question

Being a ‘part-time’ GNP user

louziphir asked:

“I’m moving into a career in academia, and I’ve noticed that I really don’t like when people refer to my work with gendered pronouns. I don’t have discomfort being called daughter or hearing myself referred to as she/her/hers in regular conversation. On one level I feel guilty claiming they/them pronouns in professional settings, almost like I am performing being gender queer. On the other hand controlling the narrative of people reading my work as non-gendered makes me feel empowered. Thoughts?”

Hi louziphir! Thank you so much for your question, and I’m excited to be in academia with you!

First of all, being nonbinary or genderqueer or somewhere on the non-cisgender side of things that isn’t M or F can be a tough slog precisely because we are inundated with messages about how we aren’t real. Well guess what. Hello! Kidding aside though, the gap between feeling like “I am gender queer (etc.)” and “I feel like I am gender queer” is hard to cover over in a world that is still figuring out how to welcome and support nonbinary-spectrum people. So, don’t be so hard on yourself. Rather, the sense of discomfort that you articulate is how many of us start to figure out that our pronouns might have to change to match us correctly.

That all said, I think that what you are saying is that you are only noticing this discomfort in academic/work settings. It is true that most people who have they/them or other gender-neutral pronouns generally like to have them used in all the contexts of our lives (if safety etc. were a non-issue). However, the way that she/her and other F-gendered language play out in your workplace might be perhaps loaded more or differently than they are in the other contexts of your life, making their attribution at work more grating than in your regular life. What I’d encourage you to do is think about pronouns as part of a larger process of sorting people into gender categories, and reflect on how that sorting might be something that works for you in one context but not others. After all, we know that gender works differently across different times and places, sometimes including the different spaces where one person spends parts of their day. How does gender work for you more generally in your workplace? Are you uncomfortable beyond pronouns? What do you notice about how others work with or do gender where you are? Are there other things you are okay with at home, but not at work? I don’t believe that just because someone, for example, is a woman (cisgender or transgender), she has to do all of the things in every woman box. Woman boxes are shaped differently, and not all fit every woman. And of course, sexism and misogyny are alive and well, including in academia, sometimes making it very clear that F-gendered language is used in ways that are devaluing.

The last thing I’ll say is that I have known dozens of people who are in a reverse situation from yours: they do not come out with ‘they/them’ pronouns at work (in academia). Often this is because they aren’t sure of the reception they’ll get, or don’t have the energy to do what this can often require (I get that). At bottom, though, this is about people working with different thresholds and different needs in different parts of their lives. I don’t want to live in a world where I have to do or need or desire the same thing regardless of where I am, as that sounds a bit too demanding. Perfection is not the goal.

These are my thoughts for now. I hope they are helpful!

Thanks for writing, and take care,

Lee

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Supporting a co-worker in retail who gets mis-gendered by customers

Anonymous asked:

“Hello, We have a new coworker whose name is masculine, appearance masculine and we use the pronoun “they”. They have said they are comfortable with female pronouns, not male. Things are going well on the coworker side, however recently the coworker came to me and expressed discomfort with the customers. We work in retail and customers often use male pronouns – that is what they see on name tag or appearance, they aren’t trying to be rude but they don’t know. How can we help in this situation?”

Hello Anonymous,

This is an excellent question, and actually I have a question before I get going (rhetorical I know because you’re Anonymous and can’t reply)! I’m wondering what you mean when you say “we use the pronoun ‘they’” if this person actually is comfortable with female pronouns. I don’t have more information, but this feels like something to check in on. What actually are the pronouns this person would like co-workers to use: she/her or they/them?

On to the bigger question: how can a workplace support an employee whose pronouns aren’t the ones that strangers would ordinarily apply when encountering them? Customers are kind of like friendly strangers (and sometimes unfriendly strangers): not terribly invested in getting to know the details of customer service representatives’ lives or identities. Retail interactions at their best are cordial, brief and truncated. This reminds of what I say in my book about how pronoun go-rounds don’t happen in places where people aren’t expected to engage with each other, like at restaurants or the opera. Retail might be a space like that. You also likely don’t have a repeat clientele who can gradually learn about your co-worker or your space, and begin using correct pronouns over time.

In a gender utopia, we wouldn’t always use each other’s gender expression to infer pronouns. We do not live in this utopia, and so moving about with a masculine name and gender expression but having she/her pronouns is a very exhausting life. My respect and empathy for your co-worker. When her gender expression is read by customers as meaning that he/him pronouns are appropriate, and that doesn’t reflect her gender identity, then I can only imagine how work must go for her: tough, tiring and frustrating. Chances are that she is mis-gendered all of the time and that work isn’t the only place where this happens.

This brings me to the first strategy I have for you. If you have a friendly relationship, literally just check in and ask how she is doing, and ask whether this happens elsewhere, too. Encourage her to think about how she manages this when it happens outside of work; chances are she has some tools and skills. Can these be applied in your workplace?

My second strategy is to suggest to your management – with your co-worker’s consent – that employees be encouraged to have pronouns on their name tags. This could help to clue in some customers, or even just give your co-worker a thing to do: point to her name tag.

In retail, there are all kinds of ways to work. I’d encourage your co-worker to talk to the management about having breaks from front-of-house to work in the backroom only because these are also breaks from being consistently mis-gendered on the floor. This is my third strategy.

