It is not unusual for LGBTQ concerns to arise in family law matters. In the not too distant past, same-sex couples could not legally marry or adopt children. While that is not an issue now, prejudices remain within families, in the legal system and in our culture. As societal norms change, laws and practices should change as well. Recently, the LGBTQ Committee of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) took up the matter of bias in the words we use when discussing individuals in the LGBTQ community.

The LGBTQ Bench Book for the Judiciary was drafted by the AAML committee and provides a glossary of terms and gender pronouns to help guide the Bench and Bar in the appropriate terminology to use in cases. As the authors point out, “[h]ow a party is addressed in court is important. … The use of a transgender person’s former name or incorrect pronouns can show bias or disrespect.” In addition, they note that the law and judicial ethics require that a judge perform their duties without bias or prejudice.

Importantly, the guide illuminates the ways many of us disparage LGBTQ individuals and their rights and concerns often without realizing it. We grew up hearing certain terminology that is hurtful and use it without thinking. However, that is not an excuse and we should take the time to educate ourselves. Among the benefits of the Bench Book is that it points out why such language is damaging and suggests alternatives that are more inclusive and avoid negative connotations.

Regardless of whether there is a legal responsibility to do so, we should all realize that everyone wants to be respected. If we want others to respect us, we should do the same for them. This applies in court, at work, in our personal lives and within our families.