Advocacy & Activism, Health Equity, Implicit Bias, School Nursing

The Relentless School Nurse: Because Pronouns Are Important

I participated in an important discussion about the use of pronouns. The person who initiated the discussion wanted to understand the issue on a granular level. They were having a hard time wrapping their mind around the need to move beyond the binary categories of he and she. I listened intently as two colleagues worked diligently to understand each other’s perspective. It was an encouraging discussion because neither party was pushing an agenda.  They were both listening to understand.

The crux of the issue is about making assumptions regarding the experience of another person. By limiting pronouns to him or her, we are categorizing and labeling their perspective and experience. We are assuming that we know how the person identifies based on outward appearances.  Pronouns are about choice. The freedom to choose is one of the most valued privileges we have.  Using pronouns correctly is especially important and a bit tricky. There is a learning curve here and it may be new information for some. To be an inclusive society, we need to respect choices that people make about how they identify themselves. 

For school nurses, one of our most valued roles is safeguarding our students’ physical and mental well being. It is especially important for school nurses to understand how our students are identifying and support their choices. First, we must educate ourselves, uncover our own implicit bias, and take a fresh look at the use of our own pronouns. Here are some examples, and the chances are there are a few that may sound new or unfamiliar. My commitment to this discussion is that I will take the time to understand the history of this important movement and to identify and share my pronouns; she/her/hers. I will also respect the pronouns that others select and learn to use them correctly. Will you join me?

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