i sent this letter to my teachers last night:

hi, everyone!

it’s the start of a new semester and i’d like to get something important out of the way; my pronouns are “they/them/their.”  this means that instead of to referring to me with gendered pronouns (“she/her/hers”, “he/him/his”), i’d like you to refer to me with “they/them/their” (non-gendered pronouns).  this is because i’m a nonbinary trans* person; my gender is nonbinary.

you might already know what nonbinary gender is, but i want to make sure we share a basic understanding of it.  a nonbinary gender is a gender that falls outside the woman OR man gender binary our culture commonly recognizes.  a nonbinary person may be a man and a women, they may be neither a man nor a woman, they may experience different genders at different times, or they may not experience gender at all.

to be clear, i’m writing about gender/gender identity—not gender expression.  gender is your understanding of yourself as a woman/man/nonbinary person, gender identity is how you name that understanding (ex. saying “i’m a woman/man/nonbinary person”), and gender expression is how you communicate your understanding with nonverbal cues (clothing, mannerisms, etc.)  to reiterate, i’m writing about gender/gender identity.

the salient point is this: please don’t misgender me.  please do what you can to get my pronouns right (i’m asking for effort, NOT for perfection) and please don’t refer to me as “a young lady/man/etc.”

if you do misgender me, i’ll correct you quickly and politely.  please don’t make a big deal out of it and please don’t apologize profusely.  please correct yourself and move on; i don’t want to disrupt conversations or class time.  most people have a very difficult time getting my pronouns right and i don’t expect instant success.  effort and good intentions will be more than enough.

when i tell people my pronouns are non-gendered (“they/them/their”), many people assume i’m offended by gendered pronouns when applied to other people.  this is not the case.  trying to get someone’s pronouns right is a sign of basic respect; it would be very rude of me to ask you to disrespect other people’s (gendered) pronouns.  feel free to apply gendered pronouns to other people.  just don’t apply them to me; they’re incorrect because i’m not a “she” or a “he”.

i know my personal pronouns and my gender may never come up in class, but i wanted to get this out of the way just in case.  thank you for reading my letter.  if you have any questions or concerns, we can discuss them via email, over the phone, or in person.  see you in class!

sincerely,

mx. punk

*   *   *

and now i’m all freaked out and stuff.  i was so fucking nervous while writing the letter, i actually had trouble typing.  and my partner had to help me click “send” rather than “delete.”

only one teacher has replied so far; they said they’d do their best ‘n stuff– so that’s good.  i’m still freaking out, though.

what would you think if you got a letter like this?  any suggestions for how you’d change it?  suggestions would help; i’ll have to send this to other people in the future and i want to make it better, if possible.  thanks, peoples.

i need to go hug my sick tummy, now.

6 responses to “i sent this letter to my teachers last night:

  1. GUTS. You have them.

    I hope that every teacher and other staff/faculty at the school respects your identity.

    I think that it says so much about our culture that many people can’t think to identify someone except by such nebulous traits as race, gender, ethnicity, age, etc. What happened to identifying individuals by what they do? For example – you’re a student. No personal biases in that statement. Myself? I’m a WordPress junky. LOL

    Best wishes!!!!!

  2. aw, thanks. <3 it doesn't feel like i have guts, though. it mostly feels like i'm scared shitless and backed right into a corner. i mean, my other options are drop outta school and/or get depressed and miss out on all the good stuff. so, yeah.

    "I think that it says so much about our culture that many people can’t think to identify someone except by such nebulous traits as race, gender, ethnicity, age, etc. What happened to identifying individuals by what they do?"

    i definitely think it's important to identify people by race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. if we just gloss those things over, we miss out on human diversity and we basically keep oppression going. to me, coming out at school is saying, "this is what i am; respect that."

    of course, i don't think anyone really has the right to judge trans/queer folks or poc or whatever, but that's how it is. bleh, right?

    thanks for the kind hopes! nothing bad has happened so far, so. yeah. *dances*

  3. I hope your teachers are as supportive as mine were regarding my mental health issues!

  4. Hiya! So I moonlight as a college English prof occasionally, and if I got this note, I’d think, “cool.” I’d also think, “Argh, I’m almost certainly going to screw this up, so I will probably avoid pronouns with this person altogether.” I also have such an irritation with “they” being applied to a singular person (it’s the grammarian in me) that I’d probably ask you if hir, ze, etc. were okay options. (I actually teach those in class, and have a whole section about gendered pronouns. I challenge my students to come up with good reasons to have them, and most people’s minds kind of explode a little because they’ve never thought about it before.)

    Anyway, I think it’s great that you sent your teachers a letter ahead of time. It spells out your expectations, etc., and puts everyone on the same page. I think it’s great.

    BW

  5. @ fae: thanks! <3 it looks like all will be well, so YAY!

    @ bw: hi! it's lovely to see you around these parts!

    i'm always open to other non-gendered pronouns, but singular "they" seems to catch on more quickly than other non-gendered pronouns sets. that said, there are people in my life who prefer to use other non-gendered pronouns– and that's cool with me. :)

    do you think i should add something about other non-gendered options? or would that only confuse people? i'll probably re-use this letter in the future so i DO need to improve it; i'll give this some thought. also, i'll think about how i could re-word this letter in order to emphasize the importance of effort over results; i don't want to scare folks.

    cat, i wish you were MY english teacher! that would be wicked, mostly because you're just awesome and because you actually talk about gendered pronouns in your classes. cuz, whoa. i don't think anybody else does that.

    thanks for the support, bw! <3 your comment makes me feel better about the whole thing; thanks!

  6. Pingback: every day is coming out day for someone wearing a gender tag | rainbowgenderpunk

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