Removing Gendered Language From Your Wedding
For LGBT and forward-thinking couples, navigating gendered language at weddings can be difficult. Fortunately, there are many alternatives that couples should consider.

For LGBT and forward-thinking couples, navigating gendered language at weddings can be difficult. Fortunately, there are many alternatives that couples should consider.

Wedding-related language can be incredibly gender-specific, especially considering that most nuptial traditions developed with a bride and a groom in mind. For LGBTQ individuals as well as couples wishing to adopt forward-thinking approaches, navigating gendered language and finding more inclusive wording alternatives can seem challenging. Fortunately, useful and meaningful replacements do exist. Digging deeper into traditional words while learning about non-gendered alternatives can prove to be fascinating.

Non-Gendered Alternatives for “Bride” and “Groom”

Browse through most wedding websites and you’ll notice the gendered words “bride” and “groom” used heavily, although some now include gender-neutral terms in their planning advice and guides. The Online Etymology Dictionary’s entries for “bride” and “groom” are particularly revealing. While both are derived from Old English and Germanic words, “bride” comes from older words that explicitly referred to a soon-to-be-married woman, while earlier versions of “groom” denoted a young male regardless of his marital status.

Thankfully, The Knot’s Ivy Jacobson divulges that you have some potential replacements for these words at your disposal. When crafting language for your invitations, website, save-the-dates, and other materials, you can swap them out for several alternatives:

  • Partner
  • Life partner
  • Spouse-to-be
  • Combinations such as “gride” or “broom”
  • Nearlyweds
  • Marrier
  • Celebrant

“I Now Pronounce You…”

When pondering how to compose non-gendered language for your wedding, don’t forget to chat with your officiant about your preferred linguistic alternatives. As you collaborate in composing your ceremony script, pay attention to common phrases such as “I now pronounce you man and wife” and “You may kiss the bride.” In a December 2017 Martha Stewart Weddings piece, contributing writer Jenn Sinrich suggests “I now pronounce you married” and “You may kiss your partner” as potential substitutes.

Bon Mots for Your Wedding Party 

A traditional wedding party usually consisted of one maid of honor, one best man, several bridesmaids and groomsmen, junior attendants, and possibly both a ring bearer and a flower girl. Wedding Wire contributor Whitney Teal suggests several alternatives to these customary roles. “Honor attendant” can easily be used in place of “maid of honor” or “best man,” but Teal also proposes other titles such as “best woman,” “man of honor,” or “friend of honor.” Teal also suggests that you could collectively call your attendants a “wedding council” and designate that each person will help you pull off your special day.

How To Handle Honorific Titles 

Honorifics such as “Mr.” and “Ms.” may indicate gender, age, and possibly the marital status of the person in question. However, these titles typically don’t work for nonbinary or genderqueer individuals. The Oxford English Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, and all added “Mx.” to their listings between 2015 and 2017. First coined in the late 1970s, “Mx.” is pronounced “mix” or “mux” and is a gender-neutral honorific that’s now in widespread use.

The Equality Institute lists several additional non-gendered alternatives, including “Ser” and “Ind.” When in doubt, it’s wise to ask your guests about their proper titles before you ship off your save-the-date cards or invitations. As for you and your partner, you can simply omit honorifics for yourselves in your written materials.

Shaping Your Wedding To Fit Your Values

Traditions often morph or fade in the face of new social developments and individual priorities. While nearly every Western culture relied on gender-coded norms to dictate behavior, more people are questioning the need for these norms as well as the very existence of the gender binary. Such changes are also ushering in a deeper examination of the place of gendered language within weddings. With the desire to break free from tradition and choose alternatives, couples are developing new wording or using existing terms in different ways for each other as well as their guests and friends.


Open Doors, Open Arms: LGBTQ-Affirming Christian Churches in Canada
If you're an LGBTQ Christian, finding a church to welcome you may be tough, but fortunately there are many churches in Canada that embrace this community.

If you’re an LGBTQ Christian, finding a church to welcome you may be tough, but fortunately there are many churches in Canada that embrace this community.

