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Asking About Pronouns is for Everyone – An Intern Publication

In the U.S., it’s estimated that about 0.6% of people identify as transgender. That’s about 1 in 165. This population is highly vulnerable: almost 50% experience sexual trauma in their lives. It’s important in our work here at the OCRCC that we serve this community with humility, sensitivity, and respect. 

As a nonbinary person, I often think about how unfortunate it is that our language and culture is so gendered. Every time I talk with a stranger and they “Sir” me (or “Ma’am” me, sometimes), I wince a little inside. I get it, though. I was also raised to “Sir” and “Ma’am” people, and I know it’s an attempt to show respect and politeness.  

The thing is, for someone like me it always has the opposite effect. I’ll be completely honest here and say that I don’t know what a nonbinary version of “Sir” and “Ma’am” might be. I just know what it feels like for people to always put me in the wrong box. If you happen to have a name that is common for both men and women, such as Alex, Leslie, or Jamie, you may know this feeling too. 

If you’re cisgender—that is: if your sense of your own gender matches what the doctor wrote on your birth certificate when you were born—and you’re reading this, I’m sure you can imagine what it would feel like to have strangers call you “Sir” (if you’re a woman) or “Ma’am” (if you’re a man). If it happens once, it might feel awkward. If it happened continuously though, you might feel embarrassed, frustrated, or worse. 

But the fact is that English is gendered when we talk about people, and pronouns are the most common place where that shows up. Pronouns are a marker for gender as surely as that M, F, or X on a driver’s license or passport. 

When we ask you your pronouns, your gender identity, or “how would you like me to address you,” we are expressing our respect for you as a person, and a desire to be as respectful as possible. If you are a cisgender person and struggle to understand why things like pronouns are important, you might think about what it would feel like if people consistently referred to you as the opposite gender. 

But this is more than just respecting trans and nonbinary people. Plainly asking for pronouns and preferred ways to address someone you’re talking to—and making that practice a normal part of everyday speech—benefits everyone, especially when we talk over the phone and in text messages. Instead of guessing (and sometimes guessing wrong) we can avoid that awkwardness by asking.  

Instead of assuming that everyone is comfortable being addressed by their first name, or that everyone hears politeness in “Sir” or “Ma’am” or “Mr. Jones” or “Ms. Smith”… we can ask. And then we can show our respect by consistently using the address they prefer. 

We can also all be a part of respecting others by making it a habit to introduce ourselves with our pronouns or with how we’d like to be respected: “Hello, I’m Jamie, and my pronouns are he/him.” “Hi, I’m Alex, and my pronouns are she/her.” “Hi, please call me Mr. Jones.” “I am Mrs. Smith.”  

Because the English language makes gender an issue even in situations when it shouldn’t matter, we’re all better off when we’re clear about our own identities. When we don’t try to guess other people’s gender, and don’t make others guess ours, we can interact from a place of mutual respect. 

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OCRCC Roe v. Wade Statement

OCRCC Roe v. Wade Statement

The US Supreme Court’s vote to overturn Roe V. Wade is imminent. Overnight, abortion will become illegal in over half of the states of our country.  Roe v. Wade has always been the floor, not the ceiling, for abortion access. Removing this federal protection may be one of the biggest public health crises of our lifetimes- which is saying a lot in 2022.

Abortion is healthcare. OCRCC supports all survivors’ right to access the healthcare that they determine is right for them. Regardless of changes to federal protection or state law, we commit to always helping survivors get what they need. 

Over the next weeks and months, OCRCC will commit to sharing information about the unfolding attacks on public health and bodily autonomy with the following priorities:

  • Reproductive Justice is Bigger than Abortion: Even with federal protection, abortion access has never been equitable. But a reproductive justice lens goes way beyond issues of right and access: it includes Black maternal health and mortality, Medicaid expansion, universal Pre-K, ending state violence against Black bodies, ending family separation at the border, gender-affirming healthcare, and so much more. It encompasses movements for voting rights, racial justice, violence prevention, and queer and trans liberation. We will center the perspectives of those fighting for the totality of reproductive justice.
  • Action over Despair: This is the time to get involved. We will share groups to follow for action updates and alerts, information on how to find and support your local abortion fund, how to help clinics do what they do, and how to show up for one another with compassion and respect for the trauma this chapter of our history will bring up for folks. We’ll also share information about how and where abortion is showing up at the ballot box.
  • Focus on Resources: People who can get pregnant have immediate resource and information needs, and we will be sure to share information about where to go for questions about legal issues, financial support, locating and accessing abortion care, medical abortion, etc.