I was rather cross the other week with non-specific elements within my organisation over some changes made to registration options for borrowers. In what probably sounded like a good idea at the time, the gender options for customer details were amended.
A new category was added to the existing Male, Female and Prefer Not To Say categories. The new category is Transgender. At first sight this might seem to be a great and progressive thing – but there’s a pretty fundamental flaw to it.
Every person I know who has been through or is in the process of transitioning identifies as their gender unless they’re trying to make a point, or clarify a complex situation. It’s pretty simple.
The revised procedure asked for the presentation of a laminated card with the options on it so that people could point at their preferred option. I, and a healthy percentage of people in the organisation, pushed back on this. We called it a potentially embarrassing (for customers and staff) way of implementing something that nobody wants, in a way that draws attention and compromises confidentiality.
The alternative would be to, oh I don’t know, maybe ask someone how they’d like to be addressed? That way you can scoop up doctors and professors too in your honourifics. Otherwise the proposal felt like a tick box exercise in demonstrating support for diversity.
But what about gender-fluidity I hear maybe one or two of you ask? Well again, it all comes down to engaging in conversations and talking, rather than picking labels. For example, one of my partners, Mre B, has what she describes as a wibbly-wobbly approach to how she see herself.
Mre B largely uses female pronouns through habit and making life easier in work and social contexts, but as with most things in life along the line, things get interesting and pleasantly out of the ordinary. As Warren Ellis wrote in Planetary: “It’s a weird world, let’s keep it that way.”
So we’ve adopted Mre (pronounced Mystery or Miss-tree depending on mood) rather than Lady on the blog out of a desire to acknowledge that. The fact that it makes her smile when I call her my favourite mystery is just an added bonus.
Basically, just keep talking to each other okay? We’re all weird in one way or another, and all have oddities that aren’t always obvious. It’s all part of what keeps life interesting and fun and out of the ruts in the road. Mysteries are there to be explored and understood, not reduced to labels.