As Caitlyn Jenner hysteria fades into the background, I have to ask once more why it matters so much to so many adult human beings what another adult human being wants to be called. If I know you as Steve the Human Resources Guy and you ask me one day to start calling you Chip, or Donald, or Marilyn, or Xerxes, or Puff the Magic Dragon, then we have a very simple social transaction to complete. Recognizing that I've called you "Steve" for a while – possibly a very long time – you will agree to cut me a tiny bit of slack if I forget and call you "Steve" in the next few weeks. In return, I'll call you whatever you want to be called. The odds are pretty good if you're in HR that I haven't been calling you "Steve" much anyway.
This is a simple issue because you and I are not life partners or family members or passionate lovers or close friends or even casual friends. We just work together. That's it. You don't give me input on my life decisions and I don't give you input on yours, absent of course one of us asking for it. We're people who have been brought together by coincidence to share a workplace. We will pass each other in the hall, exchange perfunctory greetings, and perhaps have some small talk. That is the extent of our interactions.
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Accordingly it doesn't much matter to me whether I say "Hi Steve" or "Hi Donna" as I shuffle past you toward the bathroom for my Post-Chipotle Constitutional. Some people you know will find your choice weird. Some won't. Some people will be supportive. Some won't. That's life and none of it matters in the slightest because we just work together.
My university just had its first transgender faculty member make the change (or whatever you'd call it) in the past few months and there has been no shortage of commentary from the workforce here. Most of it has been supportive. Supportive or otherwise, though, I can't figure out why anyone has an opinion on it at all. Ditto Jenner. The decisions of people like celebrities or co-workers are about as relevant to your life as the weather on Venus. It matters as much to me whether Former Olympian Bruce Jenner decides to don a dress and be Caitlyn as it does if instead he decided to remain Bruce and dye his hair purple. You want to be a woman now? Cool. Knock yourself out. You and I are never going to meet, so who gives a shit what I think? Why would I waste time thinking anything at all?
I don't mean to come off as unsupportive. My point is merely that unless the decision affects me directly somehow – for example, if I was married to a woman and she decided she was going to become a man I'd be justified in having an opinion on that, despite not having any control over what happened – I don't even want to waste my time formulating opinions about it. It accomplishes nothing. It's just fodder for people to sit around and gossip and say "Oh did you hear about ____? What do you think?" If that conversation was about someone's choice of hairstyle we would all recognize it as petty and unproductive. Yet when the change is something "bigger" and less familiar to us, suddenly everyone is forthcoming with their two cents.
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Why? If we're all going to sit around and pontificate on things we find Weird about our professional colleagues I hope the guy with the "More Guns = Less Crime!" bumper sticker and the secretary who thinks angels are real get a comfortable seat because this is going to take a while.