Pronouns and a letter to the teacher…

I was talking to a friend today about pronouns and was asked if I’d thought of trialing a pronoun for Jeremy, like she did with her daughter. So I talked to Jeremy this morning and explained that I was feeling uncomfortable using him and he these days, simply because neither seems to suit Jeremy anymore. I explained what happened regarding my friend and her daughter. It felt a bit like I was pushing Jeremy by saying I want to use they and them but at the same time Jeremy seemed genuinely happy with the pronoun they… for the most part…

Jeremy: Mom, the only problem with they is it makes me sound like I’ve got about fifty personalities.

Me: And all of them are fabulous.

Jeremy (grinning): Except for Jerry. He’s an ass.

They do have a point though. It’s going to be an interesting pronoun to use when I’m talking about a few people and Jeremy “… and then they’re going home. Not everyone though, just Jeremy”. I figure we’ll get used to it in time.

So Jeremy’s using they everywhere except school and with extended family; which means I’m using they everyone except for my main Facebook page, where I’ll refrain from using pronouns as best I can. I might need a list.

I’ve spent this morning writing a letter for Jeremy’s teacher as their first day of school is this Wednesday. And here it is:

Dear Mrs. Teacher,

I would like 2014/2015 to be a good year for you, Jeremy, and the rest of the class. Jeremy has spent the entire summer panicking about the upcoming year. I know he can be a handful and a half to deal with but he’s also feeling unwelcome and disliked; this in turn causes him to act up out of frustration. He’s already talking about leaving school as soon as he turns eighteen because he thinks no one wants him there.

A compromise needs to be reached regarding electronics. Jeremy never goes anywhere without a bag of electronic equipment, this is a comfort for him, a coping strategy, he feels safer with them. While I don’t think he should be spending the day playing with his electronic devices, he will be calmer and better behaved with something nearby, even if it’s just in a bag by his feet. I would like to buy him a stress ball, although these days they’re fairly hard to find, he concentrates better with something in his hand. He is also coming into school with my old netbook. I would prefer him to use a school issued one, especially since it wouldn’t require an external keyboard, but I’ve been told repeatedly that his language based learning disabilities and processing issues do not qualify him. This netbook will be used for writing, other than at lunch or during any other break when he’s allowed to play games. Also, Jeremy would like the opportunity to do his math assignments in paint as he finds operating a mouse easier than a pencil. If you have any math or science based websites he can work on, he’s welcome to use them as well.

Jeremy identifies as gender nonconforming. I’ve spoken to several people this summer and have read the information on the [local school board]’s website. His identity falls under the trans umbrella and, as such, means he gets the same rights as the other transgender students in the board. This means no comments on his hair length or how long he keeps his nails, no encouraging other students to tell him to cut his hair, and no criticizing his hair dye (his hair is not going to fall out). In short, anything that is acceptable for a female student is acceptable for him and is not to be commented on in any negative fashion. He was made very uncomfortable last year when he was being taught only binary pronouns in English. Despite what I was told by you, via the principal, it is recommended to let the students know that there are other genders and other pronouns. There is nothing on the website referring to “invented pronouns” or only discussing them if and when a student changes pronouns. The school board is well aware that not all trans students are out and recommends acting as if you have a trans student in the class at all times.

I have referred to Jeremy as he/him throughout this letter. I, however, will be referring to him as they from now on as Jeremy does not identify as 100% male. Jeremy does wish to be called he/him at school for now at least. They will let you know if this changes.

I am enclosing half a forest of information from both the school board’s website and the government of Canada’s page. I have highlighted the parts that I feel pertain the most to Jeremy but the whole documents are very helpful.

I would enjoy a chance to sit down and talk with you, [principal], and anyone else who wishes to attend in order to provide the best outcome for this upcoming school year. I can be reached at [my phone number].

Thank you,

Michelle