Steve, he, him

So, the most recent Smarter Living email from the NYT really summed up for me what I don’t like about gender pronouns in signatures:

Don’t use a stock signature
We have different relationships with different people, so why should the end of your email be the same for everyone? “Your signature block for work runs the risk of seeming a little clunky if you’re writing your kids or an old friend,” Mr. Shipley said…

“Skip the extraneous stuff,” Mr. Shipley said. “Quotations are generally all downside and no upside — unless you’re Mark Twain or George Orwell or Lydia Davis.”

“Trying to fill a signature with bursts of personality can be tiring. That you’re a Bengals fan, or ‘Rock on, Hanson!’ is maybe too much information,” Mr. Schwalbe said. Inside jokes can be alienating; there’s also the risk of burying important information in an avalanche of the unimportant.

These extras also tend to be more about you than the person you’re writing to, and that’s some of the problem. Stick with a couple of links and some kind of contact information. Keep it simple. [emphasis mine] Don’t use wacky fonts.

Okay, all seemingly good advice.  I like it.  Yet, in that same email, we get this:

Include relevant pronouns, too: “You’re doing them the favor of letting them know what it is, and it makes life easier.”

Does it though?!  I’m Steven.  There’s every reason to assume I am he/him unless I say otherwise.  And, you know what, if was Terry or Riley it still doesn’t matter.  Why do you need my gender pronouns when I’m sending you an email.  Are you going to refer to me in the 3rd person in your response?  Now, if your’re transgender, I totally get it and would not begrudge this at all.  But if you are cisgender Tim or cisgender Molly, what are you really saying when you include your pronouns?  I know… you are saying, essentially, “I am a trans ally.”  You know what, I am a trans ally.  But damn if I think that is one of the most important things about myself that it needs to be included in my “keep it simple” signature.  No offense to my trans friends (and, yes, I actually do have a couple), but if I’m going to have a single political statement in my signature, it’s going to be “Donald Trump and his Republican enablers are undermining the rule of law” or “we are heating our planet and we actually need to treat it like the crisis it is” or “everybody needs affordable health care, damnit” or “we need to treat refugees and immigrants with respect and humanity.”  You get the picture.

So, go ahead with your he/him she/hers in your signature, but I’ll stick with my basic info and leave the politics out.

Steven Greene
Department of Political Science
North Carolina State University
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