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.

5 Lessons Learned While Rocking My Message

Have you gotten in on the rock painting crafts craze? It is big here in Tallahassee, as this article attests. Even the #TLHTwitterMayor created and hid a rock.

Rock Painting Crafts

I’m doing my first painting/hiding project this weekend. Bella is helping me check out my rocks.

Rock Painting Crafts

As I read through various sets of instructions about how to paint rocks, it occurred to me that rock painting, like many projects we tackle, has more steps and deeper meaning than seems obvious at first.

Planning

If you’re like me, you don’t have beach pebbles lying around. I had to plan ahead in order to have rocks to paint. I read about what other people had used, then figured out how to get my own beach pebbles even though it’s difficult to get time away from home due to caregiving demands. (Thanks, Amazon gift card + prime shipping! In other news, my UPS guy may not be speaking to me for a while.)

Although spontaneous messages are sometimes effective, thinking through your goals increases your chance to say what you mean to say. 

Priming

Many sets of instructions I read suggested to use a base coat of acrylic paint or mod podge before painting designs.

Before sharing a message important to you, touch base with your fundamental values and know the foundation supporting what you are going to share.

Painting the Designs!

While painting the designs, we have to think about what it is we want to express. If you’re like me, you have to overcome that horrible “but I’m not an artist” feeling. You may even want to practice first (rocks are bumpy canvasses).

Having a sense of adventure and courageously unleashing your creativity are key to expressing what is uniquely “you.”

Sealing Your Rocks

You need to use a clear acrylic or some other type of sealant to make sure your message stays clear.

The best messaging in the world won’t matter if friction, the elements, and opposition make it disappear. Putting a clear coat on to protect the message helps it get to as many people as possible.

Hiding Your Rocks

You have to find a place where your hiding activities will comply with the community’s rules, honor businesses’ wishes to be involved or not, stay safe, and find the balance between concealing and revealing that will lure a searcher in but still present a challenge.

Designing a great message doesn’t matter if it still sits in your hands. Take it out into the world and send it on its way. 

MY FIRST DESIGNS

I have a few organizations, people, and places on my mind, so I’m channeling those thoughts into my debut rock artwork (yes, I use the term “art” lightly!).

EQL

EQL, pronounced “equal,” is an organization I’ve recently learned about. EQL has the ambitious goal of promoting acceptance, respect and rights for all. EQL’s strategy is to make equality “a quiet march that happens every day, everywhere” by replicating what major brands do: encouraging positive emotions and enlisting brand advocates.

EQL sells gear with its logo here and donates 35% of the proceeds to causes such as the ACLU, according to their website.

Learn more here or here and look for the hashtag #WeMarchEveryDay to find fellow fans of EQL.

Honoring Savannah’s Courage

Savannah’s statement in front of her congregation moved me. She is a 12-year-old Mormon girl who proclaimed in front of her congregation, “I know I am not a horrible sinner for being who I am” (more here). She was cut off by a leader before she had finished her speech, but the rest can be read here.

Stepping Up My Support of #BlackLivesMatter

I am not sure how to approach this, but I recently agreed to do a guest post about how people can find common ground related to the topic of #BlackLivesMatter so I’d better get to thinking!

This rock will honor Alicia Garza,  Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi, the three founders of #BlackLivesMatter. While of course it is technically true that “all lives matter” and it is very true that “blue lives matter” (i.e., law enforcement deserves our support), it is critical at this point in time to say this:

As a white person, I am declaring my overt support of #BlackLivesMatter. The disproportionate mistreatment of people of color, the institutional racism that influences some (not all) law enforcement agencies, the divisiveness among our nation’s citizens, won’t be resolved until we “get” why #BlackLivesMatter is a thing.

BIRTHDAYS!

One rock will honor my daughter, Tenley, on her 21st birthday (June 26) and another will honor my son, Wayne, for his 18th birthday (July 1). Two big milestones!

A GREEN PEN

Sounds easy to draw but we’ll see. I love encouraging people to #WriteOptimistically, so I’ll give it a whirl.

CATS!

I saw a cute idea for creating a cat out of two symmetrical rocks. I can’t find it now (sigh) but may give a cat rock a whirl, for no other reason than the fact that cats are fun!

Have you painted/hidden rocks before? I’d love to hear about your experience!

Rock Painting Crafts

Editor’s Note: I am still working on my painted rocks. I’ll drop a picture in when I’m done, before they are hidden!

Editor’s Note #2 (8/14/17): Well, THAT was optimistic (editor’s note #1!). The rocks I did finish, I often forgot to photograph before I hid. I’ll track down a picture or two and drop them in … eventually!

Editor’s Note #3 (9/8/17): These are not all the rocks I did …. and they don’t represent everything I said I would do in this post (but I did complete them all) …. but here are the ones I took pictures of! 

Rock Painting Crafts

Here is what the rocks represent, clockwise from the top left: 1) My team, KR Endurance 2) The You Matter Marathon 3) My tagline: #WriteOptimistically 4) A tribute to Piet Meerburg (I did this one at a Holocaust Education Resource Council workshop) 5) One relating to Charlottesville 6) A Proverbs rock 7) The one honoring Savannah (referred to in this post) 8) One honoring my daughter’s birthday and 9) MEOW.