identity

Clueless yet well-intentioned: Tips on changing pronouns at your office

vulvalove asked:

“hello! i currently work as a low-level staffmember (& only employee doing LGBT work) on a progressive college campus with a bunch of moderately conservative administrators. many are very well-intentioned, & all lack education about trans* communities & gender. students get it, but staff/faculty/admin are clueless. i’ve begun to shift my pronouns in my personal life & want to use “they” at work. how would you recommend i “rebrand” myself where i work with hundreds of clueless people? TYSM! :)”

Hi vulvalove!

I really appreciate this question, particularly because I too work on college campuses. I don’t think that many people who are fairly conservative about gender would describe themselves that way, particularly because ‘gender’ is something so ordinary and ingrained that most don’t even think they have views or feelings on it at all! Good intentions are nice, of course, but they really have no effect on what comes out of one’s mouth.

First, I’d suggest taking an audit of your supports and options, if you haven’t already done so. Is there a diversity officer on campus? Is there a ‘safe space’ etc. organization on campus (e.g., McGill Safe Space) that could come in and do (some of) the heavy-lifting for you in the form of a workshop for your co-workers? (Um or given what you said about your job, is this you?) Do you have the support and understanding of a supervisor? Would that supervisor be open to learning about gender diversity and inclusion issues as a springboard to making change more broadly? Would your organization like to contract me to come in and give a workshop on shifting pronouns (joke)?

Second, I’d consider how overt you want this ‘re-branding’ (love it) to be. My suggestions above are all about education, and that can be helpful. However, you want people to use your pronouns and not just expand their minds – the first is a practical goal and the second is a nice incidental benefit of working with you (yes, they are fortunate). On the practical goal front, I’d suggest putting it on the table at a staff meeting and telling people what it means (with the support of your administrator, if possible, who stresses it as an equity issue). You can give them options like just using your name, and guidelines like (if appropriate) ‘don’t include me in events, photos, messages, etc. that are just for women / just for men’ and ‘don’t refer to me as a woman, man, etc.’ depending on your needs. I believe that being as practical as possible with otherwise non-knowledgeable people is key. At the meeting, you can have some resources ready (like this blog) to hand out, too.

To the extent that you feel comfortable, the options are limitless in terms of other more direct action point-of-service things: make a sign for your desk, wear a button, give out candy for a correct gendering (I’m an extrovert so I might try this one as people usually enjoy a bit of camp). Of course, these suggestions all depend on what kind of environment you work in, how safe you feel there and how many strangers you see on a daily basis. Are pronouns your first/worst problem or is it the ‘hello young lady / hello young man’ variety of comments that also trouble you? The first is probably a co-worker issue, and the second probably more of a public issue.

Please keep asking questions or Tweet me or whatever you like. TIMP and I are here for you.

Hope this helps,

Lee

What does singular they mean to me?

Anonymous asked:

“Hi, I currently use the pronoun she/her and I have been thinking a lot about how it would feel for me to use the pronoun they. I feel like I don’t know what the pronoun they means, who belongs/who doesn’t, and how it works to describe gender. I was wondering what the pronoun they means to you and what associations you have with the pronoun they. Thanks!”

Why hello there!

I’ve made some comments below in response to others with similar concerns regarding who they belongs to and who has a right to use it. My general feeling is that, if using they makes you more comfortable, your comfort ought not to be judged valid or invalid by other people. I feel like the more people who use singular they and other gender-neutral pronouns – regardless of gender identity or expression – the easier usage will become.

As far as what it means to me, that is new blog territory. What do I want from people once they know my pronoun preference? Well…

What I want is a free pass from any and all assumptions about my ideas, work, play, hobbies, habits, life trajectory, plans, partners, underpants, decor preferences, beverages…you get the idea. I want an out from being over-determined by other people. It’s like “ok, so I don’t want to do girl things…but that also means that I might not want to do boy things either!” I want to be picky and choosy and difficult. In a perfect world – and I naively try to live like it’s already here – using ‘they’ would be a wake-up call to someone that gender will not help them relate to me, understand me, or make small talk with me at an awkward party. So let’s try something else, and also realize how even small things are almost always gendered male or female, as though everyone is entirely only one thing.

