A few weeks ago my 14 year old non binary child, Sol, went to a new doctor for the first time. The doctor was an older lady who clearly had not (knowingly) met a non binary person before, so she asked a lot of questions about identity, before getting stuck, as many do, on the pronouns. Sol’s pronouns are they/them, and the doctor was struggling with it.
“We really need a new word, don’t we? Because “they” is plural…”
With a small internal sigh, I launched into my “here’s one we prepared earlier” spiel about singular “they”.
“Actually, we use singular ‘they’ all the time. For example ‘oh, someone left their book on the train. I hope they get it back.'”
The doctor’s eyes widened as she took this in, and she paused for a moment before exclaiming how much sense it all made, and then we went on with the consultation.
Yesterday, we had a followup visit via telehealth, and the first thing she said, after the obligatory apology for being late, was “I have to thank you!”
Which was not where we were expecting this consultation to go, but she quickly explained herself.
“What you said about how we already use ‘they’ as singular made so much sense to me, and it immediately got rid of my whole discomfort with it. It wasn’t a problem anymore. Then I caught up with a teacher friend of mine who was really struggling with it, and I told her what you told me. She thought it was absolutely brilliant and she’s now telling everyone…”
This is a neat story, and I’m happy that it made sense to that doctor, but what it really slammed home for me is the power of the ripple effect. Every time you explain something in a way that makes sense to someone, you’re not just explaining it to them. You are potentially explaining it to everyone that person ever meets. And that everyone they explain it to potentially explains it to everyone they meet… And you don’t need to watch my video explainer on exponential growth to understand that the ripples of that explanation can spread a long way remarkably quickly.
So even though some explanations inevitably fall on deaf ears, who knows how many ripple effects there will be from every other time you take a deep breath and try to explain. And ripples can quietly change the world.
In other news, the Australian Ally Schools Network has been launched as a Facebook group, as a support for schools wanting to become better allies to their LGBTQI+ students. Schools can share best practice & resources, as well as talk about their challenges and find support for making progress. Searching for the name of the group should find it, but feel free to email email@example.com if you need help.