Yesterday I was walking along Harrison Avenue when I found a wallet on the sidewalk. I used the information from the ID in it to find the owner on social media and ultimately return their wallet to them.

They were grateful and excited that I got in contact with them, and they offered me the cash in the wallet as a reward. I didn’t really find a wallet and return it, I just told that made-up story to make the point that we use singular gender neutral pronouns all the time, and it isn’t confusing to readers.

If you ask me what my pronouns are, I will tell you they/them/theirs. If you don’t, you’ll probably just use he/him/his because you have been taught that it’s okay to assume that certain characteristics are strictly male. Being referred to with gender neutral pronouns feels good and affirming to me and is no more controversial or political than someone who is female using she/her/hers.

The Herald approached me to write a profile about me and my skiing. I asked them to use gender neutral pronouns when referring to me, and they obliged. Their parent company, Arkansas Valley Publishing, however, decided to remove all uses of singular gender neutral pronouns for its inclusion in Discover Magazine. I was told these removals were according to Associated Press guidelines because it would be confusing to the reader otherwise.

Funnily enough, these edits were only made after I corrected the AVP editors’ presumptuous use of he/him in captions of photos of me. Use of they/them/theirs in my profile made it to the final proof without confusion until I asked that the captions be changed to match.

Profuse use of my name instead did not misgender me, but some edits made reference to new subjects like the family not previously mentioned in the profile, which did confuse me as a reader and seemed antithetical to AVP’s editing rationale.

The fact of the matter is that a profile about me was treated differently because of my gender expression only after I corrected the editors’ assumptions about my gender identity.

There is a bone to pick with the Associated Press and their guidelines that encourage erasure of gender neutral pronoun use, and with publishers who deny their readers exposure to modern social ideas and deny gender affirmation to their subjects in ways that cisgender subjects do not experience.

I am grateful to the Herald for interpreting AP guidelines in a way that celebrates me as a skier and as a Leadville community member not down with the gender binary.

I’m happy the Herald will run my profile in its original form that gives readers a genuine chance to know more about me. I’m grateful for the option to deny Discover Magazine from running a profile of me in a form that communicated the now mutually agreed stance that my authentic existence is not a good fit for them or their readership.

Garry Schlag


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