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Gender respect: yes, please

In this 3-minute video Craig discusses his increasing challenge with gender identification; “Sometimes I can’t tell if someone is a man or a woman!” He wants to be politically correct AND show respect, but how? He’s got one idea. Do you agree with this approach?

This video has captions. To see them, click CC on the video screen.

Here’s what Craig says in the video

Hi everybody! Hey it’s Craig Freshley here.

I was running a meeting the other day — standing at the front of the room calling on people — and somebody way at the back raised their hand. Button-down Oxford shirt, short trimmed hair, square glasses. Actually this person looked a lot like me. “Yes sir. Yes you. At the back, sir.” Well when the person stood up I realized that the person I had just called “sir,” was actually a woman.

It is not okay to call somebody “sir” who identifies as a women. It is not okay to call somebody “ma’am” who identifies as a man. And increasingly, this is a challenge for me as a professional meeting facilitator. Sometimes I look out at the people in my meetings, or I look at the people coming through the door into my meetings, and I can’t tell if that person identifies as a man or a woman.

And you know what? It’s okay if I can’t tell. That person is allowed to present however they want. And they are allowed to think of themselves however they want. As a professional meeting facilitator it’s important that I don’t offend that person no matter what and that I accept that person for who they are no matter what.

But I like to use the terms “sir” and “ma’am!” And why is that? I figured out that it’s not about gender identity; that is a way for me to convey respect. It’s a way, from the very start of the conversation, to say “I honor you.” There is a tone of formality and reverence and older people especially like to be called “sir” and “ma’am.”

So how can I use language that is gender-neutral and non-offensive no matter what, AND convey respect? The best I can come up with is the words: “Yes, please.” Rather than “Yes sir, yes ma’am,” “Yes, please.” “Yes, you at the back, please.”

From now on that’s what I’m going to try to do: let somebody be what ever gender they want, no matter what they look like, but also show them that I respect them as an individual and I want to hear what they have to say.

Thanks for listening everybody, regardless of what gender you are. And I hope you help your groups make good decisions!

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