Want to be a good ally? Start accepting people as they are, pronouns included.

People wear name tags so others know their names. It only makes sense that pronoun tags are a thing as well.

At a Google Next cloud computing conference, journalist Nicole Henderson noticed a sign that said, "We care about your pronouns," offering attendees the option to add a sticker containing one of four options to their attendance badge. Two options, "He/Him" and "She/Her," are pretty standard. The other two options, "They/Them" and "Xe/Hir," are pronoun sets sometimes used by nonbinary individuals, or people who don't fit neatly into the categories of male or female.

And, apparently, this isn't a new thing — not even for Google, which offered attendees at its IO conference earlier this year the same option.


One helpful Twitter user informed me that the American Association of Physics Teachers has been offering pronoun stickers to attendees for several years. A quick search found that conferences like the annual IA Summit, the American Astronomical Society, the meeting of the Museum Computer Network, and many more give the option too. Pretty neat, right?!

Looking at the dismissive and even hostile replies to Henderson's tweet wasn't surprising — but it was disappointing.

This name tag move by conferences is something that has zero negative effect on anybody. It's completely optional and might make a few people who'd ordinarily feel left out actually feel welcomed. That sounds pretty win-win-win to me.

Web engineer and pronouns zine author Fen Slattery shared a great Twitter thread (which you can read in full by clicking here) that offered advice to attendees and organizers of conferences. In short, offering this option can make trans and nonbinary people feel safe, and it can save everyone from a bit of embarrassment.

You may say that you don't understand what it'd be like to have a nonbinary gender and that's totally OK.

There are a lot of things in life that we, as individuals, won't ever truly understand. That's why empathy is so important. Empathy is what tells us to be kind to others even though we don't know exactly how they feel, and empathy is what can drive us to realize that just because we feel something might be frivolous, it may really matter to others.

Now, of course, if you want to try to better understand what it's like to be nonbinary, we've written quite a bit on the subject. There are some simple things you can do to be an ally, such as simply being cool with the whole "pronouns" thing.

Dan Ozzi, a writer and co-author of rocker Laura Jane Grace's memoir about growing up and coming out as trans in the world of punk rock, shared a tip for other writers about pronouns: simply ask people. Seriously, it's that easy.

Being a good ally starts with accepting people for who they are.

At the core, that's all trans and nonbinary people really want: to exist and to be accepted. Small gestures, like advocating for pronoun stickers or being willing to use untraditional labels, can have a big effect on the world.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less