On-mic pronoun introductions

A big positive this year in Houston was the inclusion of pronoun ribbons available FROM FIRST at pit admin (and the diversity of the pronoun ribbons, not just he/she/they - I nearly cried when I saw a student wearing a ze/zim/zirs ribbon).

One thing I would like to see more of from the FIRST community and volunteers is making it standard to include your pronouns when making introductions on-mic. I would like to send a recommendation to FIRST that they change event scripts and sponsor reads to include this, and I would like to show them community support.

The justification: (shouldn’t need this, but you know how it goes)
GAs, emcees, various volunteers during drivers meetings, guest speakers, etc. I’ve done this multiple times so far (as a field sup and during WFFA presentation) and have gotten a lot of compliments, thank yous, and “that was brilliant, wish I had thought to do that” comments, yet I have yet to hear of this happening widespread and haven’t heard it at any events I’m attending. I’m sure it happens elsewhere, but considering I haven’t seen anyone raise a stink (or a compliment) about it on CD yet, I’m assuming it’s not happening much.

People on-mic are in a position of prominence and importance, and hearing pronoun introductions coming from people in that position makes a powerful statement. It makes it clear to nonbinary and trans folks that they have an ally. It helps show attendees that the event is intended and expected to be inclusive. Paper statements of inclusivity are largely seen as performative, but taking steps to change the event is evidence that the statements are not just performative.

There’s a separate conversation that could be had about introducing yourself with your pronouns in everyday conversation, and I would really not like that discussion to happen in this thread. I think that what I’m suggesting is different because it does not have the same potential for “awkwardness” as it could when beginning a conversation, which is what I think deters a lot of people from doing it in everyday conversation. People on-mic are not having a conversation - there is no way or need for the people they are speaking to to respond to it immediately. What follows the introduction - cheers, or right into a script - is not going to be affected by it. Having someone prominently introduce themselves with their pronouns helps normalize the practice and make it more likely to happen in everyday conversation.

“Good morning everyone, my name is Kara, I use she/her pronouns, and I’m your field supervisor this weekend”

“Good morning robot fans! Give it up for your emcee, who uses she/her pronouns - Nikki!”

TL;DR: It takes two seconds. It’s easy. It benefits the individuals that need the assurance and validation that they matter. Can we do it??


Yes, you really do need this. Plenty of people do not understand the reasoning behind specifying pronouns, and some others disagree on the merits, yet those people are a subset of the constituency FIRST is trying to reach. Under your proposal, some of those people will be asked to utter these words, and because of the power of the script to put others’ words into people’s mouths, you particularly owe them a cogent appeal to reason and humane values.

This is the quiet part, out loud—and that’s fine. But we can’t be under the illusion that the people at FIRST receiving your proposal will be unaware that by encouraging a culture change, it is by definition political speech. They may entirely support your end goal, but be pragmatically opposed to leading from the front. This doesn’t make them bad people, though perhaps it indicates timidity. Consider the ways you might give FIRST staffers a shot of courage, while also delivering your message.

There is also the implication, possibly a meritorious one, that the feelings of people who disagree with the practice or find it simply distasteful or awkward don’t matter as much as those of people whose identities tend to be disregarded. Nevertheless, some people are going to be reticent to accede to something that is a repudiation of a cherished portion of their worldview. Looking a couple moves ahead, how might this disagreement progress, and does it serve a societally productive goal? Is this worth going all-in for (i.e. part of the script), versus letting it grow organically (like the mascot dance—nobody put that in the script, yet it is tradition!)?


Even if this were political (and as a trans person, I don’t believe it is), FIRST events have been no stranger to politics. I’ve seen political representatives at events (i believe Kettering had one in an on mic position this year). My former governor, Rick Snyder pushed and got grants for FIRST here in Michigan (where I’m from). Hell, deans homework a few years ago was to speak to your political representatives to get the coin passed. I’d argue thats far more political than making a change to make a community feel accepted. The difference, is that trans lives are controversial, the coin wasnt.

And my general take on this:
As a trans person, I can say it would speak VOLUMES if on mic roles started introducing with their pronouns. FIRST wants to make diversity a mission of theirs, and embracing pronouns is a part of it. I’m so glad to see the pronoun ribbons, and I hope more work is done next year to create more accessible gender neutral bathrooms (although I’m not sure how that would be achieved).


