Respecting one another's pronouns

Last year, over 2600 scientists signed a statement that underlined the reality that gender cannot be defined along a strict binary.

The relationship between sex chromosomes, genitalia, and gender identity is complex, and not fully understood. There are no genetic tests that can unambiguously determine gender, or even sex. Furthermore, even if such tests existed, it would be unconscionable to use the pretext of science to enact policies that overrule the lived experience of people’s own gender identities.

The statement was in response to actions by the Trump administration that would have effectively “erased” millions of trans Americans by attempting to legislate a definition of gender and sex.

Tellingly, such essentialist approaches are frequently trumpeted by Christian fundamentalists. For example, here in British Columbia, the primary antagonist of policies that would protect LGBTQ2S+ people has been Culture Guard’s Kari Simpson. Simpson self describes as a “Christian social activist” and has protested raising of rainbow flags and programs to combat homophobia and transphobia in BC schools. A recent controversial talk at UBC that bemoaned “transgender politics” was sponsored by the Canadian Christian Lobby.

On the other side, Humanist organizations have been on the forefront of advocating for greater protections for the LGBTQ2s+ community.

The BC Humanist Association intervened at both the BC Court of Appeal and Supreme Court of Canada against Trinity Western University’s proposed law school. Our arguments were grounded on the right of law societies to deny the proposal given the school’s policies that precluded anyone in a same-sex relationship from attending.

In the USA, the American Humanist Association has been involved in numerous court cases where the religious right sought to trample the rights of LGBTQ+ Americans. Taking another step, AHA’s leadership has proactively disclosed their third-person pronouns for several years. As they wrote:

When someone is referred to by the wrong pronoun, it can make the person feel disrespected and alienated. Proactive pronoun disclosure is one way humanists can live the progressive, inclusive, and affirming values to which we aspire.

Such a position is entirely consistent with Humanist values.

From the Amsterdam Declaration,

[Humanism] affirms the worth, dignity and autonomy of the individual and the right of every human being to the greatest possible freedom compatible with the rights of others. Humanists have a duty of care to all of humanity including future generations.

or the American Humanists’ Humanist Manifesto III:

We are committed to treating each person as having inherent worth and dignity.

Building on these values, the Board of the BC Humanists adopted a trans-inclusion policy recently that encourages our staff, board and volunteers to disclose our own pronouns, and we encourage everyone who shares our values to do the same.

Similarly, we should work to break down assumptions that are based on one another’s outward appearance. We should be quick to apologize when we slip up. And we should be equally quick to forgive those who make honest mistakes.

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