For queer and transgender Canadians who embrace Christianity, it can sometimes be difficult to find an accepting or affirming community of faith. While fundamentalist evangelical culture has greater widespread impacts south of the border, those in other denominations occasionally struggle with religious authorities and doctrines that brand their existences as contrary to divine will. Fortunately, several Christian organizations openly welcome and affirm LGBTQ individuals, with many local and national branches and congregations located throughout Canada.

Metropolitan Community Churches

Based in the United States, the original Metropolitan Community Church was specifically founded by and for LGBTQ Christians. The MCC traces its genesis back to 1968 when Reverend Elder Troy Perry, a former Pentecostal priest defrocked for being gay, placed an advertisement in The Advocate announcing the beginning of LGBTQ-welcoming worship services. The MCC’s website explains that after his depression and attempted suicide, Perry was convinced he’d never lead a congregation again. Nevertheless, a friend changed his mind when she insisted God had plans for his future that centered around a new Christian ministry.

The first services were held with 12 attendees in Perry’s living room at his Huntington Park home, but the organization has grown to encompass 300 congregations and more than 43,000 members worldwide. Three of them are in Ontario, with one church each in London, Toronto, and Windsor. The Canadian organization’s legacy includes helping to transform marriage laws. When the Toronto congregation’s pastor started issuing bans of marriage for same-sex couples, these acts eventually led to the favorable marriage equality outcome of Halpern v. Canada in 2003.

United Church of Canada

Near the forefront of Christian groups actively working towards inclusion, the United Church of Canada is known for its more liberal stances on many topics. A denomination in the Reformed Protestant tradition, it was founded in 1925 as the result of several smaller sects merging. Basing its theologies on an interpretation that Jesus welcomed all, its positions on issues such as marriage, inclusion, faith and social justice are decidedly progressive, as documented on the organization’s website.

Amidst some internal strife, the United Church of Canada applied these philosophies to its views on gender and romantic orientation. According to its Gender and Orientation page, the church follows these guidelines:

  • Opposes discrimination
  • Believes that all are made in God’s image
  • Welcomes anyone of any gender or orientation into membership and ministry

Additionally, it hosts several networks and groups specifically for LGBTQ church members and allies, ranging from ones that offer support to those focused on education and advocacy.

Other Christian Denominations

Although some standard Protestant sects have experienced division over the acceptance and affirmation of LGBTQ people in their flocks, they continue to move in more progressive directions. A shortlist of Canadian denominations with nondiscriminatory policies include the following:

  • The Evangelical Lutheran Church
  • The Anglican Church
  • Unitarian Universalism
  • Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)

Several independent Catholic religious communities — those that do not recognize the Vatican as their authority — also welcome LGBTQ members. While many of these are in the United States, some local parishes can be found throughout Canada. The GALIP Foundation, a United States nonprofit Christian outreach for queer and transgender individuals, keeps an updated list of affirming congregations. You can use its search feature and drop-down menus to return results by state or province.

Connect With Affirming Houses of Worship 

If you’re a queer or transgender Christian, connecting with a congregation where you feel welcome can be challenging. However, resources are available that can help you find what you seek. From LGBTQ-focused religious organizations to mainstream and independent denominations opening their doors to affirm all members regardless of gender or orientation, communities exist where you can enjoy fellowship, find support, and pursue the meaning of your faith in both an individual and collective context.

“Two-Spirit”: A Modern First Nations Concept
The modern term “Two-Spirit” is being used by some Indigenous peoples to speak to their experiences where gender, sexuality and spirituality intersect.

The modern term “Two-Spirit” is being used by some Indigenous peoples to speak to their experiences where gender, sexuality and spirituality intersect.

Prior to European exploration and colonization, some First Nations civilizations in Canada had less restrictive definitions of gender and sexuality. In several of these pre-colonial cultures, queer and transgender individuals made integral contributions. The modern term “Two-Spirit” is being used by some Indigenous peoples to speak to their experiences where gender, sexuality and spirituality intersect along with the histories of the special roles that many LGBTQ Indigenous peoples held within their tribes.

