6 letters and a slash mark at midnight

It is becoming more common for people to add the pronouns by which they want to be addressed to their email signatures and other identifiers at work.

I did this about six weeks ago.

Here’s one explanation via Culture Amp of why people add their pronouns to their email signatures (among other places):

If a person has never had to worry about which pronoun others use for them, gender pronouns might not seem important. Steven [Huang, Head of Diversity and Inclusion at Culture Amp] says, “For most, their singular and visible gender identity is a privilege. Not everybody has this privilege; those that are referred to with the wrong pronoun can feel disrespected, invalidated, and alienated.” You can’t always tell what someone’s gender pronouns are by looking at them. Knowing and using someone’s gender pronouns is a positive way to support the people you work with.

I’ve heard many variations of “Everyone knows I identify as ‘he/him,’ so why should I make a big deal out of it on Twitter?” It took me a long time to change my thinking on that. Many people have stated it more elegantly than I can, but in general, I’m not doing it for me. I’m doing it for someone who may have chosen to use “they/them,” or wants to use “he/him” even though outward appearances may lead people to assume that person identifies as a female. It is, as Thom Gallet writes here, a way to “to create a space that allows people to, instead of correct you, inform you from the outset.”

I recently took another step and added my pronouns (she/her) to my Slack display name at work. (We have two different Slack accounts, one for our parent company and one for my direct team.)

First, I changed my display name in the Slack account for the parent company.

That felt pretty easy.

It’s when I had to decide whether to add my pronouns to my more direct Slack group, the one I interact in all day long, that I found myself questioning what to do. I had added it to my bio on that account’s Slack around the same time I changed my email, but bios in Slack aren’t read that frequently. A display is seen day in and day out, multiple times a day.

One day, a colleague added his pronouns to his display name in that Slack channel, becoming the first to do so (to my knowledge). I admired him for proceeding, and I knew it would probably be a supportive thing to do to add mine as well.

I felt self-conscious as I deliberated about this decision. I know some people find the display of pronouns ridiculous and excessive. From a pure “space” standpoint, it takes up more room if every time my name shows up, the “she/her” is there too.

These are the main thoughts that went through my brain:
– Is this going to irritate the majority of my colleagues?
– Am I being performative by putting my pronouns in my Slack display? (I really hate the term “performative” and I especially hate the idea that my choices are perceived as performative vs. authentic because that’s never my intent)
– Is there some middle ground? People see my Slack display multiple times a day — do they really need to be reminded of my “she/her” every time it pops up?

I went back and forth in my head for about 24 hours. In the midst of my back-and-forthing, one of my colleagues on the diversity committee paid me a very kind, heartfelt compliment about how I live out my life as an ally.

And that compliment kept rebounding off the hard surfaces of my skull as I tried to decide what to do.

Therefore, I did what all ultra-decisive people do (LOL) … and added my pronouns to my Slack name during the off-hours … when no one would see it until the next day.

(Also, it cracks me up that Slack reminds me that I am, indeed, me by putting (you) in parentheses, but that’s a topic for a different post!)

So far, no one has asked about this. In truth, it doesn’t matter so much the questions people have about my choice (which I would gladly answer). It matters that someone who is new to our group, or someone who has been around for years and has never felt at liberty to be themselves, knows the door is open for them to add their pronouns.

And maybe they will feel comfortable doing it at high noon instead of midnight.