What can we do to honor gender pronouns as event planners?
September 25, 2018 8:58 AM   Subscribe

I want to offer simple ways for staff and guests to share gender pronouns at events.

I'd like an option that will be welcoming of all our guests while balancing the need to get people through registration quickly. The first priority is to support the comfort and inclusion of people who would value having gender pronouns be shared explicitly. That said, the majority of the audience are people who have never heard of gender pronouns. Many are likely to find it confusing.

I was thinking of buttons or having people write them on nametags. Either way we will have a little card describing what they are and why they matter. They will be strongly encouraged for staff, and encouraged for guests.

These buttons are cute. They only offer she/her, he/his, they/theirs, and "Ask me about my pronouns." Is this fine or do we need to have more options?

Anyone have experiences in mainstreaming gender pronouns at events where people write out their own nametags?

Also, I welcome feedback if the way I'm talking about this is incorrect or harmful. I use the pronouns most people in my community assign to me by default, so this isn't an area where I have personal experience.
posted by rockyraccoon to Society & Culture (27 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Do they pre register? Often at events I had mine pre printed on a name tag
posted by raccoon409 at 9:03 AM on September 25, 2018

If you use something like that, I think you probably need to use them for everyone--so that the genderqueer/nonbinary/etc. folks aren't wandering around with badges of difference that no one else has.
posted by praemunire at 9:05 AM on September 25, 2018 [17 favorites]

Sticky Nametag
posted by coevals at 9:08 AM on September 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

Hello, fellow raccoon! They pre-register but we don't print nametags. They fill them out at the event.
posted by rockyraccoon at 9:09 AM on September 25, 2018

Seconding sticky nametags with pronoun fields, ALSO with a reminder to everyone as they're filling out a nametag that they should fill out the pronoun field even (especially) if they're cis, not just let people assume (because that is a form of entitlement and privilege that queer people do not have).

This could be easier to handle (and also ensures readability) by having one or two people who fill out the nametags for people, asking them what name and pronouns they prefer.
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:18 AM on September 25, 2018 [13 favorites]

Yeah I would make this a pre registration question and have it printed on the name tag. You could have she/her, he/his, the/theirs, other (fill in the blank). You could also make this question optional, for those who wish to opt out.

Upon preview, you could get nametags that have a section for them (Hello my name is: fill in the blank, My pronouns are: fill in the blank). Also you could set up an example display nametag, that way people are encouraged to include that information. If you do this, I'd make your example as clear/easy/familiar as possible to people who aren't familiar with non-binary pronouns. So rather than having example: Chris, they/them, I'd do a very gendered name with the "matching" pronouns (Jane Doe, she/hers).
posted by lucy.jakobs at 9:20 AM on September 25, 2018 [3 favorites]

Ordering buttons in the design of your choice is trivial. There's an event I attend every year that skews pretty white cis male but there are definitely staff, talent, and attendees attached that are not. Starting I think two years ago they put out pronoun pins on the registration desk and when you get your packet you get the whole spiel, "your nametag is in the envelope and we ask everyone to wear them all weekend, Code of Conduct is on the yellow card, this year's patch is in the bag, here's your t-shirt, and pronoun pins are right here. Staff have staff badges if you have any issues, have a good weekend!"

Not every single person chose to wear one, and a few people missed that part of the spiel and asked around later where they could get a pin, and I know of one person who did get a little spooked because they were right in the middle of figuring some stuff out and weren't ready to wear their announcement but didn't want to wear the wrong one. That's a thing, and that is one of the reasons you will hear good arguments for it being opt-in, along with some people not feeling safe with it.

You can also offer write-in pins (either entirely write-in or offer some common pronoun sets but also some write-in pins), but if you're going to go write-in you might as well do it on the badges, unless you just like the idea of pins. But you can't force or require it, not yet.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:22 AM on September 25, 2018 [7 favorites]

Yeah, I would concur that having a labeled section on nametags is the way to go. The buttons are cute, but they're also too optional IMO-- it could lead to folks being more visible than they really want too if a lot of cis folks miss/opt out of the buttons. If you have a labeled section of the nametags that asks for pronouns at least everyone will have the same opportunity to participate, and you may get more equitable participation that way.
posted by Kpele at 9:26 AM on September 25, 2018 [2 favorites]

Pronoun ribbons that affix to badge holders were great when I attended AAM. More from them on their inclusion efforts here. As a cis woman, I could use she/her/hers as easily as someone else could use pronouns of their choice. Most helpful, all of the convention center bathrooms were gender neutral and people were encouraged to use the one of their choosing regardless of presentation.

