Special to GNH Blog – The Gender Revolution: Workplace Protocol

This is a Special to the GNH Blog written by Kevin Wiens, GNH Intern

The National Geographic Magazine recently published a special issue called the Gender Revolution: The Shifting Landscape of Gender. This magazine highlights the different types of gender and terms that are common today. These include, but are not limited to, intersex nonbinary, transgender female, bigender, transgender male, androgynous, male, female, and so on. A historian’s perspective could suggest that 2016 will be forever known as the year of gender (if it can beat out Trumpism). The US Presidential Election, Canadian PM Justin Trudeau’s movements relating to gender policy, and social media all played a major role in the rising momentum of gender as a topic. As we watch Trudeau march in pride parades or cringe as Pence takes vice presidency, we are all witnesses to possibly the largest social movement since the sexuality movement’s acceptance in the early 2000s (the first national legalization of gay marriage was in 2001). For some, these changes are difficult to accept. But those born in the 90s grew up in a very progressive era and are commonly more accepting of social change. At a young age many of us witnessed the first countries to legalize gay marriage, we watched as Barrack Obama became the first African-American US President, and are currently seeking consistent strides in equal rights and opportunity for women. Unfortunately, universal acceptance of these topics may never be possible, and for some, these changes are very hard to accept. As a ’95, I am scheduled to graduate from UBC this May and will look to enter the workforce. To the companies and businesses that look to hire grads in the next couple of years, remember this: Those who you hire within the next several years will be born from 1993-1998. This group grew up in the same period exposed to same social change. So how can we look to help the “Gender Revolution”? Workplace protocol.

Over a month ago I started an internship at the Gordon Neighbourhood House, a nonprofit organization in Vancouver’s West End. On December 15, 2016, we had a fundraising/event committee meeting to plan our large anniversary event in early March. Paul Taylor, the executive director for the Gordon House, had recently acquired new volunteers and interns and believed introductions were in order. Instructions were simple; state your name, preferred pronouns, and what you were most excited for with the Gordon House. Wait what? I thought to myself, “c’mon get real, look at me… I am clearly a male”. Regardless, I stated, “My name is Kevin Wiens and my preferred pronouns are him/he/his…” and etc. I said this with a smile on my face, it felt weird to me, but I was completely comfortable doing so.  I sat in the meeting debating to myself the necessity of that exercise. It was not until I got home and brought it up with Jamie Aura (my wonderful girlfriend) where she opened my mind. I began to see how powerful that experience was and how valuable performing that task is. Considering how much rapid change we have seen in the last decade It seems very possible to see pronoun introductions as the norm, at least in the professional world. And why not? By doing so, you minimize your risk of oppressing or unknowingly embarrassing individuals.

While it’s not all sunshine and rainbows there has still been substantial acceptance from the general public. I believe there are parallels to be made between this movement and that of the gay rights movements. Just wait, by 2025 every office, classroom, committee, board, group, and so on will perform preferred pronoun introductions. It was hard for many people to accept racial minorities, woman’s progression, and homosexuality. But once the majority did much of society can now retrospectively observe the former social norms as unjustified. One’s gender should play no correlation between job performance, security, pay, hiring process, and etc. As society begins to accept the “Gender Revolution” more people will come out of hiding or feel free to express themselves. As the fear declines the numbers will rise. Those who are leaders in businesses, teams, clubs, and committees, can be the leaders in society. Why wait for government policy? Discussing gender does not have to be uncomfortable or stressful. By rethinking the topic of gender we will allow growth in an otherwise oppressed community. If we can lead like Paul Taylor, we can help ensure everyone has an equal opportunity for success in their careers and social lives. If we can make our work as inclusive as possible, maybe more individuals will seek employment opportunities they would not have before. Heck, for all we know this gender revolution is just beginning.

Kevin Wiens
UBC B.A. Undergrad
History Major & Human Geography Minor