I associate ‘singular they’ with a space of freedom from having to contradict people or feel icky that they think they can tell me – even with questions – what or who I want, and what or who I like. If singular they can help someone do be freer from some of that stuff, and if being freer helps them to feel better or safer or happier, then I think using a gender-neutral pronoun might be a neat idea regardless of their gender identity or presentation. Of course, everyone will have varying degrees of success. But hopefully we will all have tiny oases where this freedom is actually found and nurtured.

Taking things further, I want everyone to have this freedom no matter which pronoun they use. Ideally, I’d like people to think about how our casual questioning of others – or reactions to things they say like ‘that’s a really big deal ’ or ‘that’s not a big deal at all’ – are so full of assumptions, even if it’s just “so…what do you do?” I mean…what if I don’t have a paying job? Am I supposed to, necessarily, in order to be someone you want to talk to? I really, really hope not. Singular they, then, is about gender for me but also about making language more open and friendly to…whatever is different from the norm.

Thanks for your question – it made me think!

Lee

Can anyone use ‘they’ as a pronoun, regardless of identity?

turtlesnapp asked:

“Hello!! I am a cis girl and have always felt like a girl 100% of the time. I’ve never questioned my gender, but they pronouns seems very comforting and I was thinking about using them in addition to she. I identify very strongly with she.. but I also am thinking I find comfort in they, and I was wondering. Am I stepping over certain bounds? Am I abusing something by doing this? And if it turns out I don’t feel comfy with they anymore? Think you could help me out? :((“

Hi there turtlesnapp! Thank you so much for asking!

My personal opinion (all I’ve got) is that people choose to use gender-neutral pronouns for the very reason that you articulate with regard to your own situation: comfort. I know people of many different stripes, who use a variety of identity terms and understand their genders in many different ways, who would prefer that others use a gender-neutral mode of address when referring to them.

There is so much diversity among trans* and gender non-conforming folks that there cannot be a stable boundary to step over. I’m sure that many people would suggest keeping in mind the different barriers faced by people who are not cis-gendered and use gender-neutral pronouns. One example could be the (potentially) greater ease of people who can be choosey about when to request their chosen pronoun and when to go with whatever people are using for them, in the interest of safety or just getting by. To the extent that you feel safe and able, I would suggest using your evolving experiences as a ‘they’ user to be a vocal ally to other (and particularly trans*) users and educate those around you. Many of us don’t feel safe doing this work, and if you find that your identifying as cis-gendered gives you more opportunities to do so – which it very well may not depending on your circumstances – please carry it forward as best you can.

I’m confident that requesting gender-neutral pronouns will change how you are received, questioned and engaged by others – keep in touch!

Hope this helps,

Lee

Risking offence? When to ask or not ask someone’s pronoun preference

Anonymous asked:

“I’m worried about offending people if I ask what their pronoun preference is. I’ve been told to ask people up front but what if I make someone uncomfortable? Who do I ask and who do I not ask?”

This is an excellent question and a common concern. Some people will be offended, or just will simply not understand. I’m going to go out on a limb and imagine this play-by-play is what worries you: you ask someone, they don’t understand what/why you are asking, you explain why, the person thinks that they look like someone who would have a gender-related i.e., pronoun issue, they get upset.

People get upset because ‘looking like xyz person’ with a pronoun preference generally means, in the popular imagination, looking like something other than normatively straight or normatively gendered. And what’s so bad about that? Basically, people would likely be offended because of a stigma based in homophobia or its cousin, transphobia.

But just because we can trace the roots of the problem doesn’t mean it isn’t real. This situation still has to be somehow navigated.

The question remains: are there certain people who you should ask or not, based on a visual survey? I feel like this is dicey. Follow your gut, but do your best to be open to whatever reaction someone may have. Even someone as queer-looking as the day is long (like me for instance) might not appreciate the question, and that’s ok.

