Pronoun Identification to be Added to Talos

Talos’ latest update allows students to pick their pronoun identification, marking a step towards making Stuyvesant a more LGBTQ+ friendly community for students.

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Talos is releasing a new feature allowing students to choose their pronouns, which will be displayed as part of their student profile. Students will be able to choose from a drop-down menu consisting of the 12 most common pronouns—including she, he, they, ze, sie, zie, ey, and per—as well as an option for those who do not adhere to a pronoun or conform to an unlisted pronoun. The feature is designed to eliminate discomfort in academic settings and create a welcoming environment for Stuyvesant’s gender non-binary community.

Sophomore and Student Union (SU) Deputy Chief of Staff Theo Kubovy-Weiss introduced the idea of adding pronouns to Talos. “I had the idea about a month ago, after I attended some of the Stuy Unity meetings with [SPARK Coordinator] Angel Colon. I realized that, especially with Stuy Spectrum, we have such a large LGBTQ+ community at our school [...] and in terms of record-keeping and identification, there is very little accommodation for people who don’t identify with the pronouns he/him or she/her,” he said. “I thought it was something we should try to change in order to be accommodating of Stuyvesant’s relatively large LGBTQ+ population.”

After coming up with the idea, Kubovy-Weiss brought it to the administration. “I spoke with [Assistant Principal of Organization] Dr. [Gary] Haber and Assistant Principal of Pupil Personnel Services [Casey] Pedrick and other members of the administration. I talked about how we could implement gender specification and non-binary gender preferences into school documentation, and we arrived at the conclusion that Talos would be a great first step in order to create a more welcoming environment for our gender non-binary community,” Kubovy-Weiss said.

Dr. Haber and Pedrick later discussed the idea with Rodda John (’17), who created Talos. “A member of the SU had reached out to Dr. Haber about it. Dr. Haber had brought it to the administration team, which is a group of administrators who meet every weekend and discuss policy. First, he talked to me and asked, ‘Hey is this possible?’ and I said, ‘Yeah, of course,’” John said. “[The pronouns] are going to be implemented in the next version push.”

A student’s choice of pronouns can be modified easily. “This is going to be changeable and, to my knowledge, viewable to teachers when they pull class lists,” John said.

Proponents of the pronoun implementation believe that it will allow students and teachers to maintain a safe and transparent relationship. “Our biggest and more direct goal is to eliminate discomfort in the classroom. Faculty and teachers would be able to look up students’ pronouns on Talos to avoid discomfort as a whole, whether in meetings with guidance counselors or administrators or in the classroom. We can show that we are welcoming to members of the LGBTQ+ community and are accommodating to their preferences,” Kubovy-Weiss said.

Senior Kiran Vuksanaj believes there is a need for this change. Currently, she contacts her teachers herself, in order to avoid any conflict. “Every year, I have sent e-mails to my teachers before the school year started, asking them to use the proper pronouns before I get to class, because it’s a situation [that] I very much want to avoid and can cause a lot of pain if the wrong pronouns are used for me,” Vuksanaj said. “It makes me feel really uncomfortable and exposed to the class, and I have to confront them after class, in a way that is a lot of times uncomfortable for them and definitely for me.”

She agrees that adding pronouns will help alleviate similar situations. “If the information is available from an official standpoint, a teacher can’t excuse themselves […] because [the student’s pronoun preferences are] in Talos and in records they can see,” Vuksanaj said. “While it’s not a perfect solution—there are still teachers [who] will be difficult about this—it’s still a step in the right direction.”

Students like senior Star Garcia, however, question the transparency and effectiveness of choosing a pronoun on Talos. “Something I’m worried about is would the parents have access to this information? Also, do the teachers check Talos often enough? Would they pull it up every time they wanted to talk to someone? They would have to check Talos every single time until they memorize it, and I don’t know if every teacher even uses Talos all that much,” he said.

Vuksanaj agrees, and worries that parental access to pronouns may expose students. “[Parents being able to see pronouns on Talos] is a very important caveat in my opinion, and if there is a way for students to be able to access that information on their Talos account [without parents being] able to access [it], that would be the ideal way forward with this,” she said. “In my personal situation, I’m out to my parents and I’ve been out for the entirety of my time here at [Stuyvesant]. While it doesn’t affect me personally if my pronouns are visible to my parents on Talos, I’m friends with many of the students at this school who would want their teachers to know about the pronouns that are correct to use, without their parents being able to access that information. I know it’s definitely possible in Talos to separate the accessibility of this information, and I think that should be the way forward with this initiative.”

Vuksanaj is also concerned that some teachers will not change their behavior. “I’ve never had a teacher that just straight up said no, but I have had teachers who have not made any sort of effort. […] I know other people who have heard from teachers, ‘I’m probably not going to use they/them pronouns’ or something along those lines,” she said.

To prevent this, she proposed that there be more accountability for teachers. “If a teacher is hurting a student in this way, eventually there should be repercussions for those teachers. There should be training on a teacher level on how to properly address trans students on a classroom level and not single them out,” Vuksanaj said.

However, Garcia believes that the school’s effort to make all students feel accepted should not go unnoticed. “I think it’s definitely a step in the right direction. It shows that they are trying to be more understanding; they are trying to make sure everyone is referred to the way they should be, and it’s a small step but it’s a good one,” he said.

If a student feels that their choice of pronoun is not represented, they can request for it to be implemented on Talos. “We are also giving students an option to e-mail Dr. Haber if they identify with a pronoun that is not listed, so we are trying to be as accommodating as possible in a variety of different ways,” Kuboy-Weiss said.

While Talos is currently the only platform in which pronouns are being introduced, advocates of the plan believe that it is a stepping stone for future change. “We’re not hoping to just finish with Talos,” Kuboy-Weiss said. “We’re hoping to expand [the pronoun initiative] to other services both internally and externally, and hopefully we can serve as the first step in a more general movement to normalize pronoun specification and create a more welcoming environment for people who are gender non-binary. Hopefully this is something we can add to attendance sheets or other official documentation.”