UWM faculty suggests talking to Orchids to practice gender neutral pronouns

A series of videos produced by the same University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee’s Inclusive Excellence Center that recently proclaimed “political correctness” as a micro aggression instructs viewers in such important topics as how to talk about pronouns of gender, how to define racism, how to make UWM a safer place for student, and is it inappropriate to use identities to describe someone.

In the videos Warren Scherer and D.J. take turns dishing out advice in answer to questions asked by anonymous students at the Center’s mentor training.

One student sought guidance on defining inclusivity.  Scherer defines it as action towards recognizing gender, race, and ethnicity among other things. Seeking to be helpful by giving a specific example Scherer suggested that as a practical action step one could, “make sure that when you are making a flyer that text is no smaller than 12 point font and doesn’t have curlicues.”

Offering further advice on the difficult topic of which pronouns to use for a given person, Scherer further advised to, “ask if you can ask a question.” For example when approaching someone for the first time create a “safe space” in the conversation by saying, “may I ask you a question about your pronouns?”

When the individual chooses to give the pronouns they choose to subscribe to don’t question them. Instead take them at their word and use those pronouns when you refer to them. Scherer for example choses to go by the pronouns per, per, pers which he says is short for person.

For individuals who may find it difficult to adjust to referring to individuals by pronoun per, per, pers, xe, xem, xyr instead of the traditional pronouns he, him, his, she, her, hers; Scherer recommends that they practice by talking to their pets and plants at home.

“Do you have a pet at home, you have a hamster, a beta fish, a cat, or a dog who’s going to love you unconditionally anyway? Then use gender-neutral pronouns, refer to the dog as xe, xem, xyr. The dog is still gonna smile at you and wag their tail when you walk in the door when your using they, them their, or xe, xem, xyr. Still going to love you.”

“I have plants at home, love orchids, and I use…rather practice, genter neutral or gender non-specific pronouns with the orchids. They still grow, they still flourish, they still hate Wisconsin winters, they still love me, and I get to practive theose pronouns with them.”

Scherer also recommends that in order to have a safer campus environment, individuals should put their pronouns in their e-mail signature. By doing so it creates a safer place on campus.

As director of the UWM’s inclusive excellence center Scherer earns $50,500 annually.