I don’t know about “owing” an explanation, but this comment did make me think about how presentation of a change is important, and that change is often best presented with reasoning. The sentiment behind my comment of “shouldn’t need to explain” came from a general frustration and tiredness for having to continually argue about and provide justification for LGBTQ+ rights. It is such a no brainer for me, and I forgot reality for a second there.

Not needing to state your (generic “you”, not you specifically) pronouns to be referred to using the correct pronouns is cisgender (and gendernormative presenting) privilege. Being addressed with correct pronouns is a huge factor in the mental health of transgender and nonbinary individuals - ESPECIALLY youth. I would encourage anyone that feels uncomfortable reading a script with pronoun inclusion, just because they think it’s awkward, to check their privilege and ask themselves if they are willing to make themselves uncomfortable for a second to make a very much underprivileged group feel more safe.

I think I understand the intent of this comment, but the way it’s coming off to me is “FIRST can avoid discourse and conflict but achieve the same eventual end results by letting the community take it upon themselves to affect change”. I’m hoping that what you meant was “a change like this would be more powerful and appear more genuine if it was community-driven instead of mandated”, which I can understand.

Also, the the mascot dance is a poor comparison. Mascot dances are a fun thing (where they still exist - definitely don’t in my region), whereas identity validation and feelings of personal safety are a matter of life and death. I’m sure there’s a better comparison that could be used here.

Thank you so much for sharing your perspective!


My biggest concern would be for people who are in the middle of transitioning, or who may not be fully out yet. People should be able to MC or GA without being forced out. This may be a non-issue, but it’d be something to consider for those who may be effected.


Yep, an encouragement to include it when introducing yourself. I’m seeing more of this pretty much everywhere and it’s a nice introduction to people sort of out of the loop on the issue.

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I am sure this is NOT a non-issue - thanks for bringing it up. After Tristan and Troy’s comments, I’d say a suggestion is definitely better than a requirement (though maybe request that the suggestion be printed and not just included as an afterthought or addendum).

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@Karibou YES you DO need the explanation. Some of us kinda-sorta heard about this topic, but as an OF* I just figured it was some subversive fad. Please imagine a time 60 years ago, would ANYone have understood any of this? Possibly:

Whether I agree or disagree with any of it is completely irrelevant. If you want to be called something, it is perfectly fine to ask others to do that. Way back in the day it was called Respect** and it is actually a very very good thing.

But please don’t assume that everyone knows. An extra moment writing a coherent explanation doesn’t hurt. No, I’m not clueless but maybe I am and just don’t know it??

Thanks, good post.

*Old Fart
** It still is


Don’s perspective is really important here. I think a lot of us tend to normalize things that evolved while we were growing up very quickly. I’ve talked to many progressive people a generation or two older than me who really didn’t understand pronoun introductions or pronouns in email signatures until I explained or pointed them towards resources. They weren’t against it, but it didn’t inherently click.

In a program that has participants ranging from young children to mentors who are senior citizens and everything in between, we should strive for assuming best intentions and explaining anything which can lead to a more inclusive environment.


Expanding this a bit further, to a more immediate impact:
Click on your avatar in the top right of the screen.
Click on the head-and-shoulders icon then the gear (Preferences)
Edit your name to reflect your current pronouns
Click Save Changes

Now if anybody clicks on your avatar for personal info, they can see your pronouns!


For me, it’s that my American cultural knowledge and English language skills are frozen in 2015, when I left the country. Explanations help me a ton because I don’t follow things closely. Some day I’ll get to the point of being the reverse version of my mom (who left Turkiye in like 1970 or something) and when one of 2905’s alumni (then team members) stayed with us in Seattle, she told my mom, “Mrs. Burchard, your Turkish is very good, but we can tell you’re old, because we don’t use these words anymore”
Every time I read forums, or spend time in the U.S., I feel this statement soooooooo strongly. Explaining helps people like me. (Also I cannot keep up with how many acronyms have proliferated in normal online conversation, and I’m only 30!!!)


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