Pronouns are personal

A person with pink skin holds up their hand flat with fingers together on the hand are painted stripes in yellow, white, purple, and black - the colors of the non-binary pride flag. Part of the person's torso is in the background and they are wearing a rainbow colored zip up shirt.
Photo by Katie Rainbow from Pexels
June 30, 2021
Julian Dockhorn

One of the first things we built into our platform was the ability to select your pronouns because that’s a way to communicate an inclusive space. We know we’re not perfect: the pronoun selector has limited options; you can’t write your own in; you can’t select multiple options. But we know that being inclusive, even imperfectly, is the better way to start.

Frankly we’d rather gender be less centered in our product. People should be able to meet and talk, and only have gender come up if the participants choose. But our product is for people to talk with each other, and we’re primarily English speakers. This means gender is part of how we talk about people. When we speak, gender is brought to the foreground too much, and it happens incessantly.

If you’ve gone through your life without feeling this way, without feeling that gender is something people are constantly making you aware of, or forcing on you, then you’ve been privileged. It is a privilege if the way you understand yourself aligns with the way people default to thinking of you and talking about you. It is a privilege if you don’t feel boxed in by what people expect your gender to be, and how you’re supposed to live and act and relate to people.

It’s worth considering the contrast: when people mention you, they say you’re someone you’re not. They consistently misunderstand you, have the wrong expectations and false beliefs about you. And when they notice the difference between their beliefs and the reality, it doesn’t even occur to them that the problem isn’t you. These things happen all day, every day, with strangers, colleagues, and even friends and family.

If thinking about this experience and your privilege feels bad, that’s ok. It’s good to think about ways society marginalizes people, and it’s healthy to be uncomfortable with it, whether it’s about gender, wealth, national origin, education, race, class, etc. Thinking about the ways other people experience bad things cultivates compassion, so embracing that discomfort is a way of embracing becoming a more compassionate person. Hopefully, it will help you better understand people for whom this topic is not optional.

Being yourself is surprisingly complicated. There are so many messy parts to it. So many places to discover what’s really you, and what’s not you but just something you were taught. And being yourself risks relationships. It can risk your sense of family, of safety, of belonging. The more who you are “goes against the grain,” the bigger the risk. For some of us, the risk is relatively low: we don’t even ask if our family will still love us, if our police won’t shoot us, if our banks will loan to us. For others, the risks are so high and can be so tragic. None of us are safe as long as Black, Indigenous, and Latinx trans people are being murdered for being who they are. There is no justice, so there is no peace.

Being a queer company doesn’t just mean that our logo has rainbow colors. It doesn’t just mean we build-in pronouns. It means that we know the right path can look to people like it’s a weird way to go. It means that we know the map is wrong, so we’re going off the map.

It also means we know people will be uncomfortable when we’re just being our true selves and doing what we know is right. This is scary and hard for us: it means ignoring advice that we know has helped other companies. It means looking for a new path that feels more like justice. More like joy. More like our truest selves.

Pride Month is a time that we celebrate the elders in our community that took a path people didn’t understand in order to live their truth. That often had a heavy cost.

It’s now the end of Pride Month. Our logo is going to stay rainbow. We are a queer company all year round. We will make our pronoun options better over time. We will make our site more welcoming, more accessible, more joyful. We’ll keep learning, and looking for how to do better.

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