Only a few years ago I thought, gendered role terms, what the big deal? It is just like putting on a costume for a play or a silly hat for a tea party! It has nothing to do with who you are, just a fungible word in the background that tells you where to be. Sure, we can re-name them to something else and all feel a little foolish at first with the new words, lining up the same way we always do. But it only took a few heartfelt stories from trans, non-binary, or queer friends, who looked at a roomful of gender-conforming people all dancing in their traditional roles, and didn’t see a space for themselves to fit in, and my mind was changed completely and irreversibly.

I am very sensitive to the discomfort of others and feel it deeply, channeling those friends as a mini presence on my shoulder, even when they aren’t in the room. Hearing gendered role terms now stresses me out, puts me on edge, heightens alertness and complicates feelings. I can’t go back to thinking about role terms in the bland, fungible way I used to. Seeing a roomful of proper ECD lines with everyone on their traditional gendered side makes me uncomfortable now and makes me wonder where my people are, even though I am also straight and cis. I have a desperate desire to take a big metaphorical spoon and stir the room up. However, I know there are other people in the room I care about deeply, who feel exactly the opposite about traditional roles and terms, and have valid feelings too.

I’m waiting to hear those compelling stories and knowing soon they will join in the company of mini friends on my shoulders, anxious or uncomfortable about substitute terms or worrying about losing some favorite dance repertoire. I might rationally argue for my own preference about calling style and terms and, based on my conclusion, it may sound like I’m “insular and only listening to one side.” I know I will always live with multiple sets of mini friends on each shoulder, hearing all of their concerns, feeling and caring, so deeply. I love my community.