Human Condition is defined as the characteristics, key events, and situations which compose the essentials of human existence, such as birth, growth, emotionality, aspiration, conflict, and morality, as defined by yourdictionary.com. Life is the quintessential human condition because it is the sum of our existence. How the unique identifiers are understood by us is how we interact with others, that being said we are not alone in our journey. John Donne gave a sermon that includes a very well-known quote, “No man is an island. No one is self-sufficient; everyone relies on others.” It means that in this life, we do not witness it alone, each person that we interact with, pass on the street, or see at some point changes who we are and what we are. This is why it is so important to know to understand those that we encounter, to see them for who they truly are in their own eyes. This is why the proper usage of pronouns is so important in our ever-evolving society.
The term inclusive has become a buzz word in the last few years, we hear it in every setting. “We should be creating an inclusive work area.” or “We need a more inclusive school culture.” The list goes on and on, but why is it so important. It is about giving every person their due respect to be who they are and about giving them their right to experience their journey as they want to and not have someone else tell them how they are supposed to live. It isn’t even about approving of the person, in general, just allowing them to be who they are and understand that it does not affect you.
Imagine you wake up tomorrow, as you do every morning. You get out of bed and you shower, as usual. When you step in front of the mirror you notice something very strange. The person staring back at you isn’t you. You don’t recognize the person staring back at you. As you move your hand you see their hand move. You speak and see their mouth talking. You shakily get dressed and head to work. Everyone you meet calls you by a pronoun that doesn’t match who you are. You are shocked by what you are hearing. You keep telling people that it isn’t you, but they continue to use the same pronouns that you know are wrong. This is the struggle many people face on a daily basis. Assumptions are made based on initial interpretations, outward appearances, and perceptions.
We base our interpretations of people on outdated ideals of gender. If we see someone in a suit and tie, short hair, trimmed fingernails, and with a confident swagger we assume they are male. If we see another person wearing a skirt, a billowy top, longer hair, and more demure features, we assume they are female. Why are these the default modes for categorizing people? It comes from the collective consciousness of our upbringing. We are taught at young ages that pink, dolls, cooking = girls and blue, dirt, and rough housing = boys. Our parents used this model to decide what clothes we would be allowed to wear, how we would play, and ultimately how we would be raised. And all of this is because the doctor told them that we either had a penis or a vagina.
As we are moving forward, we are hearing pronoun usage, more and more. It has become a topic of conversation, but more so for others asking about it so they can understand. I have been using my pronouns in my email signature, at work, for about a year now and it has slowly started to grow to be more used by others. There are times that people see that in our signatures, and they ask what it means or why we are using it. It becomes our duty to express why it is important for us to use them. We all need to be conscious of the environment we are trying to create and being upfront with people is one way to make sure we are making it a more inclusive one.
Being a cisgender gay male, it is much more important for me to make sure others know the pronouns I use rather than me asking for theirs. Mainly because it gives them the ability to know that they are safe with me, should they choose to share that information. Being cisgender, we have very little in sharing our pronouns. We have never had to question our gender, or had it questioned by others. Asking someone to identify first creates a more hostile environment. They may feel that we are forcing them to out themselves and our reactions may be biased based on those terms, even more so for non-binary or transgender people. By saying “Hello, my name is Keith and my pronouns are he/his,” we create an environment where we allow them to share theirs but not force the situation.
We have come to a point where we need to reshape how we perceive the world and the people we encounter. The binary modes we have been taught need to be tossed aside for a different and more accurate way of understanding human biology. Science has shown us that gender cannot be easily classified as male or female, as often times there are modes of intersexed people. Gender is based on many more levels than simply the anatomy we are born with. How we choose to identify ourselves is a direct correlation of our gender identity and how we want to present. What we as a people need to understand is that no matter what another person chooses, it does not change the validity of their experience. We do not need to force our approval onto someone else’s experience. We simply need to recognize them as human beings and allow them to exist on their own journey.