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Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

GV hosts LGBTQ presentation on inclusive terminology

GVL | Sam Nelson

Grand Valley State University’s Inclusion and Equity Institute hosted “The Power of Pronouns: Why the Words We Use Are Important,” a language-based training presentation, on Feb. 1 in the Kirkhof Center. The presentation gave GVSU faculty and staff a chance to learn more about issues facing the LGBTQ community and the importance of pronouns and inclusive language. 

The audience was introduced to correct terminology and pronoun usage during discussions on sexual orientation and gender identity. The presentation used the Human Rights Campaign‘s definition of key words including neopronouns, dead name, chosen name, intersex and questioning, which were discussed in-depth. For example, chosen name is a preferred name that is different than a person’s legal name and is an affirming term that allows individuals to feel valued. Whereas dead name is the birth name that an LGBTQ person no longer identifies with, especially in circumstances where individuals wish to shed past trauma.

Jennie Knight, executive director of the Grand Rapids LGBTQ Healthcare Consortium, spoke at the presentation. She said the Grand Rapids LGBTQ Healthcare Consortium aims to promote equitable healthcare for members of the LGBTQ community. Knight said it is important to educate instructors about inclusive LGBTQ language so they are able to create a safe, comfortable learning environment for their students. 

“Everyone wants to belong in their communities,” Jennie Knight said.

The presentation also focused on the rise of anti-LGBTQ legislation across the nation. Since the beginning of 2024, there has been nearly 400 bills introduced. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) tracks these bills daily, tracking the growing number of bills and where they are in the approval process to become law. 

Furthermore, the widespread issue of bathroom safety that LGBTQ individuals face was also discussed. The presentation noted the rise of bullying and violence that occurs in public bathrooms, and the misconception that LGBTQ individuals are a danger to those they share bathrooms with.

“You are more likely to be attacked by a senator or congressperson than an LGBTQ person in the bathroom,” said Jay Knight, DNP, Assistant Professor of Nursing at GVSU’s Kirkhof College of Nursing.

Jay Knight said LGBTQ individuals who may fear for their safety in public bathrooms can use the Refugee Restrooms website as a resource to easily search for nearby all-gendered bathrooms. There is also a feature that allows users to share new bathrooms for others, which creates an inclusive shared network for the LGBTQ community.

The presentation emphasizes that issues of bullying, hypervigilance and anti-LBGTQ sentiment don’t just affect individuals, but entire communities suffer drastic consequences as a result of LGBTQ discrimination. Executive director Knight said the high costs of recruiting in the medical field is significantly impacted by the high turnover of LGBTQ individuals that leave due to feeling unwanted. Similarly, Jennie Knight also touched on the issue of treatment disparities and inequitable care– something that she prioritizes in her work at the consortium.

“If community members feel like they don’t belong in a place, they leave,” Jay Knight said. “It (community members leaving) costs us money. We have to meet folks where they are, regarding their anatomy and physiology, as well as their gender identity.”

For LGBTQ individuals who are struggling with their mental health, Jay Knight recommends utilizing resources available on the Trevor Project website– a nonprofit suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization. Additionally, GVSU’s Milton E. Ford LGBT Resource Center website has resources and information available for students.

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