Sharing your pronouns in court becomes mandatory after trans-inclusive rule change

Matilda Davies December 24, 2020
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Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada (Unsplash/Aditya Chinchure)

Anybody speaking in provincial or supreme court in British Columbia, Canada will be required to share their pronouns following a new, inclusive directive.

The directive, announced 16 December, requires lawyers and other people appearing in court to share their full name, pronouns and title, be it Mr, Ms, Mx or simply counsel.

“If a party or counsel do not provide this information in their introduction, they will be prompted by a court clerk to provide [it],” reads the directive. In the absence of clerks, judges will remind people.

The new rule “extends to anyone who walks in the door of the court system, whether they’re doing it for their own volition or not,” non-binary lawyer Lisa Nevens explained to CTV News.

Nevens is the co-chair of the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Community for the Canadian Bar Association in British Columbia, and for the past year-and-a-half has introduced themselves in court along with their pronouns, they/them.

While a “growing number” of lawyers were proactively providing their pronouns in court, Nevens said that without a uniform protocol, trans lawyers like themselves risked inadvertently drawing attention away from clients.

“Your job as a lawyer is to represent your clients, not to make statements about your own identity,” they said.

“You have to debate with yourself, whether you should assert your correct pronouns and gender identity in court, so that you’re properly recognised or whether that’s a distraction from the client.”

With the new inclusive rules, Nevens hopes to take “the questions out of the equation”.

They believe that the legal profession will be stronger when its lawyers are reflective of the population’s diversity.

“People who are non-binary and participating in the system, can just focus on their participation,” they added. “Instead of being distracted by whether or not their identity will even be recognised, respected.”

Nevens hopes that this stride for inclusion influences British Columbia’s administrative tribunals, including the Human Rights Tribunal and the Civil Resolution Tribunal.

Their team has also started campaigning for gender-neutral bathrooms to be made available in all of the province’s courts.

Related topics: amita kuttner, British Columbia, Canada, Vancouver

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