Contemporary Origins of the “Two-Spirit” Term

As the Canadian Encyclopedia details, “Two-Spirit” is a translation of the Ojibwa words “niizh manidoowag.” Manitoba First Nations activist Albert McLeod is credited with first developing the term, suggesting that it could refer to the Indigenous LGBTQ community at a 1990 meeting of the Native American, First Nations, Gay and Lesbian American Conference. After its positive reception at that event, the “Two-Spirit” concept began to catch on within many First Nations communities, and its usage slowly spread to groups in the United States over the next two decades.

LGBTQ People in Pre-Colonial First Nations Communities

Since each First Nations society in pre-colonial Canada possessed its own views on gender, sexuality and spirituality, the definitions used and the roles assigned to LGBTQ people would have vastly differed from tribe to tribe. The Canadian Encyclopedia does list a few examples from these cultures, such as the Cree terms “napêw iskwêwisêhot” and “iskwêw ka napêwayat” that refer to “men who dress like women” and “women who dress like men,” respectively.

Each society defined its own sets of roles assumed by queer and gender variant members. For example, people initially considered male at birth might have donned “feminine” clothing and assisted with weaving, cooking and crafting, while others normally assigned female at birth may have worn “male” apparel and joined the men of the tribe in hunting, healing and protective duties. Writing for the Dancing to Eagle Spirit Society, Sandra Laframboise and Michael Anhorn document that some groups performed rituals for children demonstrating these kinds of behaviors before puberty. At times, some civilizations believed they were powerful individuals who might be able to perform specific functions:

  • Heal
  • Prophesy
  • Provide spiritual guidance
  • Sing sacred songs
  • Intercede on behalf of their people with the gods

Difficulties With Historical Sources

Many sources speaking about the “Two-Spirit” phenomenon may disagree with each other for a variety of reasons. Indigenous peoples have elucidated that not every pre-colonial American culture treated its LGBTQ members in the same ways. When each culture ascribed special statuses to queer and trans folk, this may have required specific processes undertaken by tribal leadership, as a 2006 New York Times piece clarifies.

Moreover, journalist Mary Annette Pember explains in a 2016 Rewire article that documentation of “Two-Spirit” traditions in Native societies was often written by non-Native individuals who lacked a deep understanding of the groups they observed, combining concepts and treating all these groups as if they were a single monolithic culture. She also emphasizes that “Two-Spirit” was developed in a modern context and that many LGBTQ First Nations people find it difficult to reconnect with their histories, thanks to the destruction of their heritage and older queer and trans Indigenous peoples remaining “in the closet” out of fear.

Recovering Lost Legacies

As Indigenous peoples in North American have contended with violence, the destruction of their families, cultural erasure, the loss of their tribal lands and even extinction, they have also attempted to retain or reconstruct their heritages. As part of these efforts, some LGBTQ First Nations people embrace the term “Two-Spirit.” While documentation is incomplete when it comes to the roles that queer and trans people used to play within their tribes, modern LGBTQ Indigenous individuals have used the “Two-Spirit” concept to create spaces of mutual support, forge identities and try to recover what has been lost.

Why Are Churches Losing Attendance?
Why are churches are losing attendance?

Why are churches are losing attendance?

Pick up any Christian magazine or read one online, and you’ll find many theories about why churches are losing attendance. Many people believe that the church is no longer relevant. Some think that adults are choosing to ignore God. There are others who see the church as too hierarchal. In Canada, about 25 percent of adults identify as having no religious affiliation. Many studies have been done about the actual number of people who stop attending church, but very few look at the reasons why. The Church of Scotland, which is Scotland’s national church, commissioned a study about the lack of attendance. The findings were surprising.

One of the key beliefs in failing congregations is that the members lose faith in God and this is why they stop attending. Another issue that has been thought to ravage church membership is disagreements. Women still do not find support in leadership in many churches. The LGBTQ community is also disenchanted with the church, which is another reason that people stop attending. However, Dr. Steve Aisthorpe, the researcher who carried out the study for the Church of Scotland, found something interesting.

