Just ask me my Pronouns
[Disclaimer: It is important to note that I am speaking from my experience, and I don’t speak for the whole trans community. It is also important to note that in some companies/ industries it isn’t safe for trans people to be out or share their pronouns for fear of being alienated, fired, verbally abused etc. In such circumstances please don’t approach someone who you think might be trans, ask them their pronouns, and then use them as a token to improve the company. You aren’t helping. Never use someone; it makes them a target which is never fun. Instead try to work with the company like the administration, HR, etc to educate the community and make them more accepting. If you know someone who is trans ask them if they are comfortable with their pronouns shared. Trans folk you never have to share your pronouns or identity with anyone. It also doesn’t fall on you to make a company/ institution more accepting. Nothing you choose to do makes you any less valid in your identity. ]
Hi Y’all me again. So today I am going to be a little less technical and not talk about my internship work directly but more so about my experience in the work industry as a member of the LGBTQ* Community. Just a little background information: I identify as non-binary and my pro-nouns are they/them or he/him.
If you don’t know what non-binary means just google it. Sorry I don’t mean to be harsh, but it is no one’s job to explain their identity to you; that and the questions you might have can be extremely triggering and not a situation that some people, including me, want to be in. If you want to learn more literally look it up, watch a YouTube video like the one here, or maybe, just maybe, go to a Pride Alliance meeting sometime. There is plenty of information out there that can explain gender and different gender identities. (I will explain what my pronouns mean for the sake of this article.)
So say you saw I was getting coffee and wanted to tell our fellow colleague. Instead of saying,
“Oh she went to get that Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccino thing,” you would say either,
“He went to get that Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccino thing,” or “They went to get that Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccino thing.”
Simple right? I think so, but there is no way you would know my pronouns if you didn’t ask me first. And unfortunately many people especially in business and at Babson College don’t ask. So what do you do? How do you start that conversation with your boss?
Now some of you might be thinking, “but come on, it can’t be that bad to be mis-gendered.” Well you are wrong. See simply put, I don’t identify with the body I have. Every day I am reminded of that fact when I look in the mirror, when I catch a reflection of myself in the glass, and most of all when someone refers to me as a girl. Even for those individuals who are comfortable in their bodies, being mis-gendered can be just as jarring. It is a slap in the face every time and makes me feel small, alone and just incorrect. Now for me personally not being mis-gendered won’t solve everything, don’t ask me what will that is none of your business, but it will greatly help. It will make me feel valid which is an incredibly powerful and important feeling to have. Just like how you probably once desperately needed you guardian to tell you that the drawing you made was the best they’d ever seen. It made you feel confident, proud to be you; it made you feel valid. That is a feeling I don’t have.
SO this brings me back to my original point, how do you bring this conversation up? It is also an incredibly difficult and ominous conversation to have. I think one of my biggest fears is bringing it up and then having to spend the next thousand hours explaining my identity and why it’s important only to be bombarded with a bunch of questions that I just don’t want to answer. Worse is having to deal with the people who just don’t care and tell me I am wrong. Sometimes it’s a conversation I can do but most of the times it’s not.
What I have found is better is to find someone you trust, a colleague, your supervisor even, sit them down, and have the conversation with them. You might feel safer, and they might be more willing to listen. You can then ask them to have a convo with the rest of the team. It’s important to remember that it’s never your job to educate anyone. If you don’t feel comfortable and you can’t bring it up don’t be hard on yourself. That doesn’t mean you aren’t valid or strong.
In actuality this simple question: what are your pronouns? Should be as frequently used in an introduction as what is your name? Companies and schools need to do a better job on making sure that their communities are educated and respectful of the LGBTQ* community. People who call themselves allies need to actually act like them and make sure that their gender bender friends are seen and heard.
So I guess I’ll end this piece by asking that people start actually showing up for the LGBTQ* community. It’s really easy to walk in a fun parade and wear a rainbow or two but I am telling you right now that DOES NOT MAKE YOU AN ALLY. I’m looking at you too colleges and companies.
Everyone reading this piece can start helping by asking what people’s pronouns are instead of just assuming. And by people I mean EVERYONE, not just people you think might be trans. You can push your respective companies and institutions to start having the conversation and begin using pronouns. Remember it might seem hard to you, but I guarantee the person who is suffering in silence and quite honestly fear is going through a much harder time. Frankly step up and be an active ally.
Lastly to all my fellow trans and non-binary peeps please don’t feel like you are alone. You are valid and incredible for simply having the courage to be you. Never forget how strong you are.
(#shamelessplug if y’all do want to learn more about the trans experience follow my insta: softdesiboy.)