Chapter 6

Acting for equality

Diversity and inclusiveness

These two concepts often appear together. Diversity is noticing differences between individuals in terms of appearance, background, religion, ability, gender or sexual identity, etc. Diversity is an important part of sex education. Inclusiveness is a term that refers to being aware of diversity and working towards the inclusion of all people at risk of exclusion at all levels of society. Inclusive action aims to safeguard individuals from discrimination and exclusion. It is also about equal opportunities with consideration for a person’s individual needs. Therefore, it is necessary to understand the specifics of diversity to be inclusive.

When talking about inclusiveness, it is important to stop for a moment at the concepts of tolerance and acceptance. Tolerance is the attitude of allowing behaviour with which one does not necessarily agree; it is ‘putting up’ with someone’s views, behaviours or traits without aggressively negating them or identifying with them. Acceptance, on the other hand, means accepting as one’s own and identifying with the views, traits or behaviours in question.

Equal / inclusive language

The basis of education lies in language, a form of conveying information and a tool for good communication. Language is also a way of expressing beliefs, opinions, and emotions. It is vital in the process of establishing and building relationships. Its importance is emphasised in many theories of interpersonal processes. How people communicate with each other matters. Choosing the right words and phrases affects how others feel. The message should not only be reliable and tailored to the needs of the person being spoken to, but also inclusive. Inclusive language is designed to include all people in a non-discriminatory way. The task of inclusive language is to increase the comfort of those it concerns. It is a process that seeks the best solutions and is, therefore, constantly evolving. It is based on observations, research and social demands. It is particularly relevant for women, transgender and non-binary people because of the masculinisation of the Polish language and the frequent use of exclusively masculine forms in the context of the general public.

FEMINATIVES - feminine forms of words that are mostly used in the masculine genus, e.g. nauczycielka, pacjentka, pilotka, psycholożka (female teacher, patient, pilot, psychologist). Feminatives were popular in the first half of the 20th century, so the current trend is a return to the important history associated with the women’s emancipation movement. Feminatives are an expression of respect, marking the presence of women and equal opportunities. What is important in the context of inclusivity, each person has the right to choose the forms they use for themselves and be comfortable in the area of language. So if, for example, a female psychologist wishes to be called psycholog (a psychologist in the masculine genus), it would be inclusive to call her that. Inclusiveness is inclusion. Calling her otherwise against her wishes will be as exclusionary as criticising and ridiculing feminatives and not using them for people who wish to do so.

When focusing on LGBTQIA+ equality education, correct naming is one of the greatest values. It is important to address the other person in a way that is consistent with their identity. We are talking about the form of the name they prefer and pronouns. Pronouns determine the grammatical forms a person uses. In equality education, it is important to draw attention to the fact that the gender assigned at birth does not necessarily coincide with gender identity or gender expression, which manifests itself, for example, through preferred grammatical forms. Pronouns are an important manifestation of gender and an opportunity to express oneself in an authentic way.

You cannot assume that every person is heterosexual and cisgender. If you don’t know how to address a person - ask them. The easiest way to do this is by asking, ‘How should I address you?’.

You can also serve as an example by stating your name and pronouns when introducing yourself first. For example, ‘Good morning, my name is Bartosz, my pronouns are he/him, I like people to call me Bartek’ or ‘Hi, I’m Maria, my pronouns are she/her, but please call me Maja. How should I address you?’.

GENDER NEUTRAL LANGUAGE - a language that includes non-binary people without excluding binary people. In Polish, when we speak or write about ‘osoby’ (‘persons’) instead of women and men, no one is excluded. The easiest way to use gender-neutral language is to replace the subject in sentences with the word ‘osoba’ (‘person’).

Example: ‘osoby uczestniczące’ (‘participating persons’) instead of ‘uczestnicy, uczestniczki’ (‘participants, female participants’).

DEADNAME - the name that was given to a transgender person at birth and which they no longer use, as their identity is different than the gender assigned at birth. The deliberate and persistent use of a ‘deadname’ is abusive and can cause dysphoria.

