For most of us, we don’t think twice when using pronouns to describe others. For example, on the first day of class we went around a played “the name game”. We said our names and then what we would bring to class. For example, “This is Alex and she is going to bring her snack” and so on for each student. But what happens when you get to a student and you’re not sure how they identify themselves as male or female? How to you react and is there a better way to say, “This is Alex and he/she is going to bring his/her snack”. It is unavoidable and awkward for everyone.
This is exactly what happened for one student in an article that was recently released from The New York Times. The article stated that the transgender student was just beginning to decide how they wanted to be identified and was not yet ready to make a public announcement in front a class full of strangers. This is an example of stupid (ignorant) obedience because the transgender student, and all of the other students in the class who then had to repeat this pronoun were unknowingly and unintentionally put into an awkward situation. The fail was because the professor and the class did not know better, not because they were maliciously trying to make the transgender student uncomfortable. The students and professors are not free of blame because they were unknowing, but the terms were changed.
I myself did not think twice when we were told on the first day of class that we would be playing the name game, but as I was reading this article I realized just how awkward and uncomfortable that could be for some students and how we need to be more aware of those little words that make a huge difference.