10 thoughts on “Gendered Name Tags

  1. I don’t think these name-tags are a good idea. They’re designed specifically to “out” transgender people, forcing them to identify themselves as who they are, thereby publicly providing a means to label them. Remember that step one in any form of discrimination is the mere act of symbolically presenting someone as being different: just think of the Jewish stars in Nazi Germany, a harmless act in and of itself, but designed to label these people as being different from “proper” Germans.

    These name-tags won’t work because the hetero-normative realities prevent it from being a concern. If a male-looking person is wearing a male name-tag, no one will bat an eyelid, and vice versa for women. The only occasion that this labeling will matter is when we’re dealing with transgender people. This makes the function, purpose and intention of these name-tags as being to separate out trans people from everyone else. It’s like wearing a great big “I’m different from everyone else” sign.

    Rather, the most important factor when dealing with trans people is to normalise their existence, to make them feel comfortable and happy in a social environment, and to make them feel no different from the rest of us. That way they can feel safe in their own skin, and can focus their attention on more important things, like work, politics, art, recreation, etc. The number one message to send should be “You are no different from the rest of us and we won’t treat you any different.”

    In terms of dealing with gender-specific pro-nouns, the more problems, difficulties and crises that get caused, the more tension and uncomfortableness will be created. The emphasis will be on trans people’s differences rather than similarities. The name-tags are seen more as a PC burden than a egalitarian community effort. Trans people are constantly reminded about how different and weird they are, which will cause stress and discomfort, and will make them want to leave the social situation ASAP. Every time they look down and see the name-tag on their body, they are given a chilling reminder of how they’re different from everyone else, and how everyone else has the knowledge of this.

    And that brings up the other point. Why should everyone have the opportunity to know what can be a personal matter?! By having name-tags, anyone walking past knows the truth of this person, putting this personal in a humiliating, vulnerable position. It’s like trying to get dressed with someone watching you through the window: your privacy is violated, your personal matters are made public, all the power lies with the hetero-normative people around you, and you the trans person is powerless to stop the situation.

    We should be moving in the opposite direction to the one the name-tags suggest. The issues surrounding gender-specific pro-nouns should be to minimise the problems, not maximise them. The focus should be not on the differences but similarities. The solution is a simple one: the correction. If the wrong pro-nouns is used, the trans personal politely corrects the speaker, so that then it’s the speaker’s duty to use the correct pro-nouns. The matter ends there, no more difficulties, no more stress. You just correct the issue then and there, and move on to more important matters.

    This method should help minimise the stress and discomfort for trans people, allowing to make the event a friendly, welcoming and approachable. Trans people are made to feel like they are normal people, just one members of the collective, who has just as much right to be there as everyone else. It’s by this method that discrimination is reduced, transphobia is negated, and a more healthy and happy social environment is created.

  2. i think we should use these tags… transgenders usually find it difficult to fit in the society.. this way they will get a recognition.. it wont be discrimination.. it might just help them feel included in the society. giving them a gender tag means society accepts them the way they are..and categorising them under something which they are really not.

  3. Justen, I’m really quite surprised that you say that the purpose of these tags is to separate out trans* people from everyone else. A friend of mine is involved with a GLBTQ non-profit group and I found out about these tags from her because they used them at an event recently. Their intention was not to single anyone out but rather to more easily respect the identities of anyone who wanted to use them.

  4. It’s probably obvious but worth noting that, while it’s Trans* perspectives and experiences that have informed the discussion about pronouns, the name tags don’t necessarily out anyone. Women (trans or cis) who prefer ‘she’, ‘her’, and ‘hers’ will choose the same, indistinguishable name tags, as will men (tran or cis) who prefer ‘he’, ‘him’ and ‘his’. And cis-gendered allies who prefer ungendered pronouns can choose those. Our Transgender Commission includes pronoun preference as part of introductions in part to emphasize that we are all implicated in compulsory gendering and all have to make our own choices about how to position ourselves in relation to it. When I (cis-gendered female) say I prefer ‘she’, ‘her’, and ‘hers’ I have to stop and think why I prefer that…..

  5. “Remember that step one in any form of discrimination is the mere act of symbolically presenting someone as being different” – whilst this is true, it doesn’t follow that presenting someone as different will therefore automatically lead to discrimination. Another perspective on the issue of difference is that the demand that differences be cast aside in many cases comes from a well-meaning dominant group, which in so doing, tramples on the self-identities of lesser groups who celebrate their differences. One example is the French attempt to deal with migration/colonialism by subsuming all under the banner of French citizens, thereby erasing the different racial identities of different folks living there. This is a difficult issue.

    “just think of the Jewish stars in Nazi Germany, a harmless act in and of itself, but designed to label these people as being different from “proper” Germans.” – *tongue in cheek* Godwin’s Law…

  6. http://www.entirelyamelia.com/2014/01/02/misgendering-okay-justifiable-yes-big-deal/

    Justen, I don’t know if you’re trans* but given that a bunch of trans* people are sharing this *very widely*, I don’t think you should speak for whether this is okay for trans* people.

    I agree with philodria: this doesn’t out trans* people. If anything, it exposes the prevalence of people who prefer alternate pronouns to those we’d attribute to people. I mean, seriously, it’s she/her/hers for me: how does that out me as trans*?

  7. It might be good to offer a “I don’t mind which pronouns you use” option too, since challenging the perceived importance of gender might be an important step in social justice? I know some people identify strongly with a gender, and care a lot about pronouns. That is understandable and should be respected. But I feel like wearing a name tag with preferred pronouns might help reinforce the role of gender in society, and I would just as soon see it go. So perhaps there should additionally be a choice which challenges, rather than reinforces, the importance of each person having “correct” pronouns?

    I don’t want to be misunderstood here: If someone has a preference about pronouns, and these preferences are being ignored, that is terrible. But I feel like the name-tag options pictured mean you *have* to choose a pronoun, and endorse one for yourself. But why do we have to do that?

    (I kind of feel like “woman” is how other people see me; I would be just as happy as “man”, or–better still–live in a genderless society.)

  8. I would really love a nametag that would let people call me by my preferred pronoun. I had that for about a day at the Transcending Boundaries conference, and there are no words for how glad I was to hear people use it for me with no need for a two-hour uncomfortable conversation that yes, I *do* prefer ‘it’.

    In response to: “Rather, the most important factor when dealing with trans people is to normalise their existence, to make them feel comfortable and happy in a social environment, and to make them feel no different from the rest of us.” I *don’t* feel normalized or even normalizable. I don’t expect to feel comfortable or happy in any routine social environment in my lifetime. I am not going to feel “no different from the rest of [you]”, ever.

    That whole argument is a classic example of “the best is the enemy of the good”. In some hypothetical perfect world gender won’t matter as a social construct at all, and that would help me some. This is not that world, and it’s not going to get there any time soon. (And I don’t even think the world has any obligation to *try* to get there.)

    In the meantime, I appreciate small partial measures like these nametags, and the concomitant understanding that some people are genderqueer and those of you who are lucky enough not to be at least know enough to have a clue about it.

    This is not particularly different from any other physical or mental departure from the social standards, like, say, diabetes, religious vows, veganism, anorexia, and so on.

  9. It’s wonderful that you are getting thoughts from this post as well as from our argument made

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