Pronoun Cosmetics

By Mindy Silverado, Cosmetics Editor

You’ve already met my wonderful colleague Jane de Beauvoir, our sunshine editor, when Jane introduced the December picks. Let me now introduce myself, I am Mindy Silverado and I will be your Cosmetics Editor. Jane and I are both totally real and totally awesome editors, and we help out Ian and Angelina and their other real friends when they reach their limits of writing, arguing, and thinking. We also do their hair.

I use the pronouns she and her. So does Leslie Knope and that’s enough reason to link to her heartwarming letter to America. Please read it. #LeslieKnopeForPresident. As for myself, my concerns are cosmetics; my expertise goes all the way to uncovering the truth under the lies we tell ourselves and others as well as the lies of Dr. Farts the T. rex and other evil creatures, carrots, and crabs. I am also deeply invested in self-care and entitlement, aka confidence in defiance of reality.

In terms of pronouns, Angelina uses she and her, Jane uses they and them, Ian uses he and him. Every time I introduce myself I can feel stating these pronouns as a reinforcement of girlpower. Jane feels the girlpower too when they introduce themselves.

This week is Trans Awareness Week, which is ever more important given the election shock. Stumbling upon Elizabeth Reiss’s “Pronoun Privilege” has made me think about the classroom as an important space for both Trans Awareness Week and the current moment. Stating pronouns as part of the introduction in class is an easy practice of resistance against Trump and a meaningful moment of trans awareness. It helps students develop a feeling of belonging to each other, their class, their school, and most importantly themselves.

However, in her article, Reis seems to mix a genuine attempt to help and a predisposed obedience toward society at large. Instead of upfront stating her own pronouns to identify herself as cis, she refrains from the practice. While I appreciate that she offers an example of what introduction with name and pronouns looks like, that is not the same as practicing this kind of introduction. Her lack of understanding is most clear in her worries about students whose looks don’t match their pronoun. Come again? Reis explains that one student, who “look[s] like any other guy in the class” and uses she/her, was distraught after introductions: “in fact, as the student explained to me later, having to say her pronouns in a room full of strangers terrified her. She would have preferred to state her female name and leave it at that.”

Now, as cosmetics editor, I can see gay through (get the wordplay?) that argument: of course transition is difficult, even if a college classroom is one of the more supportive spaces in which to go through that experience. I deeply sympathize with the girl and her struggles. I congratulate her on the courage to do what she does. However, I don’t agree with Reis’s form of support, as much as I applaud her for offering support at all. But making stating pronouns optional is just another way of saying “you only need to this if you are not normal”. And that’s wrong–and surely not Reis’ intention even if it is the result of her teaching method.

Tying looks to pronouns heartily reinforces the idea that genders are either ‘clear’ or ‘complicated,’ but people are always embodied and that’s always a hustle. Instead of modifying an affirming practice, let’s make our campuses and classrooms places of belonging, where students feel comfortable sharing. If they are, let’s offer our full support: I would have hugged that student warm and tight to show that I was there for her. Because affirming one’s identity, as we do when we share pronouns, is always supportive. What’s terrifying is the society we have to share with.

It was great to meet you!

Sincerely,

Mindy Silverado

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