Pronouns Are Basic Respect, Not Political Correctness

My mother took a job as a patient’s rights advocate at a mental health facility when I was about 20 years old. It was an old facility, up on the hill over downtown next to the state prison. The pair were largely what our small town in the hills of southwestern Virginia was known for.

She had been a social worker and a drug prevention counselor most of my life. I had spent time in her offices growing up, and was always aware of what kind of work she was doing and why. My mother shared that part of her life with me. So when she took this new job, I asked her what she would be doing.

“It’s my job to be sure people are treated the way they deserve to be treated. If they want to be called Jesus, people should call them Jesus. There are other rights they have, and I help ensure staff comply with them.”

I thought about that a while. Throughout school, we learn everyone’s name from their name tag or how they’re registered. We take for granted the name they give us is the name they wish to be called by, and generally do it with no issue. What if someone wanted to be called by a different name?

I had done the same myself my first two years of college. Growing up, I went by Alex, because that’s what my mother and family called me. In middle school, the name Alex Cox slowed down by the local southern draw became a mocking homophobic slur. So when I started college, I tried out my first name, Lawrence, with others to see how I felt about it. Although people were happy to call me Lawrence, it never felt right to me, so slurs be damned, I switched back to Alex when I transferred to university, and have been Alex since.

It was relatable that someone in a mental health facility might want to be called a different name for reasons apart from a psychological diagnosis. Even if it’s an aspect of their condition, it’s still their right to choose their own name. Everyone deserves to be called whatever they wish to be known by. It’s basic human respect, as well as great manners, to acknowledge another’s identity in the way they choose to present it.

As time passed and discussions of chosen gender pronouns became a more common topic, I realized it was a matter of what I had already learned and experienced. Gender is alongside our names in terms of our identity and presentation. It’s a matter of that same respect to call someone by their appropriate gender and pronouns as much as it is their name. That someone may choose either, and find offense when others don’t acknowledge their chosen name or gender, is natural.

Using incorrect pronouns, dead-naming (calling a transgender person by their former name), or misgendering someone intentionally is rude, disrespectful, and has no place in well-mannered discussion. It has nothing to do with how one may feel about gender issues and deserves any offense taken by others. Even when done unintentionally, over time, it betrays an inflexible mind which cannot adapt to new conditions.

It is easy to show good manners and respect by calling someone by their offered name and pronouns. It is simple acknowledgement of another’s chosen identity, as you would want others to acknowledge and respect your own.

The Last Month of Venturing…

The Chinese Garden at Huntington Library and Gardens

It has been a month since my last post. Here is what I’ve been doing:

The last month I spent much time retracted and journaling. Writing for myself is a little different than writing here on my personal blog, and very different than writing for others. I get a lot of emotional processing done by journaling, and it’s something I suggest for anyone. Personal writing is healing, and the last month I’ve realized how far I’ve come on my journey recovering from past trauma, PTSD, and the negative pressure I placed on myself to counter undiagnosed ADHD.

I spent a week in LA with my partner, enjoying visits to Huntington Library and Gardens, the LA Opera to see Aida on opening night, and the much lauded and admittedly awesome Alamo Drafthouse for The Northman and Everything, Everywhere, All at Once. Our transition to a long distance relationship has been challenging, but this visit really paid off with relaxed enjoyment and connection.

Huntington Library and Gardens is incredible, and well worth the visit! It takes more than a day to see it all. The Chinese and Japanese Gardens are incredible, and the Herb and Rose Gardens were fascinating. The Mapping Fiction exhibition was superb, and the Library Exhibition Hall with a Gutenberg Bible and the Ellesmere Chaucer were uniquely enjoyable. We did not get to see the Australian and Desert Gardens, sadly, nor many of the art exhibits. Notably enjoyable in the Chinese and Japanese Gardens were the Penjing and Bonsai displays.

Chinese Penjing display, a miniature forest landscape

We also visited the last day of the Renaissance Pleasure Faire, my first time there, and I purchased an epic hat from Bat Hatter Dude.

At Renaissance Pleasure Faire with my new hat by Bad Hatter Dude

Coming back to San Jose, my wife and I notified our landlord of our intent to move out by July 31, kicking off the official move. We’re working on cleaning out the house and looking for a place in the Portland, OR, area. It just needs to be somewhere temporary, not a forever home, but cheap enough to get us started and in a location we can enjoy both the city and the surrounding natural beauty.

I’ve started looking at work, thinking about what a return to work looks like. I’m landing on freelance and contract work, maybe some consultant work. Like many, I want more freedom and flexibility from the workplace, and it will be nice to have the flexibility to work from anywhere. I have range from data center hardware consulting, technical writing and communication, to various other content work, so I’m not going to lock myself down to the old niche just yet. However, if anyone needs consulting expertise on data center hardware serviceability or procurement, I’ll be available soon.

I am also catching up with friends before we leave, especially now that I’m out of this shorter period of isolation. It is bittersweet to leave now, especially as I’ve made friends and found community during COVID, in unlikely times. If you’re in the Bay Area and would like to get some outdoor coffee before mid-July, please reach out.

I continue to walk near daily, and I enjoy walking meditation particularly. Walking meditation is a great skill to develop. It provides feelings of harmony with your own little area, seeing the changes from day to day, week to week, particularly in the spring to summer. Summer solstice, what we refer to as Alban Hefin in Druidry, is just around the corner, and it is nice to enjoy the longer days and cool fade to night.

Sometimes my 5 year old joins me on walks, and he is quite the director of photography.

My son asking me to zoom in on this ball from a tree

I usually place pictures from my walks on my Instagram account. Please like and follow there for more.

Thank you for reading these words. Bookmark, and come back again soon. I have plans for this space as I return to work, and it will continue to be the area for personal insights and musings. My book is still in development, and more poetry will be coming.

Until then, may you find and share peace, harmony, and love in your life.