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The pronoun display that (almost) wasn’t

Written by: Peter Pearson, Children’s Minnesota employee. This is a guest blog for Visibly Vibrant, a blog about pediatrics, gender health and more inclusive care for LGBTQ kids.

The first thing to know about the Pronoun Galaxy is that it almost blew away. As noble an idea as it was – an interactive display where hundreds of people wrote down their pronouns on star stickers – the truth is that putting up a huge vinyl sail during the Twin Cities Pride Festival last summer was the definition of tempting fate. And fate delivered.

That Saturday morning, gale force winds ripped neighboring tents from the ground and sent them hurtling into downtown Minneapolis. The Pronoun Galaxy caught the wind square as it tore across Loring Park, pitching and billowing like a ship at sea. There were moments I thought we were going to lose it.

Pronoun galaxy at Twin Cities Pride
The Pronoun galaxy at Twin Cities Pride.

But we didn’t. The Pronoun Galaxy stayed up. It stayed up because we’d staked it down, tied it up, and people were literally holding it down with their bodies, standing on the tent poles, wrapping their arms around the tent so that the whole thing—and everyone underneath—stayed safe. Thanks to their tenacity, a wondrous community artwork is now on display in the Children’s Minnesota Minneapolis hospital skyway. It was so popular that we’re planning another one this summer, which will go up on the St. Paul campus.

Pronoun galaxy at Children's Minnesota Minneapolis campus
Close up of stars in the pronoun galaxy

When I started working at Children’s Minnesota, one of the first things I noticed was the stack of pronoun cards waiting at the front desk next to my name badge. At that moment, I knew this was going to be a safe place for me, my family and my daughter Blue Jay. I ruminated on how to convey that basic sense of safety and respect to a wider public, and the Pronoun Galaxy was born.

The universe is full of stars: pulsars, brown dwarfs, red giants and soft yellow ones like our own sun. Some are more common and some less, but all of them swirl together to form incredible galaxies, bound together by gravity and bathed in each other’s light. Just like people. Blue Jay put the first sticker on the display – the first time she’d ever written her pronouns in her life – and hundreds more joined her.

Strong winds are blowing in the world of medically necessary care for transgender and gender diverse youth these days. Sometimes it can feel like the wind might tear it all down. But there are important places ensuring that doesn’t happen. Children’s Minnesota is one of them. Where everyone gets to be a star.

Children’s Minnesota Gender Health Program

The Gender Health Program at Children’s Minnesota is an exclusively pediatric multispecialty team committed to providing mental health and essential medical care to transgender and gender diverse youth and supporting youth and their families with the resources and information they need to thrive. Our gender health specialists include clinicians in pediatrics, adolescent health, endocrinology, psychology, social work, nursing and speech therapy. No two kids are alike, and each young person’s journey with their gender identity and expression will be different. Recognizing this, we work closely with youth and families to help them access the specific community resources and medical and mental health care that is right for them.

Julianna Olsen