Nowadays, the topic of gender is widely discussed. When we talk about gender-neutral environments, we idealize a place where people are able to be who they really are and where they feel welcome and embraced, regardless of their backgrounds and personal stories.

We are Ipefem – Institute for Research and Studies of Women and Multiple Existences, and we are a Non-Governmental Organization for mental health education for women and the LGBTQIA+ population that aims to teach people to identify and interrupt the processes of socio-emotional violence in family, at work and relationships. We operate from three combined pillars: Research, Education and Therapy, with more than 4,000 people served since 2019.


In this context, we understand that respect for identities is a priority in the preservation of good mental health and ABEP – Brazilian Association of Research Companies – understood the importance of bringing the topic to the center of the discussion, prompting reflection on research questionnaires. We understand that a research instrument, by itself, is already a mobilizing vector of ideas and can point out trends, in addition to influencing groups, and that is why it is so important to discuss and study everything that takes us forward as individuals and as a society.

 Supportive Environment

The first things we need to ask are: What is a welcoming and supportive environment? How do we provide it?

The definition of welcoming and supportive environment is a place where people can be who they are without feeling afraid or nervous and where they are seen and treated as they really are, without having to fake anything.

We can do it related to physical places or even virtual ones, but how?

  1. Give an opportunity for people to tell you who they are.
  2. Call them the way they choose without questioning
  3. Make no assumptions
  4. Leave stereotypes aside
  5. Use inclusive language – and here we go:

People around us often argue they have no clue what inclusive language means and how they can apply it to life. We can assure you it is simpler than we may think.

We need to understand the importance of language: something only exists when it’s named and this applies to things, situations, people, characteristics, feelings. The place of voice is always a place of power and the image that words draw what will be considered right or wrong.

Serious professionals and academic institutions are dedicated to the subject, without finding consensus, which is natural for something so new, which proposes to question something with more than ten thousand years of life – language. What we need to keep in mind is that language is not something separate from culture and social movements. Therefore, it is not alien to the dynamics of power and domination present in our society.

Furthermore, the way we communicate is definitive to authorize existences: for the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the 2019 word was the pronoun “They”, due to the range of people who feel represented outside the female-male binary spectrum.

But thinking in this way encounters many obstacles, mainly religious and technical. Linguistic professionals argue that the language cannot change overnight, by the will of a small group, or by imposition: they are right, but that is not what is happening.

What happens is, precisely, an inverse provocation: why not try a new way of communicating, so that this is reflected in a new way of relating? More inclusive, more empathetic, less marked with “rights and wrongs” and, therefore, a relationship that allows new perspectives.

For this to happen in a natural and organic way, we can experiment with neutral forms of adjectives, mainly. And, in languages marked by male and female genders, the challenge is greater, as it requires the adaptation of pronouns, nouns, at the risk of losing understanding of the message.

Some easy tips:

  • Avoid the “x” and “@” as these characters do not “vocalize”, that is, they do not allow the word to be spoken. As they do not generate identification, they also do not mark diverse existences;
  • Try replacing adjectives with neutral alternatives;
  • Use the group name instead of plural male subjects;
  • Finally, language is about habit: what we learn in language is the standard, but languages are constantly evolving and developing – just like our society. The only way to get it right is to put the language into practice. This will be a movement full of questions, mistakes and trials, until we can find the ideal way to communicate.

In a research context, the relevance is even greater: the individual, when identifying with the questionnaire in their identity, feels seen, represented and, therefore, more willing to truly participate in the research.

To neutralize the sentences is to make the questionnaire inclusive of all forms of existence, in a great movement of respect, making the work an ally to the non-violent socio-emotional behavior and contributing to an increasingly peaceful world.


  1. If you do not know, ask.

Last, but not least, listen!

People have a lot to tell us. We just need to be willing to listen.

We do not need to understand.

We just need to respect and ask yourself why not to embrace it!

By AJ Dalmaso, Ana Tomazelli e Anne Koch, from Ipefem to Abep