (e.g. in terms of race, class, age, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability etc.) then you need to review best practice.

If you are an employer who has in-house trainers or hires external trainers (regardless of training session) and you do not ask them if they have done an impact assessment of their training content (against equality/diversity standards) then you are failing your employees – your people are diverse, demonstrate respect by ensuring the people who train them do so too.

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