Are People Leaving Church or God?

Dr. Aisthorpe discovered that about 66 percent, or two-thirds, of those who left the church now practice and worship in different ways. Many still gather with like-minded individuals to discuss theological issues and pray together. They choose different venues, such as homes or parks, or even do activities together where they can share their faith and address questions they have about their convictions. Aisthorpe also found that this phenomenon was not different in rural and urban churches.

This suggests that it is the organization of the church that keeps people away. More people are turning away from large congregations for a more personalized worship ritual. Arguments and division may turn some people away from church, but this doesn’t indicate that they stop believing in God. A spokesman for the National Secular Society states that “Churches are out of step, and the people in the pews are voting with their feet.”

The Health of the Church and Religious Community

Although Dr. Aisthorpe carried out the majority of his research in Scotland, he did not only look at his own country to get information. He looked at related research from the Western world. He found changes in the attendance of Sunday morning worship, but he doesn’t believe that should be the only measure of the health of the Christian community and faith. His research suggests that churches are in a transitional period, rather than a decline.

What happens now with the church, in whatever denomination, is up to the individual community. Pastors, priests, and religious leaders need to find what works for their own congregation. The Christian community is not the only religion that is having a hard time filling their seats. Many Jewish synagogues are finding it difficult to maintain membership rolls. In Japan, religious organizations are facing the crisis of having to close Buddhist monasteries because the smaller communities cannot afford to support the monks. The rural areas do not have the number of people they once had, and those areas with more of a population are finding that nationals are not using the services of the temples.

Another key element that Dr. Aisthorpe’s research demonstrates is that the church leaders have to stop assuming and stereotyping those who do not attend church. The reasons that keep people away may have nothing to do with their actual faith in God. It’s easy to point to other problems when the congregation fails. Instead of pointing fingers, churches need to become more relevant and change their delivery system. This is how the world works. Most faiths are buried deep in rituals and traditions that are difficult to change, but as culture changes, so must religion.

Justin Trudeau Supports the Rights of All
Equal Rights for All

Equal Rights for All

Justin Trudeau is no stranger to being the first. He is the first child of a previous prime minister to hold the same post. He is also the first boy to be born to a prime minister in office. The first child born to a sitting prime minister was a girl. Trudeau became the first PM in the 21st century to attend a White House State Dinner with the first black U.S. president. It should come as no surprise that he is attending the Toronto Gay Pride Parade in July.

The Announcement Came Via Twitter

On Monday, February 22, @PrideToronto announced:

We’re delighted to announce that @JustinTrudeau will be the first Prime Minister in history to attend #PrideTO!

@JustinTrudeau tweeted back:

Very much look forward to being there again, this time as PM. #PrideTO

One follower mentioned that Trudeau always attends this parade, so it’s not really a big deal. We would beg to differ. He’s not only attending the parade as an individual, but as the Prime Minister of Canada. He’s probably the first world leader to attend a gay parade while in office. Trudeau has made no secret of the fact that he is Roman Catholic, and as such, he is in contention with the leadership of the Catholic Church when it comes to the support of gay marriages.

Participate in the Gay Pride Parade

The parade doesn’t actually happen until Sunday, July 3. Now is the time to register a business or organization as a participant in the parade. Small to large companies can be part of this extraordinary event. The Toronto Gay Pride Parade is in its 35th year. The parade celebrates the diversity of life while respecting the differences between people.

Pride Toronto, the hosting organization, wants to create an inclusive community where all are celebrated. The festival includes many services that help create a barrier-free environment. Some of what they provide includes:

  • Free wheelchairs and walkers lent to those in need
  • ASL interpretation
  • Audio descriptions of the parade
  • Braille maps and audio guides for the festival
  • Mobility assistants
  • Accessibility services with washrooms that are easily usable for those in a wheelchair

In addition to accessibility services, Toronto Pride strives to be sustainable by providing water and waste stations that protect natural resources. There is also a section for bike valet parking, and public transit gets involved to alleviate the transportation problems and reduce air pollution.

