The first week of classes includes excessive amounts of icebreakers and remembering the names of each person in every class, but what about pronouns?
Some of the professors are succeeding in including the pronoun part of icebreakers. Instead of just saying your name and some random fun fact about yourself, they include saying your pronouns. Other professors aren’t so good at this. If a professor didn’t include adding your pronouns in the prompt, I have felt uncomfortable and unsure on how to bring up the fact that I go by pronouns other than the “assumed” she/her. I would usually just add it in as if they did include it at the beginning, but was left with only the people who went by different pronouns than the assumed to feel excluded and isolated.
I get it, pronouns aren’t something that everyone is used to, especially if they came from a small town. But the professors at Knox should be well aware that pronouns are essential to make all students feel included, accepted and valid.
Introducing yourself with pronouns is the first step, but it needs to continue throughout the term. It is common for professors, performers and other speakers to begin with “ladies and gentlemen,” but this is outdated and should be left to the past.
Throughout this term, I have had professors begin classes with “boys and girls,” and “ladies and gentlemen,” but I believe what hurts just as much is when they begin with “ladies and gentlemenÉ and others.”
I have never felt quite as out of place as when I am considered an “other.” With every application or form I fill out, I check off a box in the gender section that labels me as “other,” instead of something more inclusive like genderqueer or non-binary. These are things I am used to, but professors can and need to change.
I chose Knox because of how inclusive and accepting it came off as, but the faculty and staff need to be working every single day to fix their mistakes. Labeling people who live outside of the binary as “other” or “everyone else” is not as inclusive as you might think it is. Instead, professors and the Knox community should use phrases that don’t emphasize the binary at all, like “people” or “students,” because that’s what we are. We are the same as everyone else and we need to be treated as such.
Pronouns shouldn’t put us in the corner. We shouldn’t be a burden that you have to remember to include in your introduction. We should be inclusive in all situations, because you never know what gender someone identifies as, and you shouldn’t need to know to make them feel valid. You should just do it.
So next time you slip up and begin a class by addressing the binary, take a step back and restart. Begin the class with something inclusive, rather than adding “other” or “everyone else” on at the end, because that just might hurt more.