Kansas University libraries will now offer students, staff and visitors the choice of wearing “gender inclusive” buttons identifying their preferred gender pronouns, in order to help promote a “welcoming environment” on campus.
The buttons, which read, “He/Him/His,” “She/Her/Hers” or “They/Them/Theirs” are part of a year-long effort on behalf of the KU library’s “You Belong Here” marketing campaign touting the school as warm, welcoming, and tolerant.
“Because gender is, itself, fluid and up to the individual, each person has the right to identify their own pronouns, and we encourage you to ask before assuming someone’s gender,” a sign in the library above the available buttons reads, according to local media.
The library signs go on to explain that “misgendering” someone “can be hurtful” and lead to emotional distress as that person contemplates their ultimate exclusion from modern society, or struggle with “invalidation” of their life choices.
KU’s “front line” librarians came up with the idea, and have been wearing the buttons with pride. They say the markers have been so popular that the library has already had to reorder buttons, and that students routinely ask for them.
For the library, providing the buttons is a form of protest. “A commitment to support the voices of marginalized people is part and parcel to the libraries’ commitment to the values of the First Amendment,” noted KU library Dean Kevin Smith.
The larger “You Belong Here” campaign aims to take the inclusion beyond simple accessories, turning KU’s library into a “safe space” for the non-conforming. They also use “You Belong Here” signs across the school to identify gender-neutral bathrooms and other accommodations.
Buttons, however, are limited to only three choices, female, male, and non-conforming. The other 37 or so genders, now identified thanks to social justice warriors on Tumblr, have not yet received individualized buttons. Otherkin, digigenders, and enbyfluids will likely have to wait.
This is, of course, not the first time that a college or university has gone out of its way to accommodate those who do not feel bound by the constrains of either the male or female gender. The University of Vermont also offers gender “name tags” with preferred pronouns printed on them, and the University of Michigan allows students to register for classes by adding a pronoun of their choosing.