Suburban Butch Dad Report: Professionally Gender Neutral

My HR person gave me a nice post birthday present the other day.  She was working on a proposal involving me (I’m a consultant, so we’re always working on the next contract and assignment).  The proposals often involve writing paragraphs that illustrate our experience and suitability for the assignment.  The paragraphs generally start along the lines of “Mr. Jones has been blah blah for over 10 years …” or in the case of me in my professional life, “Ms. Jones blah blah.”

Every time I’ve had to read through and review these proposals, I’ve cringed and mentally squirmed each time I read ‘Ms.’ associated with my name.  I’d resolved to email my HR person to ask that we choose a gender neutral approach and drop the gendered title.  A little background here:  she is connected to me through Facebook and has been asking what she and the company can do to respect my gender identity and support me.  So I was feeling pretty optimistic about how that conversation would go.

Then I saw some of the paragraphs, sent to me for review.  She’d already done it.  The language was entirely gender neutral.  I was surprised and deeply happy.  And proud.  Proud of her making that leap, proud to work for a company who would see me as a valued member of their team, important enough to change protocol for.  I emailed her today, copied her boss and the other HR person, giving her kudos and thanks for making the changes, for respecting me and doing it without prompting from me.  Though she’s read my posts on my gender identity, the other two had not, so I came out professionally for the first time as gender non-conforming.  I told them that I am bi-gendered, male and female, and that it is sometimes hard to choose one gender over another, and their understanding and support was very much appreciated.   In the same email,  I also asked that they consider removing gender references from all proposals for all consultants, since gender is not a necessary component when evaluating our compatibility for assignments.  I have yet to hear back on that, but I’m hopeful.

I’m happy to say that sometimes it does get better.

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3 Responses to Suburban Butch Dad Report: Professionally Gender Neutral

  1. Victoria says:

    Wow. How amazing that she listened to you like that!

    You’re right, things do get better–sometimes you just have to look closely to see it happening.

  2. Katie B says:

    First, I love reading your blog because of the way it really makes me think about and challenge my own assumptions. Second, I am super happy that your HR person has been so sensitive and responsive to you! That is a wonderful human being and a great HR person.

    The one part of the post that caused me some discomfort was this:

    “In the same email, I also asked that they consider removing gender references from all proposals for all consultants, since gender is not a necessary component when evaluating our compatibility for assignments.”

    I don’t like that it made me uncomfortable, but it did. I think one of the reasons is that I am a woman in a heavily male-dominated field and frankly, I think it is important that my gender not get brushed over, not just for me but for the young women coming up after me. Since people in the field are usually address by gender-neutral titles (Dr. and Professor etc.), I look for the “she” and the “her” when reading bios and the like. I need that and I think other women do too.

    I am pretty sure that I am very wrong about this. In fact, my rambling thoughts make me very sure I am very wrong. I would appreciate any insight you might have to help me get over this gut reaction.

  3. Roxy says:

    I am so amazed and impressed – with you, with your HR folks, and with the company you’re working for now. You were brave enough to ask for what you wanted, and they were brave enough to figure out how to give it to you. Kudos all around.

    I remember that night, though, after you had brought it up at work. You mentioned it as a side note, and then wondered why you felt so worn out. Exposing yourself like that takes an enormous amount of courage and strength and so it wasn’t a surprise that you were exhausted.

    You’re amazing, love. Thank you for continuing to blaze the trail in a way that’s so very true to who you are.

    I remember that too, that I was very off-hand about it. I’d honestly forgotten until that moment. It was something I’d done early in the day and the day continued on from there to be very full. I also know that I tend to disregard the gravity of some of the things I do, in order to do them without chickening out. Coming out and being honest about what I wanted was very true to myself and I wanted to honor that truth without second-guessing it. So I threw it all into an email and hit send before I could get worried about it and then moved on to the next thing on my list. And managed to forget I did it for most of the day, at least consciously. As you pointed out, my body didn’t forget, part of my my mind was still very aware of the exposure and risk and that resulted in me being truly fragged by the end of the day. Thank you for being a reliable and loving witness to my life, for making sure I can see what I do from a different perspective — K

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