Libraries at the University of Kansas just took a huge step to ensure that transgender and gender-nonconforming students and employees feel as comfortable as possible.
As part of the libraries' "You Belong Here" marking campaign, which aims to attract undergrads and make sure all feel welcome, libraries are now offering buttons to help students specify their preferred pronouns.
One reads "my pronouns are: he him his." On another, it's "she her hers." On the third, it's "they them theirs."
"Because gender is, itself, fluid and up to the individual," a sign posted in the libraries read, the Lawrence Journal-World reports. "Each person has the right to identify their own pronouns, and we encourage you to ask before assuming someone's gender. Pronouns matter! Misgendering someone can have lasting consequences, and using the incorrect pronoun can be hurtful, disrespectful, and invalidate someone's identity."
All library employees are encouraged to wear the buttons and have them at the ready. In fact, it's the employees at the circulation and information desks, where students most frequent, who reportedly first came up with the idea.
"We've told all of our front-line employees, if a student asks, give them a button," Rebecca Smith, the KU Libraries executive director of communications, told the Journal-World.
The buttons themselves are certainly one of the first instances of an American university stepping up to ensure its transgender and/or GNC students don't face the threat of being misgendered, which can undermine the legitimacy of their identity.
Before these buttons, Planned Parenthood offered similar ones at the Democratic National Convention, which were pink and featured statements such as "Ask me about my pronouns," or "She, Her & Hers."
Over at the University of Kansas, the buttons have already been successful, with the Journal-World reporting that they have had to be reordered at least once since the campaign's launch.
In addition to the buttons, the "We Belong Here" campaign, which KU dean of libraries Kevin Smith said is meant to promote the idea that diversity and inclusion is a "universal value of libraries," is also highlighting gender-neutral bathrooms to students and employees.
"A commitment to support the voices of marginalized people is part and parcel to the libraries' commitment to the values of the First Amendment," Kevin Smith told the Journal-World.
All we can hope for now is that other university libraries across the country — and maybe the world — take notice of this sort of dedication to making sure as many students feel comfortable in school as possible.