Using gendered language

A guide for Independent Medical Examiners (IMEs) to the appropriate use of gendered language when dealing with injured workers and in reporting.


What does it mean to misgender a person?

Binary male/female language, expressed through the use of gender specific terms, such as husband/wife, and gendered pronouns, such as he/she, do not always appropriately reflect the diversity of our community.

The Victorian Government's Inclusive Language Guide defines misgendering as:

Using language to refer to a person that is not aligned with how that person identifies their own gender or body. Most but not all intersex and trans people who identify as male prefer to be referred to as 'he'. Most but not all intersex and trans people who identify as female prefer to be referred to as 'she'. Some people prefer to be described with their first name only or a non-binary pronoun such as 'they' rather than a gendered pronoun.

To avoid misgendering, the use of gender-neutral pronouns such as they, them or their may be more appropriate in some circumstances. Gender-neutral pronouns, such as 'zie' and 'hir', may also be used. Most importantly, pronouns used should align with those requested by the person and should be used consistently. If you are unsure, respectfully ask the person what their preferred pronoun is and ensure that you use this pronoun when communicating.

Misgendering of a person may amount to a breach of the IME Service Standards. Please refer to 'Conduct during examination' in the IME Service Standards for more information.


An injured worker is known to colleagues at work as a male named Bill. The same person is known to their friends and family as a female named Jill.

When interacting with the injured worker, it may be appropriate to respectfully check with the person what their preferred gender pronoun is if you are unclear. Appropriate gender pronouns should then be used based on the context in which you are speaking to the person.

In this case it may be appropriate to use male pronouns when meeting with the injured worker in the workplace and to use female gender pronouns when meeting with the injured worker outside of the workplace.

To ensure that the injured worker is not misgendered in written documentation, gender-neutral language should be used in reporting.

Legislation and guidelines

The use and disclosure of personal information is protected by privacy legislation and set out in the Victorian Information Privacy Principles. Requirements associated with the use and disclosure of personal information apply to a person's sex/gender, just as they do to other personal information. There is also an obligation on those who collect and store personal information to protect an individual's privacy, including details of changes to name, sex and/or gender.

The Australian Government Guidelines on Recognition of Sex and Gender provide guidance on the collection, use and amendment of sex and gender information in individual's personal records. These guidelines state that sex and/or gender information must not be collected unless it is necessary for, or directly related to, one or more of an agency's functions or activities.