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A trip to McDonald’s for a Happy Meal is usually an exciting event (nuggets for my kid and extra fries for me if said kid is feeling generous), but today was different. Maybe because I work for a diversity company? Maybe because I am the mother of a child with they/them pronouns? Maybe because I never paid enough attention before? 

After we ordered, the server asked me if the meal was “for a boy or a girl.” I hesitated. Both? Neither? Does it really matter? Considering their long-term investment in diversity, equity, and inclusion strategies, I honestly thought McDonald’s, as an organization, would stand against gendering toys or people, so I was shocked to be asked, and my kid was on high alert. What a quick way to throw a wrench in our day. I guess I just expected more. 

Yet, I also often find allies where I least expect them, and finding them has been pure joy for both me and my kid. When we’re asked for our pronouns, our faces light up, and you should see the delight we experience when someone picks up on my they/them pronoun usage and instinctively starts to follow suit. Even our family doctor once called to make sure she is using the correct pronouns and name, after I sent a text with a health question. 

When my kid receives a package or a piece of mail with their name on it, the look on their face is priceless; their happiness is off the charts. And isn’t that what we really want as parents anyway? Happy. Kids. 

I give these examples to show you that your effort — or lack of effort — is being seen and felt. Maybe you added your pronouns to your email signature. Maybe you made a point to ask “what are your pronouns?” when you met a new person. Maybe you just stopped staying “boys and girls” or “ladies and gentlemen.” Your efforts are being noticed and appreciated. 

You may be thinking, why should I share my pronouns? Isn’t that just for people who want attention? Isn’t that virtue-signaling

Well, from my perspective as a parent and ally, here’s why: because sharing shows that you acknowledge there are differences, that you are a safe space for non-binary individuals, that you are an ally to diverse people, and that you want to make someone else feel comfortable to share their full self and pronouns as well. 

Recently, my child has started wearing a pin that says “my pronouns are they/them,” and the response has been amazing. People ask about it and genuinely want to understand. They respect my child, and my child gets the opportunity to share their story and gain confidence, which is so rewarding to witness. In these moments, I’m thankful, but in that fast food moment, I was only disappointed. Let’s not turn a special meal or a trip to the toy store into an opportunity to misgender and exclude. Instead, let’s all do better together by acknowledging the full range of gender identities. 

And in case you were wondering, the toy choice was Disney Princess or Star Wars, and we elected to get Star Wars (because Chewbacca). 

McDonald’s, feel free to reach out to my kid; I know they’d make a great toy consultant.