Ask For Pronouns: We All Have Them
Editorial Board | Feb. 13, 2015, 8:14 p.m.
The Scripps College Registrar sent an email to the student body Feb. 12 announcing a new feature on the Student Portal that allows students to select the gender pronoun with which they most closely identify. As reported on page 1 in a piece by Kate Dolgenos, the new feature promotes inclusivity by providing a way for students to communicate their pronouns to staff and faculty members.
This additional feature does not come as a surprise after Scripps approved a trans-inclusive admission policy last semester. We believe that the change, guided largely by staff and faculty members, is an important one. Still, we would like to see the other colleges follow Scripps’ lead in addressing gender inclusivity more directly.
The new tab on the portal comes in the wake of the University of Vermont’s recent addition of gender-neutral pronouns to its online information system. According to an article in The New York Times, the change at Vermont came after almost a decade of lobbying and conversation amongst a group of staff members and students.
The 5Cs have long been a place where topics of gender and identity are debated, challenged and accepted, but we see the need for a more concrete avenue through which students and faculty can communicate about each other's pronouns. Scripps' new feature sets the right tone in the classroom, but we need to extend that sentiment outside the classroom as well.
Awareness of gender pronouns is ingrained into many of us upon induction to the 5Cs: From the beginning, such careful consideration of individual identities is emphasized as important and essential. However, aside from our conversations and sometimes faulty intuitions, there is not a readily available method through which students can communicate their pronouns.
We welcome Scripps’ change to the portal as an essential step in the right direction. Faculty members should always make the effort to use their students’ correct pronouns and to not reinforce the gender binary. Likewise, students should pay the same respect to their professors. Addressing the people you come across—whoever they may be—with the correct pronouns shows that you respect them as human beings. We urge our fellow students to pay heed to the pronouns that our peers and classmates use. It may not come naturally at first, but the initial discomfort is nothing compared to how it would feel to be constantly misgendered.
As journalists, we at TSL also have a duty to represent people’s identities as accurately as possible, especially with respect to the trans* and gender non-conforming communities. A recent New York Times Magazine article covering a genderqueer teen named Sasha Fleischman took great lengths to avoid using their gender pronoun in print, as the standards editor considered its use to be “confusing to the vast majority of readers.” If you’re ever confused by a pronoun on our pages, ask us about it—but our primary duty is to represent people and their gender identities with accuracy and respect.
We applaud Scripps’ respect for its students’ gender identities and encourage the other four colleges—and colleges across the nation—to adopt a similar policy. We only wish that Scripps could have included more pronouns on the drop-down menu.