MISGENDERING - the use of grammatical forms and pronouns inconsistent with a person’s gender identity. Deliberate and persistent misgendering is an act of abuse and can cause dysphoria.

COMING OUT/OUTING - coming out is revealing your identity to someone. The phrase ‘admitting one’s identity’ is not used because it is not a question of guilt, and there is nothing wrong with a sexual or gender identity other than hetero or cis. Outing, on the other hand, is a term for an act of violence - revealing someone’s identity without the person’s consent or awareness.


Discrimination is a widespread phenomenon and can be found in almost every society. It is caused by processes such as categorisation, stereotypical thinking, unreflective evaluation of others, lack of knowledge and the formation of prejudices. Majority and privileged groups have a significant impact on changing the situation of discriminated people and minority groups. For children and adolescents discriminated against, adults are the ones who can stop discrimination and take action for equal treatment. The mechanism of discrimination begins when there is a need to categorise people who belong to a different group. We attribute stereotypical characteristics to these people.

What is important in equality work is the definition of a stance, i.e. our attitude towards other people. This attitude consists of three components: cognitive (beliefs, thoughts, judgements), affective (emotions) and behavioural (reactions and behaviours).

Stereotypes are widespread opinions and beliefs about a group. They are simplified and result in the same characteristics being attributed to all the persons belonging to a given group, regardless of the differences between them. Most often, they are caused by a lack of knowledge (when there is no experience in dealing with a given person or group). In such cases, we use opinions that are common, heard or repeated in the media, among friends, in the family or at work. Stereotypes are also often connected with rivalry. The level of loyalty to one’s group increases, and a different group becomes ‘worse’, a competition. Messages such as ‘They are like this, and we are like that’, ‘They like this, we like something else’, ‘We can do it, they cannot do it’, ‘All of them’, ‘They always’ are characteristic of stereotypes. Sometimes stereotypes are acquired - passed on from generation to generation. It is because children’s minds are very receptive and particularly sensitive to simplifications and generalisations. Stereotypes are usually not the result of personal experience. They have advantages and disadvantages. Their positive aspect is that they make functioning easier (especially in one’s own group), they provide ready-made thinking patterns, limit the need to search and verify information, and give a sense of security. Their negative effects include hindering interpersonal relations, limiting knowledge about individuals, creating a false image of individuals and groups, limiting experiencing and thinking, increasing susceptibility to manipulation, sharing and consolidating the feeling of superiority of a given group over another, stigmatising, harming, justifying harm, creating conflicts, shaping prejudices.

Prejudice is a negative, hostile attitude towards a group and any person who belongs to it. It is difficult to change, emotionally charged (with anxiety, fear, anger, hatred) and formed over a long period. It very often leads to discrimination.

Discrimination Discrimination is a situation where a person or group is treated worse or unequally in comparison to another in a similar situation - solely because of their classification in a particular group. The characteristics that most often determine discrimination are gender, skin colour, ethnic origin, nationality, religion, belief, disability, age, sexual orientation, identity. It is a consequence of negative beliefs (stereotypes) and attitudes (prejudices) towards a particular group. The phenomenon of discrimination can occur in two situations: a situation of majority (when a larger group discriminates against a minority) and a situation of dependence (when a person or a group with power can influence others using their position).

When we encounter discrimination, the most effective way to fight is to actively oppose it, which often requires courage. Not reacting to discrimination gives those who discriminate tacit consent. During an intervention, it is vital to confront the discriminator about their behaviour, to set limits and to support the person experiencing discrimination.

INTERSECTIONALITY - the phenomenon of overlap between different traits or social categories that may increase the risk of being discriminated against. An example is the overlap of minority characteristics of sexuality (homosexual person), religion (Jewish faith) and nationality (from Ukraine). It means that such a person may experience discrimination on the basis of more than one trait.

MINORITY STRESS - a chronic feeling of anxiety and tension related to a trait that a person does not want to disclose for fear of being judged and discriminated against. This stress is permanent and adds to the daily stress at work, home or school.

HATE SPEECH - statements that express hostile and hurtful opinions about a person or group of people, thus perpetuating stereotypes and prejudices. At the same time, they promote hatred and/or incite discrimination and violence.

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