I stood behind a table during Accepted Students day to promote my club. Parents were wandering with their students after a sandwich wrap lunch, with a salad and chips. Some of them smiled at us and kept walking, while others averted their eyes and gave our table a wider birth.
A few students came to ask us questions, while others walked right up to our table. They saw our giant rainbow flag and were eager to join our email list.
One student came up and collected a few stickers and other freebies. When it came time to jot down their name on our list, they glanced up at me. “Is it okay if I put my preferred name and pronouns?”
I blinked. While that was a question I should have expected, it wasn’t something I figured anyone would ask about. “Of course! We love being able to communicate with everyone the exact way they want,” I said.
By the end of the two hours, I started to pack up the table. The idea of pronouns and gender identity kept reoccurring. And I realized I couldn’t just sit idly.
If we wanted our campus to be inclusive, we had to start with more than just our club. I approached the Director of the Office of Diversity Initiatives and spoke to her and her grad assistant at length about the importance of pronouns. The usage of gender neutral pronouns in our incoming first-year student class was prevalent based on my interactions.
As President of the GSRM club on my university’s campus, I have been working closely on making pronouns part of the conversation during syllabus day.
Its led to a lot of great conversations and simple education in the classroom.
A few days ago, our campus had a grand opening for our new green space. It had been nearly a month since the sod was placed, and finally the chains were down. At long last we could walk through the luscious green grass.
I stood with a few friends, and my Residence Director as we talked about the green space. The provost turned around and placed her hand on my shoulder.
“Whenever I see this person, they are always so stylish. And I just wanted to compliment you on how you dress,” she said.
I stared. I hadn’t expected the gender neutral pronouns. In fact, I’m used to people misgendering me since first grade that it doesn’t even phase me anymore. But the pronouns are what halted my brain. “Oh, thank you,” I said.
“You always look very well put together and you’re brave enough to dress the way I wish I could.” She patted my shoulder and moved on to another conversation – a busy woman our provost is.
“Thank you, again,” I said. I talked at length with my best friend, and we discussed the provost’s ease with using them.
And I appreciated that the most.