Local private school introduces new gender pronouns at pre-K level
By Evan Lips | October 25, 2016, 10:47 EDT
BROOKLINE — Adjusting gender pronouns and prefixes in order to satisfy politically correct speech requirements isn’t solely restricted to the realm of higher education anymore.
One elite private school in Brookline that caters to students aged pre-kindergarten through eighth grade has introduced the Mx. title to its classroom lexicon.
“This prefix — Mx. (pronounced mix) — allows individuals to use a gender-inclusive salutation that is neither male (Mr.) or female (Mrs., Ms., Miss),” Liza Talusan, director of diversity, equality and inclusion at the prestigious Park School, wrote in an email addressed to parents at the start of the school year. “This year, we opened up our school year including this option as we affirm our commitment to identity and inclusivity.”
Messages left Friday with Talusan and Head of School Cynthia Harmon requesting comment were not returned.
In her letter, Talusan pointed out that the Mx. title “may be new to the Park School” but was actually “entered into the Oxford English Dictionary two years ago.”
“While the prefix was provided to create inclusive opportunities for individuals who do not identitify with gender binaries, it is also gaining use from individuals who simply do not want to have their gender identified by a Mr. (male) or Ms./Miss/Mrs. (female) prefix,” Talusan added.
According to her online bio, Talusan joined the Park School in July 2015. Talusan, who lists herself as a nationally recognized facilitator, workshop leader, and presenter on issues of identity, leadership and education, also maintains a blog hosted by the Park School website and describes herself as a “change agent who is committed to social justice and activism.”
Talusan’s blog posts touch on a range of social justice topics — her post regarding gender prefixes included a personal anecdote from when she was a child and her family would spend summer vacations touring America. Talusan recalled how at a young age, the most exciting part of visiting a national park or monument was visiting the gift shop — and described how disappointed she’d feel upon discovering that souvenir pencils, keychains and barrettes never featured her name.
“I always went to the personalized section which was conveniently located in a circular spinning rack near the cashier. Pencils. Keychains. Barrettes. Beaded bracelets. My eyes scanned the shiny items organized alphabetically: Laura, Leslie, Lisa, Lynn….Margaret, Mary, Melissa…
I took a deep breath.
Of course, I spun through rows of “Mary, Grace, Paul and Jonathan….” I’m not jealous. I’m so jealous.”
Talusan uses the anecdote as a segue into her announcement of the introduction of the Mx. prefix.
“As we begin the school year, I have two important words for you: NAMES MATTER,” Talusan wrote. While it’s not easy, friends, it’s important. Names matter. Titles matter. Salutations matter.
Talusan’s latest blog post focuses on Halloween costumes.
Talusan recalled how while growing up in the 1980s and early 1990s, “everything was fair game.” She wrote about how one friend painted her face brown in order to dress up as her favorite reggae artist, Ziggy Marley.
“Back then, in my own schooling in the mid-1980s, I didn’t learn a whole lot about race and racism or cultural appropriation. Not because it didn’t exist, but because we just didn’t talk about it. But, no one told us about these issues.
“I am grateful every single day that I get to work in a community that embraces dialogues and conversations about race. As I’ve written before, the hallway just outside of my office is covered with artwork and observations from 9-year old students who are actively interrogating stereotypes. Students learn about stereotypes in school, and they are tasked with exploring ways in which stereotypes exist in the world around them.
“I have to believe that NONE of these students will even want to wear culturally offensive costumes.”
Talusan also relayed her experiences shopping at a Halloween store with her young daughter, who spotted an aisle in the store that sold “cultural costumes.”
“Gleaming packages of ponchos and mustaches; fake feathers and headdresses; and costumes with the word ‘sexy’ like ‘Sexy Alaskan’ and ‘Sexy Mexican’ and ‘Sexy Indian.’” Talusan wrote.
For the current school year, the Park School Board of Trustees set tuition at $26,180 for pre-K students to $37,300 for eighth grade students.