Submitted by Rachel Dennis (she/her)
We welcome, talk to and refer to a lot of people around here – in person, on the phone, on air, and in writing. They are our colleagues, candidates, vendors, sources, members, board members and guests, etc. And they don’t all go by “he” or “she.”
In the last six months or so, the EQualizers Employee Resource Group has been forming and exploring the question, “How do we create a safer space for folks who are transgender and gender-nonconforming?”
On Monday the EQs invited Alex Nelson from RECLAIM! to talk with us about gender identity. We covered terminology, statistics, and building sensitivity through the thoughtful use of language.
One of the things about language is that there are folks out there that don’t use pronouns limited to just “he” or “she.” And we’re interacting with them whether we know it or not. One way we can create a safer space for people to be themselves is to mark ourselves as people (and as an organization) who get and respect that. Maybe it’s by offering our pronouns when we introduce ourselves which creates an opportunity for another to do the same, or by removing binary language from things like our employee handbook. For most of us, it’ll take some new language and some new habits, and Alex emphasized the effectiveness of practicing until we get the hang of it. Practice is good.
On Wednesday, October 25 the EQs hosted a Traveling Coffee Break* in the lobby at HQ and started practicing with a wider group. Some of us wore nametags that volunteered the pronouns we go by or prompted colleagues to ask us about it. Some of us shared our take-aways from Monday’s training session – like trying to remember the difference between gender orientation, expression, and identity (what you know, what you show, and what you claim). And naturally, some of us focused on the coffee and delicious treats and the chance to be with colleagues away from our desks.
*An MPR tradition: various employee groups or departments host coffee breaks on a semi-regular basis. They could be located anywhere in the St. Paul HQ, thus the ‘traveling’ moniker.