Mandatory pronouns

Joshua Pederson, professor at Boston University, makes a good point in today’s Boston Globe. Several years ago, Pederson began all his classes by having students introduce themselves by saying their names and pronouns. But, Pederson says, at the end of that first class:

“As my students began filing out of the classroom, one lagged behind, visibly distraught. They asked if they could talk to me about the way I ran introductions. They identified as non-binary and used they’them pronouns, but they felt exposed and vulnerable when I told them to share that. I din’t make them feel included; I made them feel unsafe.”

Now, Pederson gives his own pronouns, and invites but does not require students to share their pronouns. I think he’s on to something. In part, he’s addressing the power imbalance between teacher and student. And also, as he notes, “mandating that students share pronouns can force those who are unsure of their gender identity to pick one, even if they don’t feel ready.”

Those of us who spend time in religious organizations might think about following Perderson’s lead. In congregations, ministers, Sunday school teachers, committee chairs, youth leaders, etc. can share their own pronouns, but there’s no need to make it mandatory for everyone to share their pronouns. In other gatherings, denominational staff, volunteer denominational leaders, workshop leaders, etc. can do the same thing — share their own pronouns, but not make it mandatory for everyone to share pronouns.

In the past, I’ve asked various Unitarian Universalist groups to share pronouns. I won’t be doing that any more. I might share my own pronouns, but I’m not going to ask anyone else to share theirs. Invite, maybe; ask, nope.

Thanksgiving with family, pt. 3

In the conclusion to the “Thanksgiving with Family” series, Muds and Possum talk over the Thanksgiving dinners they had with their relatives. For both of them, it didn’t go as badly as they had feared!

As usual, full text is below the fold.

Continue reading “Thanksgiving with family, pt. 3”

Thanksgiving with family, pt. 1

Muds and Possum are worried about going to visit relatives at Thanksgiving, because of uncomfortable conversations with relatives who have differing opinions about climate change, gender, and religion….

As usual, full text is below the fold. Go to Part 2.

Continue reading “Thanksgiving with family, pt. 1”

Gender-balanced kids’ book of Bible stories

An interesting new children’s book of Bible stories is being funded on Kickstarter. The goal: a kid’s book that’s gender-balanced. Why? Because for the majority of children’s Bible story books, “female characters are vastly underrepresented in both the stories and the illustrations.” The illustrations are also going to show racially diverse characters. Admirable, and I look forward to seeing the book — which sadly won’t be published till 2023.

The old Unitarian Universalist “Timeless Themes” stories, while not completely gender-balanced, had pretty good representation of women. It would be fun to update that with some multi-racial illustrations. And wouldn’t it be nice if we had a UU children’s book of Bible stories that recognizes that God is non-binary gender? Uh huh, that’s what it says in Genesis 1:27: “So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Ignore the pronouns (nobody remembers ask ask God what their pronouns are), and it’s pretty clear that all genders are created in God’s image.

Preferred pronouns

Non-binary gender meets arts-and-crafts…. I was trained up by old-school DREs (Directors of Religious Education) who addressed many congregational issues with arts and crafts projects and filing systems. Sure, arts and crafts and filing systems can’t address every social challenge, but you’d be surprised at what you can accomplish through simple means.

In our congregational, we’ve been thinking about non-binary gender. How do you educate people about non-binary gender? How do you make non-binary gender seem fun and interesting? If you were trained up by old-school DREs, the answer would be obvious: stickers! Stickers and a filing system for them!

You can see my prototype above. We’re going to try it out this Sunday, though I expect a number of problems. First off, an index card file box is not the ideal storage system, and and it may not work well during real-world coffee hour. The stickers may prove to be a bit small, though I had to size them to fit on our name tags (recognizing that people who would use these might have one or more other stickers on their name tags already, e.g., rainbow sticker, UUSC sticker, etc.). And I’m sure someone will criticize my choice of personal pronoun sets (’cause we’re Unitarian Universalists, and we love to criticize each other).

Aside from the inevitable problems, I think three things will work well from the start: 1. the stickers will affirm those who don’t fit into binary gender (even if they don’t use the stickers because they don’t want to be out about it on Sunday morning); 2. the stickers will serve an educational function; and 3. everyone likes stickers!

Specifics of how I formatted the stickers are below: Continue reading “Preferred pronouns”