“I’m about to start a summer internship, and I haven’t been able to figure out the gender identification of my soon-to-be mentor/coworker - who I’ll call ‘Alex.’ I have not heard anyone else refer to Alex with pronouns, and so far I have managed to only ever refer to Alex directly by name. I suspect that Alex may be trans, but I’m not sure and I don’t want to make assumptions. What’s the most respectful way to ask Alex about Alex’s gender identification/how Alex would like to be referred to?”
- Question submitted by Anonymous
I’m having a lot of thoughts about this because a lot of people think it’s offensive to ask for someone’s pronouns. Which, I’m sure if we break it down and we get even more intense about it, like, you think it’s offensive to ask for pronouns, because society has taught you that being trans is abnormal, and you don’t want to suggest someone is abnormal…
BUT THE TRUTH IS… It’s not offensive. It’s incredible, so necessary, and the only way to be inclusive. AND if you’re like “hey, what’re yr pronouns” to a person who responds with, “WHY?! WHY WOULD YOU ASK THAT?!!? ISN’T IT OBVIOUS?!?!” You can simply say, “I always default to asking over assuming, I like to know for sure, rather than try to guess.” You can even take it one step further and talk about the number of people who are mis-gendered on a daily basis. You can throw out some statistics about suicide within the LGBTQ community, you can point them to specific stories of transgender youth who have taken their lives because of shit like this. You can also take a step back and say, “hey, I’m just doing my part to be as inclusive as possible, I want to be a part of making our work environment a safe space and it’s one of the quickest and easiest ways to make everyone feel comfortable.” And, I know you’re not exactly in a power-position here, so say something like, “Hey Alex, can you let me know people’s pronouns as you point them out to me? I don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable.”
I encourage everyone to implement small things like this in their workplace. Asking for pronouns from all co-workers (or employees if you’re a manger or boss). Having gender neutral bathrooms is another easy thing to do. Are there two single-stall bathrooms? With their own door? Why is one “men” and one is “women”?? Why not make them both gender-neutral, or ‘unisex’ or however you wanna call it so we aren’t making demarcations for no reason?
Also, take note that a lot of this can be solved during the application process. A lot of people have driver’s licenses that don’t match their identities. The world makes it pretty fucking difficult to live your life sometimes. SO, When they’re filling out the app, simply walk by and say “oh, the job application from 1945 doesn’t say this, but if your ID doesn’t match your preferred name or the pronoun you identify with, just make a note so we all know!”
Changing the world isn’t that hard. Making your workspace more inclusive isn’t that hard. Being a dope ass mother fucker is not that hard. Be kind, be aware of your own privilege, recognize that we all deserve the same privilege and do everything you can to pass it on. I am so fucking privileged to identify with the pronoun a doctor shouted when i plopped out of my mom’s vagina. I recognize that and I spend my days trying to make sure those around me feel that way, too. AND ESPECIALLY knowing that one tiny thing I can do is ask someone their pronoun and then use it correctly… THAT’S IT?! Cool. Then yea. I can do that.
I just ranted, sorry. hi.
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