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The power of language

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Published: November 29, 2023

We know how powerful language can be in the field of mental health and addiction. It has the ability to elevate mana, and equally it can be used to discriminate.

We recently launched our Language Matters campaign, our latest initiative in creating safe and equitable environments for Rainbow communities. The campaign supports people in increasing awareness of the language used when referring or talking to people who identify as LGBTTQIA+.

Language Matters focuses on four key areas:

Using open language

Open language encourages us to be more intentional about what we say, and why we say it. It helps us stay curious and open to learning, promoting empathy and helping to avoid accidental exclusion. For example, instead of asking: “Do you have a girlfriend/boyfriend?” you can ask: “Do you have
a partner?” Instead of: “Are you a boy or a girl?” try: “What pronouns do you prefer?”

Educating ourselves

Doing some research about relevant terminology and concepts allows you to have more informed and sensitive interactions. It helps to create a culture of understanding (instead of just asking the Queer person you know). Some great resources to get started are The GenderBread Person resource, and Supporting Aotearoa’s Rainbow People (

Offering options

Offering options, rather than making assumptions, recognises each individual’s unique identity and experiences. This leads to more respectful and considerate conversations. For example, instead of asking: “Who is the man and who is the woman?” (which assumes Rainbow romantic relationships
are like heterosexual relationships), wait for the person to describe their relationship or experience to you, if they feel safe to do so.

Creating safer spaces

Creating spaces where everyone feels comfortable expressing themselves authentically, is essential for building trust, fostering a sense of belonging, and allowing individuals to thrive without fear of judgment. A local hospital service has rainbows all over their notice board and team values listed on the wall, stating they value their Rainbow community patients. What are some things you could come up with?

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