If this is an ongoing issue for you, I know both of these advocates and happy to make intros if you're on twitter. MeMail me, or same name on twitter
posted by TravellingCari at 9:30 AM on September 25, 2018 [3 favorites]

Yes, please make it opt-in, especially since you acknowledge that most of your attendees aren't versed in non-cis / non-binary gender. You're asking folks to out themselves to colleagues, and it sounds like you're not able to offer much support around normalizing they/their pronouns. Let your non-cis attendees choose whether they want to spend the conference explaining their pronouns or just fly under the radar.
posted by momus_window at 9:36 AM on September 25, 2018 [17 favorites]

You're asking folks to out themselves to colleagues

Yup. Strongly seconding momus-window's entire comment.
posted by capricorn at 9:49 AM on September 25, 2018 [7 favorites]

Pronoun ribbons can be ordered here for ~20-40 cents each depending on how many you order. I agree with momus-window's comment as well; opt-in seems preferable for this.
posted by ourobouros at 9:57 AM on September 25, 2018

I'm loving this design. But I do agree that in some spaces I might feel forced to choose between premature outing and being untrue to myself, which isn't a great feeling. Also, when offering a blank one, please remind people that it's really hurtful to write in jokey things there.
posted by advicepig at 10:33 AM on September 25, 2018 [3 favorites]

At some events I go to, they use combo name/pronoun tags similar to what advicepig linked to--but they're always queer-normative spaces, so people (hopefully) feel safe "outing" themselves, which is a very frought thing.

Of equal importance in my mind: does the building have an all-gender/single stall bathroom? If not, can you convert at least one of the bathrooms for the duration of the event by re-labeling it?
posted by sugarbomb at 10:41 AM on September 25, 2018 [2 favorites]

I've started asking for players' and characters' pronouns whenever I run a D&D game, and I've discovered that a worrisome number of people don't know what pronouns are. Like, they think they have something to do with pronunciation or something. So be prepared for that.
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:42 AM on September 25, 2018 [5 favorites]

I like the ribbon and button things, but if you're mostly just using "hello my name is" stickers right now, I went to an event recently where what they had were some smaller stickers that you could select from to basically stick on the corner of your name sticker, pre-printed with a variety of options, right at the same place as you were getting your nametag. I think they may have been made with some Avery-esque printable sheets. Having them as separate stickers allows people to decide whether to participate but at the same time reminds people to do so, which helps with normalizing the idea but didn't feel pushy.

I think doing more is fine if you're doing them this way, but I have noticed in the past couple years that everybody I knew who was nonbinary and used something other than they/their seems to have gravitated that direction. That doesn't mean everybody, period, but I think other things are getting rare enough that "ask" makes more sense than trying to offer every possible other option, and makes the whole thing look simpler to people who aren't accustomed to the idea.
posted by Sequence at 10:53 AM on September 25, 2018

We ask people about pronouns during pre-registration and include it on name badges. That way people can make choices in private about what to share/not share. We also use explanatory language - explain what pronouns are, why they are important, and model it with ourselves (in all of our professional signatures, etc. and when we introduce ourselves at events).
posted by anya32 at 10:53 AM on September 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

In a mixed organization (non-queer-centric), I'd push back on having the pronoun indicators be something shiny and cute like a button or a ribbon. It should just be a normal part of the nametag on an equal basis with any other information that people want to communicate about themselves. Having it stand out runs the risk of othering folks with non-mainstream identities.
posted by matildaben at 10:58 AM on September 25, 2018 [7 favorites]

Thank you for asking this question! The answers, insight and resources being shared is helpful and instructive to me as well.
posted by ApathyGirl at 11:00 AM on September 25, 2018

Hmm. I manage a pretty large and diverse staff in the sciences and there are still people who prefer to keep their private lives separate from work. So do I, I consider it a win that none of my coworkers know my relationship status. This has come up at conferences now for about a decade due to progressive staffers at national organizations and in the long run its a good thing. However not everyone lives in the city and I know it's been a massive source of stress to some, especially older people, that they feel singled out in a way they are not comfortable with. To the point they just don't attend as they don't want the attention or to talk about it. Depending on who they work with it can have very real professional consequences to be outed (not with us, obviously). You may also have an international audience who will be horrified to be put on the spot about something they may need to hide to stay safe at home.