A fourth strategy is to ask your co-worker whether she is comfortable with you gently (and I mean gently) correcting customers who mis-gender her. It might be a good idea to talk about safety here, as doing this would out her (my second strategy above also carries this risk). Sadly, this is a cost-benefit situation. The toll of being mis-gendered is something to weigh against her safety in the workplace.

Lastly, it might just be the case that frontline retail jobs with your company, for whatever reason, are not a sustainable fit for some trans people. Your management could offer your co-worker opportunities to train and develop other skills that could lead to positions that will entail less mis-gendering. This is not preferential treatment – it is equity. It’s also harm reduction: this shouldn’t be needed, but it might be because this is where we are.

I hope this helps, and thank you for a thought-provoking question!

All the best,

Lee

Unloading on someone who makes a good-faith pronoun mistake is both understandable and not okay. Paradox!

Anonymous asked:

Do you know of anyone who describes themselves as a woman or man but doesn’t accept she/her or he/him? I just got yelled at online for assuming a self-described woman used she/her pronouns. I know you can be nonbinary and woman or man-aligned, but I thought even for those people, she/her or he/him was accepted. I’m wondering if this is just a ploy to trip people up (since the person in question is abusive) or if you can actually be a woman and not use she/her.

Hi Anonymous!

First, let it be known loud and clear that using a gender-neutral pronoun (GNP) is not a free pass for behaviour that is harming of others. Yes, people who use a pronoun that departs from normative expectation can face all kinds of barriers and difficulties. And yes, the everyday stress of being a GNP user can cause an explosion of pent-up hurt to erupt onto someone who made an honest mistake. This is understandable.

But to my eyes, that this is understandable doesn’t make it okay. Ever. It’s an occasion for repair of some kind, to whatever extent possible and in whatever form possible. Sometimes that can’t happen. That sucks, and again is both simultaneously understandable and not okay. A paradox. In my experience in communities, the absence of this nuance – both understandable AND not okay – has enabled harming behaviour. And outside of our communities, a lack of nuance will not get us anywhere in the ally department.

More specifically, I don’t know of any people who openly, explicitly identify as women and exclusively use they/them to the extent that she/her is unwelcome. I also haven’t heard of people claiming a pronoun and using that to intentionally deceive or wield power over others. Having a gender-neutral pronoun takes a lot of work, and is likely too labour-intensive to maintain if it is not a life-affirming need.

I have no data on your situation or on this person, of course, and I generally tilt toward self-identification in these matters (i.e., that people can use the pronoun that works for them and should have it respected). That said, unloading on someone who made a mistake is not okay (despite, yes, being understandable). I hope that in the space(s) you share with this person there is nuance, courage and compassion. Sometimes there isn’t, and we need to do better.

Thanks for writing,

Lee

What to do (on Facebook) when you think someone you know has changed pronouns

Anonymous asked:

“Years ago, one of my friends came out as trans and was using he/they as pronouns, but we totally lost touch. My friend recently reactivated their FB account with a different name (one sounding more traditionally “feminine”), and I want to reconnect and ask what pronouns they’re using but I’m not sure the best way to ask?”

Thanks for your question!

As someone who has switched pronouns in my life, I really like it when I get a break from doing some of the work of explaining and publicizing my needs, even to people I like or know well. So, I would first suggest that you have a look at this person’s FB wall. Are there people you know in common who are active Commenters or Likers or Taggers or who are in recently-dated photos with your friend (YF)? **Important…are these people who you knew in common at the time when YF identified as trans and used he/they? In other words, have these people persisted in YF’s life while YF’s gender expression and/or identity has changed (at least as far as you can tell from YF’s name change)? If so, I’d say a kind and mindful first step would be to ask one of these people, if you feel comfortable doing so.

The second option, of course, is to get in touch with YF with the intention of reconnecting and, well, reconnect. Asking how YF is doing and updating YF on your stuff doesn’t require that you use a gendered pronoun for YF! Chances are if YF is into rekindling your friendship YF will bring up their gender-related needs as you correspond.

I’d suggest doing either of these things before you might get in touch to ‘pop’ the pronoun question.

Hope that 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

Singular they and verb conjugation

Anonymous asked:

“I’m having trouble conjugating verbs with they! I realize it’s a singular pronoun, like he or she, so would one say, “they has a car”? Or is it conjugated in the plural, like you, “they have a car”? Thank you so much for running this blog!”

You’re very welcome, and thanks for this important question! The answer is both. If someone uses singular they you do conjugate in the plural when referring to them directly: “they HAVE an appointment.” But when using their name to refer to them, you use the singular: “Lee HAS an appointment, so remind THEM that THEY have to call ahead to confirm.”

This kind of switcheroo requires extra attentiveness when writing. I’m working on the next draft of my PhD dissertation, and I insisted on using singular they to lend even greater anonymity to my research participants and for political reasons. My supervisor’s feedback was a good reminder that, when using singular they, one needs to be careful when referring to more than one person in the same paragraph (or page, etc.). Readers could interpret that you’re referring to everyone and not to the singular they user! So, using this pronoun requires more than substitution. It requires changing how we write, or at least being a bit more nit-picky!

Hope that helps, and sorry for the delayed response (see above re. dissertation revisions…)!

Lee