Dean Letter: Pronouns

Dear St. Paul’s family,
As we seek to be sensitive to the needs of all our members and visitors, we are always alert for new ways to signal that St. Paul’s is a safe place for everyone, living out our “Welcome All” mission statement. When we installed gender-neutral bathrooms a few years ago, we sent a powerful message about our welcome of trans and gender-non-conforming friends. We are preparing to take another step in this direction, with small stickers that will allow each of us to specify, right on our St. Paul’s nametags, the pronouns by which we wish to be known. Mine are “She, her, hers”. What are yours?
This may seem like an unnecessary and even meaningless gesture to you, but it makes a big difference to someone whose gender may not fit with how they are perceived. Having one’s pronouns on display avoids awkward conversations and misunderstandings, and if everyone does it, it says that we as a community are aware of the daily challenges facing the transgender and non-binary community and that we want to be supportive; it says that everyone is equally valued and precious, deserving of dignity in our uniqueness.
Each person has the right to select the pronouns that work for them, just as we each have the right to be known by a particular name or nickname. Some non-binary people will choose “they/them/theirs” as their pronouns. This is part of who they are and we should respect that. Most of us have been conditioned to expect the “they” family of pronouns to refer to plural subjects; it takes a little practice to get over the awkward feeling of using “wrong” grammar, but language is a fluid phenomenon and we are capable of change: just read a chapter from the King James Bible to be reminded of how much it changes over time. (When was the last time you addressed someone as “thee”?) I believe that a little discomfort on the part of the majority is the least we can do to help reduce the significant and continuous discomfort of a minority group among us.
I have changed my email signatures to include my pronouns. I hope you will do likewise. The pronoun stickers are available at our Greeters table, available for all who would like to participate.  They fit snugly on our standard St. Paul’s nametag beside the logo.
Your sister in Christ,

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