Folks under 35 or so seem a lot more comfortable being openly gay or trans or whatever they are but older folks still have to deal with peers and family who are more conservative and are also in the comfortable to them habit of strongly segregating personal and professional lives. This is something I have a hard time conveying to younger people in general, that not everyone need to be your facebook friend, not everyone thinks it's appropriate to mix work and home, they are not entitled to take photos of people at work and post them on personal social media with tags without permission etc. It's a generational thing for sure but very real.

I think you should be respectful of that and make this explicitly opt in.
posted by fshgrl at 11:43 AM on September 25, 2018 [5 favorites]

A fun thing I saw at an event was offering round light-colored stickers where you could specify pronouns (with some filled out in advance with "he/him", "she/her", "they/them," so folks get the idea) and you could stick the round sticker on your nametag. It was just a little more attention-attracting than asking people to add pronouns to the nametag itself, and seemed to get more folks to give their pronouns.

However, I am a) cis and b) strongly motivated by stickers, so weight my suggestion accordingly.

(Ditto that opt-in seems to be considered the best practice these days.)
posted by BrashTech at 12:02 PM on September 25, 2018

Be prepared for weird pushback from cis folks. Everyone in my UU church wears nametags, and those of us trying to gently encourage people to write their pronouns on the tags have gotten weird and/or aggro reactions from people who otherwise claim to be LGBT supportive.

like, someone told us "I feel like if I don't [put my pronoun on my nametag] people will think I'm racist." (???)
posted by The demon that lives in the air at 1:12 PM on September 25, 2018 [2 favorites]

As plenty of people have said, opt-in is important - some people aren't sure what pronouns they want to use, some people aren't out, and folks need to figure this stuff out in their own time and not suddenly have to deal with it at a public event.

But it's also awkward if there are NO cis people wearing pronouns since it really makes trans people stand out in a potentially uncomfortable way.

There is a good solution to this, which is having opt-in pronoun info, but also quietly making sure beforehand that there will be some cis / gender normative folks wearing pronouns - ones who are comfortable with this of course!. Having (some) cis staff members wearing pronouns is a good start, and also makes it easier for oblivious people to figure out how it all works.
posted by quacks like a duck at 2:29 PM on September 25, 2018 [7 favorites]

They will be strongly encouraged for staff,

It is possible that you have staff who are not out and did not expect, when they signed up for the job, to be used as this sort of example.
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 3:43 PM on September 25, 2018 [9 favorites]

I like that small stickers for the name badge make it easy to pick more than one set of pronouns if desired (e.g. picking cis-pronouns and they-pronouns). Have some blank stickers too, and don't color code pink/blue.
posted by momus_window at 4:52 PM on September 25, 2018

I'll be honest, my instinctive reaction is "Don't. If you had to ask Metafilter, don't." Now, I've been burned by well-meaning cis people one too many times (or ten too many times, or whatever), so you maybe shouldn't put too much stock in my gut reaction, but I do think you need to think about what it means to make your event welcoming. It's not pronouns on nametags (though suggesting people do it if they feel comfortable helps). It's about knowing what you're going to say when someone asks you what a pronoun is, why you've asked them if they'd like to indicate it on their nametag, what it means to be trans, why you're bothering if there are obviously no trans people attending (because we have signs on our foreheads, you see), what you're going to do if someone is intentionally and aggressively misgendering another attendee, what you're going to do if you have an attendee who is read as trans and people start asking invasive questions, what you're going to do about bathrooms* (can you degender them? do you have the nerve to degender them? what are you going to do if someone is harassed using a gendered bathroom?), on and on.

It's not like you have to game out every scenario in advance or even get it 100% right when something does happen, but you need to understand that stickers on nametags are just pretty stickers on nametags, they're not true inclusion.

picking cis-pronouns

Please, they're not "cis-pronouns". "gendered" vs "gender neutral".

*Level 2 bathroom trickery is figuring out what to do when people are gendering the bathrooms in practice (based on the presence of urinals) even if you've declared them gender neutral.

posted by hoyland at 5:45 PM on September 25, 2018 [8 favorites]

Two events I've attended recently have used stickers. There were 3 choices in different colors: she/her, they/them, he/him. They were very attractively designed and people stuck them either on clothing or on their name tags. They were freely available on every day of the event. Totally opt-in, but prominently displayed at conference tables and very available. Attendees really loved them and they were a hit.
posted by quince at 10:25 PM on September 25, 2018

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