Should Zoom let you choose the size of your pronouns on others’ screens?

“On Being a Trans Abortion Provider” (MedPage Today):

“I’m so glad it’s all women in here.”

As a family doctor and abortion provider, I hear this all the time. I know how important it is for many of the patients I care for to be seen by someone who shares their experiences. But I am not a woman.

I am trans. Getting dressed for every shift, I put on my they/them and he/him pronoun pins. Like many trans folx, I use multiple pronouns. Often these go unseen. People assume my gender based on what they’ve been taught about which bodies look like a woman and which bodies look like a man. I get it though. Patients have a lot on their minds when they come to see me. The middle of someone’s abortion doesn’t feel like the right time to talk about the difference between gender identity and gender presentation anyway.

I can make space for patients misgendering me. I believe abortion can be a very empowering experience, and for many of my patients, the solidarity between women is a part of that. People with uteruses suffer so much violence from men. Invasive exams and procedures can trigger that trauma, especially when performed by men. A great deal of what we, as medical providers, do to people in gynecological care was developed through violence, intentional abuse, and oppression of women of color. This legacy, rooted in white supremacy, is especially on my mind when providing reproductive care. So I choose not to correct the women who misgender me while voicing their appreciation for my presence out of respect for their experience and comfort.

But what I cannot make space for is being misgendered by my colleagues. It is a daily occurrence. Sometimes followed by over-apologizing, asking me to excuse the mistake to assuage their discomfort at my own expense. It happens despite the pronoun pins and Zoom name. Despite me talking about how weird it is to give myself testosterone injections. Despite the they/he in my email signature on that email I sent months ago announcing my pronouns and asking for some basic inclusion. All of the efforts I am asked to take on to become a part of a “more just” and “more diverse” workforce and movement are for naught if the very people they are trying to include are continually made to feel othered, a hassle, or forgotten.

The author’s name is Quinn Jackson. According to baby name web sites, this is roughly equally prevalent for boys and girls. Therefore, I’m not sure why Dr. Jackson believes that putting their/his name on Zoom will cue others on the call that they/he wants to be referred to with “they/them and he/him”. Zoom lets a user pick his/her/zir/their preferred pronouns for display, but the pronouns show up in a smaller font than the name. From

“Your pronouns will appear next to your display name in your participant video or thumbnail and next to your display name in the Participants list.”

What would work, I think, is if Zoom users could specify how prominently to display chosen pronouns. Dr. Jackson, for example, could show theirs/his in boldface 48 pt. type smack in the middle of the video image. A virtual face tattoo, essentially. Fellow participants in a Zoom call wouldn’t miss that.

(Separately, if “[p]eople with uteruses suffer so much violence from men,” as Dr. Jackson says, why is they/he injecting themselves/himself with testosterone, a hormone that leads directly to violence? (see )) Shouldn’t trans folx who abhor violence refrain from using this hormone?)


12 thoughts on “Should Zoom let you choose the size of your pronouns on others’ screens?

  1. My pronouns: His Majesty/His Majesty’s, abbreviated HM/HM’s.

    This is a marvelous essay that achieves the highest social justice density I have ever seen. Perhaps there should be a new scientific unit for measuring it.

    “People assume my gender based on what they’ve been taught about which bodies look like a woman and which bodies look like a man.”

    I do not recall any such education. As far as I can see, monkeys and dogs also seem to be able to figure out the difference without any special training.

    • @Anonymous: > “social justice density”

      This is a fantastic idea for a website to help undergraduate and graduate students with their assignments and essays. Submit your paper and have it scored according to Social Justice Density. $1000 per semester with pronoun-appropriate expert assistance on call 24/7/365. There’s no stopping it, so let’s monetize it.

  2. Welcome to the f****ed up world I hoped I had left behind 15 years ago, thinking it was a fad that was confined to a relatively tiny minority of people who drove themselves crazy. I managed to get a little distance, but to no avail – it just metamorphosed into Everyone’s Insanity Now.

    • I was listening to NPR yesterday while two women (I think – they didn’t announce their pronouns) talked about the relentless ramification of high technology into wearables. One interesting talking point were Smart Yoga Pants that measure and respond to the wearer’s body. Presumably with a little work, we could make people’s underwear talk to their smartphones or FitBits and their Zoom accounts to make sure their pronouns are properly displayed and also build some fantastic display technology so that the Yoga pants can broadcast the pronouns with some kind of electroluminescence or OLED technology. Nobody will ever have to make this mistake again.

      The victimhood industry is one of the only things that’s left as a growth industry apart from marijuana in our post-industrial, completely unmoored and honestly – quite insane – society.

    • Phil, looking at this doctor’s Twitter feed, I am reminded of Godfrey Elfwick, a now banned satire/troll Twitter account that managed to fool the media a handful of times into taking “xir” seriously. Maybe it’s just wishful thinking on my part.

    • Anon: It hadn’t occurred to me to check

      The feed contains some gems. Dr. Jackson retweeted “abortions are for everyone. of all genders, sexualities, ages,…” How is an 80-year-old, even if he/she/ze/they identifies as a 20-year-old, going to be an abortion customer?

      Another retweet: “What if anti-racism were a foundational competency in medical school. And you didn’t move on if you failed it.” (mirrors in which my friend would have been fired if she failed re-education on this topic)

      And one more: “I would stop talking about being trans and trans folk so much if I didn’t observe ignorance and discrimination every single day. Until then, don’t ever tell me I talk too much about it.” (I will use this to reply to readers who say that this blog contains too much content regarding all things 2SLGBTQQIA+)

    • Phil, you missed “unpopular opinion: physicians cannot say that they care about people’s health without also being anti-capitalist”. As if profit weren’t the motivation of the corporations delivering advances in medicine at an unprecedented rate (or that doctors weren’t interested in earning more money).

      The whole thing is a smorgasbord of far left politics. I would not be surprised if this were satire/trolling. At least I hope it is.

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