LGBTQ+ Wedding Education | Gender + Pronoun Tips

From the many questions and encounters I’ve had with other photographers seeking information on working with LGBTQ+ couples, this is a blog series intended to be a resource to wedding photographers, though hopefully educating all wedding vendors.

And so, whether you have zero, little, or some knowledge of working with the LGBTQ+ community, you’re in the right place for whatever stage you’re at. I’ll share with you some of my most important tips that I’ve learned along the way — much of which stems from my own personal experiences of being a part of, and working with, the LGBTQ+ community.

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GENDER

The LGBTQ+ community is comprised of a diverse range of folks with varying sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions. Because I believe this understanding is the foundation to a beautiful relationship with your couples, we’ll start here.

Gender is a spectrum, with a wide range of identities.
When working with new clients, it is important to be respectful and aware of your language. Below you’ll find a list of terms and their meanings to better understand how individuals may identify.

  1. Cisgender: Those who, for the most part, identify with the sex/gender combo designated to them at birth.
  2. Transgender/Trans: Those who, for the most part, do not identify with the sex/gender combo designated to them at birth. Some trans people are men and women, and some trans people are nonbinary.
  3. Nonbinary: One whose sense of gender falls outside solely male or female. Also used as an umbrella term for all sorts of different understandings of one’s gender.
  4. Agender: Those who do not see themselves as having a gender.

IMPORTANT: When meeting someone new, it’s best to listen for, and ask, how people identify themselves. Further, apply gender neutral language until the gender identities are clarified.

Apply It: When you meet with a new client, in this instance let’s assume this client is a feminine presenting bride. She may have a soon-to-be husband, but she may have soon-to-be-wife or spouse. So, ask about her partner using gender-neutral language. “Tell me about your partner! What is their name? What are they like?” This will create a much more inclusive and open environment for her, and all customers. (Bonus: If said bride does have a future husband, this positive, open impression could still lead to future referrals for her LGBTQ+ friends and family.)

PRONOUNS

Pronouns (he, she, they, ze, etc.,) are a very important element of one’s identity.

HE/HIM/HIS — Use when the subject identifies as male.
SHE/HER/HERS — Use when the subject identifies as female.
THEY/THEIR/THEM — Use singularly as a gender-free / nonbinary pronoun.
ZE/ZIR/ZIS/ZIESELF — Commonly used alternative gender-free pronoun.

Unsure of the pronouns to use for a new client and/or the members in their wedding party?
1. Ask! “What pronouns do you use?” is a great way to inquire, showing attention and care. Please note: do not ask for one’s “preferred” pronouns. Preferred implies optional, of which pronouns and gender are not.
2. Listen for how their partner/friends address them. If their partner/friends uses she / he / they / ze, so should you.

Understanding gender can be difficult, and so, you may encounter family members that do not to use the correct pronouns. However, through your continued usage and support, not only will your couples and/or wedding party members appreciate you and feel accepted, it may help sway others to use the correct pronouns as well.

• • •

Looking for more in this series? Click here for the Posing Guide! or Learn about Inclusive Copy + Content!

QUESTIONS? Post a comment below, or email me at cassandra@cassandrazetta.com!

IDEAS for future posts? Email me!

NOTE: All thoughts and views expressed within this blog series are my own.
These are not facts, but rather, opinions and recommendations based on my personal experiences.

  1. Karen Hessel

    May 21st, 2017 at 9:45 pm

    I appreciate and understand your desire to help but I find the use of pronouns get in the way, hard to track and easy to slip up. Why not use nouns as in names, and skip the pronouns, or use plural for everyone?

  2. admin

    May 23rd, 2017 at 3:25 pm

    Hi Karen,
    I believe it is fully acceptable to use names in place of nouns, although it could feel repetitive when used over and over – which is why we often turn to pronouns. I use, and recommend using, the singular ‘they’ pronoun when we do not know how someone identifies or when unsure of one’s gender — and of course, for those who use this pronoun. However, for those who ask to be referred to by a certain pronoun, it is best to be respectful and aware of this, and use it. Pronouns are gender-affirming, and it feels good to be correctly identified — especially for those who are likely often misgendered. Hope this helps!

  3. Kevin

    May 2nd, 2019 at 8:32 pm

    This was very helpful. Thank you!

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