In workshops and other spaces where mindfulness around pronouns is an established habit (i.e., at the beginning everyone says their name and pronoun preference), we sometimes imagine that this practice will permeate the social world. I have my doubts, at least for some time to come. And I promise that groups of pronoun-conscious people at, say, a BBQ do not generally stop and do pronoun go-arounds.

So what do you do?

In reality, I very rarely have to ask someone what their pronoun is because I generally just listen to how other people describe them and avoid using pronouns for them until I am sure. If I am still really unsure or if I think someone’s pronoun (or chosen name) has shifted, I find a quiet moment to ask an acquaintance, a mutual friend, etcetera.

Other people doing this work without getting the pronoun user involved is really nice, and also completely possible. So consider listening and refraining from using any pronouns until you have figured it out, and if that fails, ask someone else.

Hope that helps,

Lee

Welcome to the archived TIMP!

Welcome to the complete They Is My Pronoun archive!

For eight years, TIMP was hub of information about gender-neutral person pronouns of reference, as they were beginning to emerge into common usage. Readers came to TIMP with questions about how to navigate pronouns like singular they for one person, and before a generation of young Standard English speakers would grow into adolescence already having this ability.

TIMP’s readership peaked in 2017 at 30,000 unique visitors and declined steadily thereafter, likely because of an abundance of wonderful pronoun resources springing into being. Increasingly, I would direct Tumblr question askers to posts where I had already answered their questions. Questions also began to be more personal, with visitors asking me whether or not they were ‘really’ their gender identity, which of course is not for me to say. Between directing some readers to prior posts, and directing others to resources, the original purpose of TIMP has drifted as, amazingly, societal recognition of and facility with gender-neutral pronouns (particularly singular they) has expanded.

In 2018, on the strength of TIMP, I was contacted by an editor at Adams Media (An Imprint of Simon & Schuster) and contracted to write Gender: Your Guide – A Gender-Friendly Primer on What to Know, What to Say, and What to Do in the New Gender Culture. This book is TIMP between two covers, and contains everything I have learned about navigating gender diversity in everyday life, pronouns included. It is the best of, and more than, TIMP.

And so, today on June 14th 2020, after a remarkable eight years in the life of gender diversity, I am archiving TIMP for good. Everything will remain here for the years to come, but I will no longer receive visitor questions or comments here or on TIMP’s Tumblr.

TIMP has been part of a gender language revolution, and I am grateful to every one of my visitors for making this happen alongside me.

With respect,

Lee

Original TIMP Welcome

Whereas many blogs or news stories on singular they as a gender-neutral pronoun are invested in the debate as to whether ‘they’ as a singular pronoun is grammatically correct, TIMP is different.

Instead of focusing on grammar, TIMP focuses on actually using singular they in real life, and on enabling the choice to use gender-neutral pronouns for yourself or for others.

TIMP is dedicated to a few simple ideas:

1. You are not a bad person or homophobic or transphobic or ignorant just because using they stresses you out.

There are many reasons why using they as a singular pronoun is hard. TIMP is about recognizing this and exploring where resistance comes from. TIMP offers suggestions for working through difficulty, and not arguments about why it shouldn’t be difficult.

2. When people respect your choice of pronoun, this feels really good – good enough to make a big difference in someone’s quality of life and well-being.

Most people who have not had to ask others to use a particular pronoun do not realize how good it can feel when someone gets it right, or shows you they are trying. You can generate so much happiness, make such a large contribution to someone’s well-being, and even make someone feel better about being in a workplace or group or get-together, just by using the pronoun they ask for, and apologizing when you make a mistake. You can make someone want to come back to your office, clinic, store, house, or Facebook page. It is truly astonishing what a difference this can make.

3. Using they gets easier with practice and time, and it is worth it.

So, scroll on down and stay tuned to TIMP for answers to questions (which I accept, even anonymously, on my twin Tumblr site)* from users, allies and curious questioners of all kinds, reflections and resources on singular they!

*TIMP’s Tumblr no longer accepts questions.