USG legislation passes, aids in gender pronoun use on campus
November 30, 2016
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Tulane’s Undergraduate Student Government took what some students are calling a small step toward progress by passing legislation endorsing the use of gender pronouns in all USG member email signatures, as well as supporting the incorporation of pronouns into other departments at Tulane.
Legislation USG161108, co-authored by USG Senators Caroline Scott and Madeline Thomas, calls for USG members to add their gender pronouns to the ends of email signatures and for their name placards to clearly display their pronouns.
Scott said the inspiration behind the legislation came from a variety of sources, primarily from USG’s commitment to diversity and inclusive excellence. The legislation is meant to make a concentrated effort to respect the rights of trans and gender nonconforming students.
“Especially in light of recent elections that have directly threatened the safety and inclusivity of many people, especially gender nonconforming individuals, inspiration from friends at other schools, and just a general idea of steps we could take to make Tulane more inclusive,” Scott said.
In addition to encouraging USG members to respect gender pronouns, the legislation also calls upon Tulane professors to increase pronoun usage. Among others, Scott lists the following:
a. Professors always using the correct pronouns for their students, especially after they have been made explicitly aware of someone’s pronouns.
b. Professors listing their pronouns on their syllabi.
c. Professors introducing themselves using their pronouns to their class, and (if appropriate) encouraging their students to do the same when introducing themselves.
Scott said she believes this emphasis on pronouns is important because language is powerful and recognizing someone’s pronouns is the first step towards recognizing someone’s humanity and existence.
“Because pronouns are so integrated into our everyday language, we take them for granted without realizing that trans and gender nonconforming individuals often have to constantly think about their pronouns,” Scott said. Whether it is going out of the way to tell people their pronouns or getting called by the wrong ones hundreds of times throughout the day
The legislation was created by the Diversity and Inclusive Excellence Committee of USG with collaboration from a variety of USG members including Scott, Thomas, DIEC chair Alex Bourguignon and Gender and Sexual Advisory Committee Chair Pearl Dalla.
One concern raised by freshman and GES Treasurer Lydia Bell was the lack of communication between the Gender Exploration Society, an organization dedicated to creating a safe space on campus for trans and gender nonconforming students, and USG about the legislation.
“I think it’s definitely a step in the right direction and that it’ll be really good for trans kids, but I do wish that someone had consulted us because I know that everyone in GES would’ve loved to be involved in writing the bill,” Bell said.
Junior Amber Thorpe said they, as a non-binary student at Tulane, believe the legislation is a large step in the right direction for the university in respecting the existence of trans and gender nonconforming students.
“Pronouns are intrinsically tied to gender identity and expression. Therefore, using the correct gender pronouns is crucial for respecting an individual’s identity and lived experiences,” Thorpe said. “Ultimately, cisgender folks have an incredible privilege not to have to worry about being misgendered and to feel that their gender is just a given.”