Pronouns and Inclusion
A Message from Ryan Kimmet, Associate Head of School:
Like so many of us, one of the many things that first drew me to Greene Street Friends School was the school’s commitment to diversity. As members of such a richly diverse community, each family and individual bring with them their unique background and identities to create something bigger and better. In a way, Greene Street Friends School is like a model for how we wish all communities could be. It should be to no one’s surprise that students are often further along than us grownups in their sincere efforts to include and understand difference. We see it on the playground, in the classroom, and in our focused diversity work that we do with students.
One of the best parts about intentionally working on diversity and inclusion is that we get a little better at it over time. In recent years, professional development opportunities have included better understanding gender and more specifically on supporting our transgender, non-binary and gender creative community members. Slowly but surely, our openly trans population is growing and our efforts to support all members of the LGBTQ+ community are growing as well. For example, we now have a large number of all-gender bathrooms on campus and we have a middle school GSAFE (Gender & Sexuality Alliance for Everyone) group that meets weekly.
Language is powerful and as we consider how the words we use can lift up and affirm or take down and marginalize, it is important to note how something as seemingly small as a pronoun can carry large importance. For example, we have community members who do not identify on either side of the male/female gender binary that many of us were taught exists. For folks who are non-binary the pronouns he/his/him or she/her/hers often do not fit. Some people prefer to use pronouns such as they/them/theirs.
As always, we hope to work in partnership with families around these important topics. In a recent lower school class discussion, parents of a non-binary student talked about how gender is more than the physical body parts you are born with. Gender is about how you feel inside and how you express yourself. Society has many unwritten (and written) rules about how people should behave and feel based on their sex assigned at birth, but everyone is different and knows their gender identity and how to best express their gender. Students shared their varied interests that may or may not go along with gender stereotypes. We were heartened to see our students welcome and affirm their classmate’s gender identity and pronouns!
Our libraries have wonderfully diverse literature to support these conversations both at school and at home. Some classes have read Neither, by Airlie Anderson which is about a creature that doesn’t quite fit in because they aren’t “This” or “That” (binary). They go to the land of “All” where everyone can play and live freely. Who Are You, by Brook Pessin-Whedbee, is an information book in which one can learn about gender and how it includes our body, how we feel inside, and how we express ourselves.
It is my hope and expectation that the diversity of our wonderful community will continue to grow in the years to come, and as such, our efforts to support and include must also grow. Marginalized communities have much to teach those of us in the mainstream, but it is incumbent upon those in the majority to learn and follow through with acts of inclusion. This includes the pronouns and language we use! You may have noticed that many of us have included our pronouns on our email signatures. We’ve also used them when labeling name tags and introducing ourselves. Additionally, we will continue to have professional development, incorporate books and have class discussions that lift up inclusivity. Our efforts, both large and small, can help support our ambitious mission to support students in “affirming themselves and others as they come to honor differences in ability, language, skin color, gender, sexual orientation, religion, family structure, or family income.”
As always, I am happy to talk more in person or answer individual questions or concerns.
For more information on gender identity and pronouns, check out this website: