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The Importance of Respecting Gender Identity

Students come to our campuses to learn.  Our goal is to ensure the learning spaces they enter are respectful and safe for them so that they can focus on learning and being students.  Our hope is that students will not be made to feel that they do not belong in or will not be respected in spaces on our campuses.

Some things to keep in mind:

  • Do not question someone's gender identity.  Some people experience frequent challenging of who they are.  Questioning someone about their gender identity can be highly traumatic in that is contributes to what is not just a personal invalidation, but one that has become a mainstream discussion.

  • Keep your students and colleagues safe. Choosing to address a student by pronouns other than the ones they have provided or refusing to address them by their preferred name can put them in real danger.  You may "out" that person before they were ready, which can impact mental health.  You also have no control as to how others will react to discovering that someone might be gender-diverse or otherwise outside of what they consider "acceptable."

  • Lead by example. Asking students to share their pronouns may put pressure on them to decide whether they want to be honest or to remain safe in the classroom.  One of the best ways to promote inclusivity is to identify your pronouns and lead by example (NOTE: If you feel comfortable doing so - some faculty and staff may be queer themselves and may not feel comfortable depending on their journey with their identity).  

Furthermore, as the University of Hawaiʻi looks to indigenize perspectives and fulfill kuleana to Native Hawaiians and Hawaiʻi, it is important to remember that māhū - individuals who expressed attritubutes of both kāne and wahine - were revered and important members in ancient Hawaiian society.  They were not outsiders - they were teachers, healers, and caretakers, and were treated with respect.  In turn, respecting gender identity doubles as not just respect for gender-diverse individuals, but also honor for the host culture.


Recommended Practices



Add your pronouns to your email signature.

You can read more about how pronouns can promote inclusivity by reading the article, "Why Do I Include Pronouns in My Signature?"


Adjust your display name to include your pronouns.

  • Click on the portrait in the top right.

  • Click "Profile."

  • Change your name to include your pronouns.​​​​

    • EX. Lexer Chou (sher/her/hers)​

    • EX. Dylan (they/them) McKay


Adjust your display name to include your pronouns.

  • Log-in to Laulima and click on "Home worksite."

  • Click on Account in the left menu.

  • Click on "Modify Details."

  • Update name and click to save.


UH Google apps do NOT have functions or tools to allow users to configure gender affirming names.  These platforms will instead use the name(s) from the student's official records.  This limitation of the technology can inadvertently out a trans, non-binary, or gender-diverse student.



Avoid using titles such as Miss (Ms.), Missus (Mrs.), and Mister (Mr.).  Title IX does not recommend the use of honorific titles.  Some alternative ways to address individuals in verbal and written communication (i.e. contract renewal and TPRC assessments) include:

  • Last name only

  • Dr. [insert last name, if applicable]

  • "The applicant"


​Use gender-neutral language. A common way to do this is to use the plural 'they.' Use of the singular 'they' has been endorsed by the Modern Language Association (MLA) and the American Psychological Association (APA). Examples:

  • Not inclusive language

    • The number of years an electrician will spend training depends on what country he is from.

  • Gender-neutral language

    • The number of years an electrician will spend training depends on what country they are from.

  • Not inclusive language

    • If a student’s assignment is late, he or she will lose ten points

  • Gender-neutral language

    • If a student’s assignment is late, they will lose ten points


Avoid asking questions that reference a "significant other," as this may lead a person to feel they need to reveal the gender of their partner and/or their orientation.​  Instead of "significant other", you can reference "people who may know you".



  • Foster an inclusive environment by modeling the importance of calling all students by their appropriate name and pronouns (i.e. whatever name and pronouns they tell you). 

  • Include Title IX information about misgendering in the syllabus.

  • As with any marginalized student, be mindful that the student is there to learn and not to teach; be careful of the ways that power dynamics can create coercion to speak for their entire identity group or answer personal questions that may not be appropriate.

  • Understanding that visibility can be an expression of pride, but it also comes with a lot of vulnerability, particularly when the student doesn't have any choice in how visible to be.


Syllabus Blurbs

Add a Safe Zone blurb to your syllabus. Here are some examples of inclusive language:

  • The expectation in this class is to voice opinions that positively add to the discussions that are not exclusive to any students’ race, gender, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, class, etc.

  • This course relies heavily on discussion and the exchange of diverse ideas. Please make sure to be respectful of your fellow students and their opinions, even (and especially) when you disagree with them. As we will deal with controversial issues in this course, the environment we create as a group should reflect an attitude of open-minded curiosity and interest in one another’s points of view. Please be aware that, as we work to create this environment, inflammatory racist, homophobic, transphobic, sexist, or discriminatory language or behavior will not be tolerated.

  • This course might tackle social issues in this class in terms of gender, race, and class.  Disruptive language will not be tolerated. Disruptive language includes, but is not limited to, violent and/or belligerent and/or insulting remarks, including sexist, racist, homophobic or anti-ethnic slurs, bigotry, and disparaging commentary, either spoken or written (offensive slang is included in this category).

  • I consider this classroom to be a place where everyone is treated with respect, and I welcome individuals of all ages, backgrounds, beliefs, ethnicities, genders, gender identities, gender expressions, national origins, religious affiliations, sexual orientations, ability – and other visible and non-visible differences. I will gladly honor your request to address you by an alternate name or gender pronoun. Please advise me of your name and pronoun early in the semester so that I may make appropriate changes to my records. I am a member of the University of Hawai`i Safe Zone Advocate network, and I am available to listen to, support, and advocate for you. As a Safe Zone Advocate, I can help you connect with confidential resources on campus to address problems you may face that interfere with your academic and social success on campus as it relates to issues surrounding sexual orientation and gender identity. My goal is to help you be successful and to maintain a safe and equitable campus.

  • In this course, it is expected that we will respect and embrace our differences while engaging in discussions and in class activities.


At the end of these statements the campus LGBTQ+ website should be referenced or the UH Commission on LGBTQ+ Equality website.



The availability of (1) all-gender restrooms and (2) menstrual hygiene products in all public restrooms on our campuses are practices that comply with UH Executive Policy 1.205: Policy and Guidelines on Inclusive Facilities.



Gender-diverse individuals tend to experience higher rates of bullying, harassment, and discrimination. All-gender restrooms provide an option for gender-diverse individuals (including transgender, non-binary, genderqueer, intersex, and māhū individuals) that allows them to use the restroom without fear of bullying or harassment.  Gender-specific restrooms remain available for use, depending on an individual’s preference.


Availability of these restrooms has reduced reports of bullying and harassment of LGBTQ+ individuals. Furthermore, these restrooms also benefit individuals with disabilities (who sometimes need assistance from caretakers to use the restroom) as well as families, the latter of whom are the most frequent users of these restrooms.




Menstrual hygiene products are available in all public restrooms on our campus. Doing so combats stigma regarding menstruation and ensures all people feel safe using the restroom consistent with their gender identity.



UH seeks to mālama all students, including those who consider themselves or may be considered by others to be gender-diverse. All individuals on all UH campuses are entitled to use all-gender restrooms and/or gender-specific restrooms aligning with their gender identities. Individuals who menstruate are also entitled, by UH policy, to be provided with access to menstrual hygiene products in all public restrooms on UH campuses, regardless of their gender identities.


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