What’s in a name?

Someone’s name is core to who they are and their identity.  It likely reflects both their family and their heritage.  Some people change their names – focusing more on their future than their past.

My last name is somewhat unique and has been subject to many mispronunciations and misspellings over the years.  I can still vividly remember when “Dummeier” was on a certificate I received in 2nd grade!

I work very hard to show respect to everyone I meet by pronouncing their name correctly – the way they choose to pronounce it.  I meet many people, so living up to this standard can be challenging – especially as our community and County workforce has become more diverse.  We have many colleagues from different nations, backgrounds, and experiences, and their names reflect these differences.  I am committed to getting their names right – to show them the respect they deserve.

I especially appreciate our colleagues who show me the grace of correcting me if I get it wrong – like in Tuesday’s meeting with some newer employees.

Our Pride Month “Lunch and Learn” video reinforced this key principle.  The conversation with Kit Gertje (Engineering Technician in Planning & Public Works) and Lucky Bradley (Grant Compliance in Human Services) helped me learn about LGBTQ+ history and even some vocabulary.  They also spoke to their experiences as transgender employees and provided insight into our broader LGBTQ+ community.

I particularly appreciated their sharing about misgendering.  It is upsetting to imagine someone intentionally using the wrong pronouns to be hurtful.  However, their comments about using grace when someone accidentally misgenders them were powerful – even sharing some personal experiences to illustrate their point.

If you missed the “Lunch and Learn” featuring Kit and Lucky, you can watch it here.

Additionally, we have other tools to help us learn about our incredibly diverse workforce and the community we serve, including our Diversity, Equity & Inclusion video series (featuring the voices and experiences of our employees) and training modules available at our DEI page.

Coinciding with Pride Month (Yes, Pierce County recognizes July as Pride Month – like Tacoma), this month’s DEI video features Kit talking about the importance he places on pronouns.

I’m grateful to Kit and Lucky for their willingness to share openly and honestly about their lives.  Their transparency helps us be better and more supportive colleagues,  and serve our community more effectively and compassionately.

So I will continue to do my best to get everyone’s name and pronouns right – as they choose to be known – even though I won’t be perfect.  But it is about treating everyone with the respect and dignity they deserve!

Thanks for reading,