Call People (and Things) What They Ask To Be Called

There’s no reason not to call people what they want to be called. We all go through transitions of some sort throughout our lives, and most of those transitions come with a new name for ourselves. From Bobby” to Rob” to Mr. Richards”. Or from a little lady” to a child” to a young adult” to a woman”. Or from Daddy” to Dad” to Papa”.

With friends and family, we might go by our first name or a nickname. With a significant other, we might have an endearing pet name. With strangers in a professional setting, we might prefer to be addressed using an earned title.

The point is that we get to choose what we want to be called. It can change over time or from one context to another. And it doesn’t stop the world from turning, nor affect other people in any real way. Someone tells you what they want to be called and you call them that. Easy.

So why wouldn’t you extend the same courtesy that you give to your daughter, colleague, or father — each of whom has probably told you want they’re comfortable being addressed — to someone transitioning their gender? Using their preferred pronouns and name takes little effort on your part, does not make any statement about your own gender, and can mean the world to them.

It’s an easy yet important act of kindness.

But you know what else has the right to change their name and have it respected by others? Companies!

Apple did it when they simplified from Apple Computers, Inc.” to Apple, Inc.”. 37signals went from that original name to Basecamp” and is now back to 37signals”. No drama necessary.

But for Elon Musk’s X, the tech community, which I have usually observed to be more progressive and kind, seems intent on refusing to accept the transition from Twitter” to X”. Even as they demand acceptance for other name transitions.

Go ahead and argue the business sense of dropping a well-known brand, one that still held caché — I certainly have. And as a company that so many of us built up with our invested time and attention, I think we can express an opinion on whether we prefer a new brand as compared to the old one. But what we prefer to call others doesn’t matter. All that matters is what they want to be called.

I also think it’s okay to make clarifications such as X (formerly Twitter)”. But the longer we as a group resist just calling it X” and moving on, the longer those kinds of clarifications will be necessary.

Maybe I’ve blown this annoyance way out of proportion, and I don’t mean to compare the atrocities committed against trans people to some badmouthing against a multi-billion dollar social network. But I am reminded of this Dr. King quote: Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” I don’t think we get to pick and choose who or what is deserving of dignity.

All of this is to say, I guess I saw one too many people express something along the lines of I’ll never call it X, it’ll always be Twitter to me.” The same people who do their best to support the trans community by dutifully putting their pronouns in their bios and immediately drop a deadname when a friend or internet acquaintance transitions. And it makes me sad that they don’t see the hypocrisy of those actions, nor the ammunition it hands folks opposed to the very idea of trans people.

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