Not using people's preferred pronouns is a human rights offense, a Canadian tribunal ruled while settling an employment dispute.
The British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal ruled in favor of Jessie Nelson, a British Columbia restaurant server who is biologically female but identifies as nonbinary. Nelson, who asked colleagues to use "they" and "them" pronouns, was repeatedly called "she" and "her" by former colleague Brian Gobelle, who also called Nelson nicknames such as "sweetheart," "honey," and "pinky," the tribunal's ruling said. After Nelson unsuccessfully asked Gobelle to stop, the employee went to management, who declined to intervene right away, the court said. Nelson and Gobelle then got into a heated discussion about the issue, and Nelson was fired four days later for coming on "too strong and too fast" and being too "militant."
“Using correct pronouns communicates that we see and respect a person for who they are," Devyn Cousineau, a member of the tribunal, wrote in the 42-page ruling. "Especially for trans, non-binary, or other non-cisgender people, using the correct pronouns validates and affirms they are a person equally deserving of respect and dignity."
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Nelson felt it was important to bring the fight for equality for all transgender and nonbinary people facing discrimination, according to a statement provided during the testimony portion of the tribunal.
“I am here today in bringing this forward because it is important for me, as a trans person, to have my existence respected. I’m a human being with a beating heart and a desire to be seen and valued and heard in the world,” Nelson testified. “And I’m also here for every other current and future trans or queer person working in a service or customer-facing setting so that hopefully this doesn’t happen anymore. Because it’s a lot. It’s very draining. And we deserve to live and have joy and be respected for who we are.”
The tribunal also ordered the restaurant to implement a pronoun policy.
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Other government entities have taken steps toward promoting gender-neutral policies, with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently urging "pregnant people" to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the United Nations reminding member states last year to adopt gender-neutral language.