Over the last few years, ASA Annual Meeting attendees may have noticed the small, bright green oval stickers on attendee nametags (or perhaps near the registration tables of ribbons indicating committee and section officer roles) that indicate pronoun preferences as an option to display on your conference name badge.
In 2019, ASA will phase these stickers out and replace them with pronouns printed directly onto nametags. This was the result of a proposal that was submitted to Council by the Sociologists for Trans Justice’s (S4TJ) Committee to Promote Trans, Non-binary, and Intersex Inclusion at Sociology Conferences. S4TJ is a group of scholars who aim to make sociology, and academia more broadly, a more hospitable and inclusive place for transgender, non-binary, intersex, and genderqueer scholars. These efforts have also been supported by the Sociologists’ LGBTQ Caucus and the ASA Committee on the Status of LGBTQ People in Sociology.
When registering for the Annual Meeting, meeting participants will see a prompt that asks them to “Please select the pronouns you would like printed on your meeting badge.” When members register, the listed options include “she/her”, “he/him”, “they/them”, “ze/zir”, “ze/hir” and “No pronouns please,” which is the default answer. Those who select the default or skip this question will not have pronouns printed, however, they will still have the option to write in pronouns upon arriving at the meeting.
Our goal with this essay is to clarify why it is important for everyone—regardless of gender identity—to participate in pronoun-identifying practices and how the entire membership can contribute to making the ASA Annual Meeting a more inclusive space.
The power of gender pronouns in combatting sexism has long been discussed by academics, with research from Madson and Hessling (1999) noting that alternating between “he” and “she” in texts was effective in increasing (primarily white, middle-class, college-educated) readers’ awareness of gender inequity. The authors also suggested that use of a singular “they” is appropriate for reducing sexist language. Debates about how to combat assumptions about gender and how to effectively utilize pronoun practices in classrooms, email correspondence, and in various professional spaces continue today (Gardner 2017, Schmalz 2015).
In the case of the ASA Annual Meeting, the use of stickers to indicate personal pronouns on nametags offers a way for transgender, non-binary, intersex, and genderqueer sociologists to avoid being misgendered during conference proceedings. Misgendering experiences occur when people are labeled by others as a gender other than the one that person identifies with. These experiences are harmful, especially for junior scholars who often lack the social and/or institutional power that might make them more comfortable advocating for themselves. Pronouns on badges help make these kinds of negative experiences less common.
Cisgender sociologists—those who do not identify differently from the gender and sex categories assigned to them at birth—are also encouraged to add these pronouns to their nametags in the interest of normalizing this gender-inclusive practice. It is our hope that by having all conference participants participate, ASA will become a more equitable environment for all.
Gardner, Lee. 2017. “Why Trans* Students Matter: An interview with Z Nicolazzo.” The Chronicle of Higher Education. February 23. www.chronicle.com/article/Why-Trans-Students-Matter/239305
Madson, Laura and Robert M. Hessling. 1999. “Does Alternating Between Masculine and Feminine Pronouns Eliminate Perceived Gender Bias in Text?” Sex Roles, 41(7-8): 559-575.
Schmalz, Julia. 2015. “‘Ask Me’: What LGBTQ Students Want Their Professors to Know.” The Chronicle of Higher Education. September 03. www.chronicle.com/article/Ask-Me-What-LGBTQ/232797
2019 ASA Annual Meeting: Specify Your Pronouns
In recent years, ASA Annual Meeting participants have had the option of identifying their pronouns with blank stickers that could be filled in upon arrival at the meeting and appended to their badges. Starting in 2019, meeting registrants can choose to identify their pronouns in advance and have them printed directly on their meeting badges. Communicating about your pronouns creates a more welcoming environment for people of all genders. Please make your selection when you register (see www.asanet.org/annual-meeting-2019/registration).