I hadn’t seen that email signature information before so I had to think about its meaning. Obviously it had something do with gender identification but I was initially confused because the student’s name was clearly female - not ambiguous like Alex, Bobbie or Pat - and so I wondered why this additional gender announcement was necessary.
I brought the subject up later to my co-worker and she was intrigued as well. She googled the term “pgps” and up popped all sorts of information about the topic of preferred gender pronouns,its history and modern usage. As she scrolled through the information we discussed the topic and its implications and soon found ourselves in disagreement.
I took the viewpoint that, first of all in regard to the email, a gender announcement was unnecessary and seemed distracting to the overall professionalism of the student’s communication; it was obvious by name that she is a she and I thought having to point that out to me, the reader, seemed presumptuous and bordered on the edge of paternalism: not a good impression to leave on someone that you are asking something of. Secondly, I made the point that this growing tide of gender-specific neediness seemed to be just another example of a select minority of people, growing up in an ever-demanding cocoon of entitlement, expecting the world at large will bend to them and their individual idiosyncrasies. It is a myopic viewpoint that comes at the expense of society at large. Lastly, I wondered how could such individuals believe that any system such as a business or institution, political structure or even society at large, possibly exist or function with any degree of orderliness when individuals are permitted to present themselves to that system in any whimsical, undefinable (or constantly re-definable way), in a manner known only to themselves of how and what and who they wish to be or think they are, and expect the larger system to know this or adapt to these ever-changing self-definitions?
My co-worker countered with the question that in a strong, self-assured and empathetic society this shouldn’t be a problem or pose much of a challenge. Maybe, but her proposition answered my question, in a sense. She believes in the utopian, the ideal, the perfect model of society and for that I cannot condemn her but will - and did - point out that is not our current world. Thus, my point about how best to proceed.
Until such time as that Pollyanna-inspired world is upon us I reiterate: systems of all kinds require rules to operate properly and rules are based on either/or propositions. This means that sometimes you win and sometimes you lose but always that the majority of a system dictates the way to proceed and is not best served by the desires, whims or wishes of a minority. Absolutes are not always fair but they are essential as guiding principles and are the only way in which systems survive.