Oh hey! My name is Emily and I go by she/her pronouns!
I was wrapping up a meeting last week when my friend Charlotte tossed in this whingdinger:
“So what’s the deal with all these pronoun changes, anyway?!?”
Charlotte is great. She’s in her 60's and has worked in the tech field for most of her life, breaking down stereotypes while wearing loads of sparkly jewelry and making sure her manicure is always perfect. We volunteer together on the board of an organization that helps out families in our community. She really believes in equality and wants everyone to have a fair shot.
But sometimes she uses phrases like ‘the gays’ and once she referred to a male employee as ‘the hunky one’.Her heart is kind, but her mind is not woke.
So I asked her what she meant with her question about the pronouns.
As a lifelong female-identifying female married to a male-identifying man, I’m not exactly the poster child for gender-fluid pronouns. But I’ve worked in a high school where kids are always questioning and figuring out everything, which has allowed me to learn a lot about how to navigate the waters of being an LGBTQ ally.
What I’ve learned is this: just talking about pronouns, sexuality, or gender issues goes a long way towards making people feel included. Once I asked a student if I should refer to pictures of him from his childhood as his male chosen name or as his female deadname since that’s what he was called at the time the photo was taken. I was worried he’d be upset with me, but it led to a great conversation, and after that, we had a good relationship for several years before he graduated.
Of course, it’s not always that easy. Once I had a female student come out as a trans male because “men make more money”. She sent emails asking everyone to use her new pronouns and new name, and she included her rationale for doing so. Other teachers railed against it, and truly, it was a hard pill to swallow. It felt like a kick in the face to students other students who were dealing with non-financial gender issues.
But at the end of the day, I kind of feel like my job as a teacher is 50% teaching kids stuff and 50% keeping them on the rails…