Trudeau Offers Support

During the parade, Trudeau will march with other government officials, Toronto Mayor John Tory and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne. The festival is actually open the entire weekend, beginning on July 1. There will be plenty of activities that celebrate the diversity of all people. Make plans to attend to watch history being made and support the rights of the LGBT community.

The LGBT community certainly is gaining ground when it comes to civil rights, but they are still marginalized when it comes to certain topics, like immigration, trans rights, and gay men who wish to donate blood. In schools, LGBT children are bullied and harassed by other students, and sometimes, even by their teachers.

Trudeau has shown a commitment to the issues facing the LGBTQ community. He is taking a stand for civil rights and diversity when he chooses to attend the Toronto Gay Pride Parade. Because of his position as a leader in Canada, this brings national attention to the celebration of civil rights for all. A gay pride parade isn’t only for people who are LGBTQ. It’s for everyone who wants to make sure that people are respected and honored, no matter what their lifestyle is. Trudeau should be commended for taking part in the Toronto Gay Pride Parade.

New Guidelines in Alberta for the LGBTQ Community Moving Forward

ThinkstockPhotos-470428983Alberta has been working toward making its schools safer for all students, especially for students in the LGBTQ community. When you consider that more than two-thirds of the LGBTQ students don’t feel safe in the schools, it’s about time that the government implemented guidelines that give all kids respect, no matter where they go to school. Bill 10: An Act to Amend the Alberta Bill of Rights to Protect our Children was passed in March 2015 to protect all students, but mostly the LGBTQ community.

Parents Have Questions

The Calgary Sexual Health Centre (CSHC) launched a website to help parents, students, and educators get answers to legitimate questions. It’s located at This resource helps dispel myths and misconceptions about LGBTQ students. One of the most common misconceptions seems to be that boys will just decide that they want to be a girl to use the girls’ facility. Being a transgendered student goes far deeper than simply using the facilities.

The guidelines are not to give students a pass to behave disrespectfully but are to help all students feel safe and supported while they are at school. It’s more than just providing safe access to facilities; it’s about keeping records that maintain a student’s privacy. Using the correct terminology when referring to a person’s gender identity is another important aspect that cannot be overlooked.

Opponents to the Bill

The publicly funded Catholic schools have maintained that they should not have to comply with the guidelines, with Calgary Catholic Bishop Fred Henry being the most prominent opponent. However, a 2015 survey found that Catholics are very supportive of the policy. There was concern that the Alberta legislature would not pass the bill that protected the rights of all children, but in the end, only two MLAs who are members of the PC party opposed it. The majority supported the bill, but that doesn’t indicate that things will change overnight for these students.

Show Your Support for Equal Rights

Even though the bill passed last year, in March 2015, it’s important to let your MLA know that you support Bill 10. The CSHC website offers a sample letter that you can send to your MLA to let that person understand that the community stands behind this decision. You can also let the school board and staff know that you support the new guidelines. On the CSHC site, there’s a link to find your school board contact.

Parents should also talk to their kids. Use the resources on Understanding the Guidelines from the CSHC site to open a dialogue. Educating yourself is the first step to creating kids who are welcoming and inclusive. You don’t need to have family members who are part of the LGBTQ community to be open and talk. As a parent leader, when you see discrimination happening in the school community, you should step up and stop it.

Students can also take a stand against the discrimination in the LGBTQ community. First, students should not use derogatory language that hurts someone. Help your student report behavior that he or she sees to the proper authorities. Sadly, bullying not only happens during the day while kids are in school, it’s moved to social media. It might be unreasonable for schools to monitor Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, but posts can certainly be reported to the platform being used. Students should also understand that it’s okay to block bullies and unfriend other students because of their actions.

Alberta schools are working hard to make schools a safer place, but change will only happen within each individual. Use the information available to help understand why it’s so important for each child to have respect at school. Share this with your family to make a difference within your own circle. Together, we can change the attitudes around us.