Gender Neutrality + Ambiguity
A couple of weeks ago, one of our members emailed me. If we were measuring her tenure by time, this member had only been with us for a short six months, but what this particular member lacked in longevity she made up for in quality of presence. She had already invested a lot in our community: she offered Office Hours to other members, welcomed others into the space, freelanced with other members, and most importantly, cleaned up after herself - so she was almost a part of the team. The email was entitled: 'The White House has gender-neutral signage, I think it's time Impact Hub does too.'
Okay, I thought. That's fair. We are a B-Corp, after all. I emailed her back and thanked her for her feedback, and asked: I thought we already did have gender-neutral signage; we had three unisex bathrooms with Unisex signage.
This member and I sat down in some comfy chairs at Impact Hub the next day, and she explained that while relegating Unisex bathrooms to the back hallway and basement was a good first step, there's a lot encompassed in language (i.e. Unisex doesn't connote the same values as gender-neutral). It's true - even to my ears, Gender Neutral sounds friendlier and happier over Unisex.
I did some research after we talked - not because I thought she was wrong or overreacting, but because I wanted to learn more - and found so much great literature online about gender neutrality and the positive language surrounding these issues. I found this Unitarian website to be the most helpful, in the end.
I was mostly impressed with the positivity, eloquence and overall realistic optimism of these activist websites, as well as the awesome resources that made it easy for me to find Gender Neutral signage that I ended up purchasing, as well as language which helped me draft the explanatory note inside of the restroom.
I am grateful to the members in our community who choose to take ownership in the space and speak up when they see something that could make another member's experience better. I am even more grateful that we have created a culture where members not only feel comfortable speaking up, but they know they will be heard.
One of the biggest lessons to me in all of this is once again, be okay living with ambiguity. Please trust that each individual knows which path is most comfortable and appropriate for them.