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Pandemic pronoun masks offer information and belonging

When Nazareth's Atlas Center offered pandemic masks with personal pronouns printed on them, more than 50 people signed up — including Mathew Ryan, a sophomore, who requested a "he/him" mask.

"I've met people and I've messed up their pronouns because I didn't know," says Mathew, who lives on a gender neutral floor on campus. "I believe Naz is an accepting place. They don't take discrimination lightly."

Mathew Ryan picks up a pronoun mask from Isa Reese.

Mathew Ryan picks up a pronoun mask from Isa Reese.

Isa Reese (seated) and Kacey Christiansen work in the Atlas Center.

Isa Reese (seated) and Kacey Christiansen work in the Atlas Center.

The Atlas Center and Diversity Resource Room in Shults 118 provides a safe, supportive place for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) students, as well as resources for any Nazareth community members to better understand gender and sexuality identities and experiences. The pronoun mask effort is designed to empower gender expression and help avoid people getting misgendered by others.

Rayna Mandara, a senior, appreciated the chance to pick up a "she/they" mask, saying, "I'm looking into my own gender identity. I appreciate the efforts of the Atlas Center." For Rayna, the mask discloses that both sets of pronouns align with Rayna's identity (she/her/hers and they/them/theirs).

Kacey Christiansen '20, who is now a grad student at Nazareth, works at the Atlas Center and says the mask pickups are also "an opportunity to see the space and know this center exists."

Rayna Mandara (left)

Rayna Mandara (left), picking up a pronoun mask, says the Atlas Center is "a place to be able to have discussions around inclusivity, especially for people who are trying to find their place and explore their identity in a safe environment."

Kacey Christiansen

Kacey Christiansen, who is pursuing a master's in higher education student affairs administration at Nazareth, is glad to see the interest in the pronoun masks.

Wearing a "he/they" mask "signals to people I am confident and upfront about who I am — and other people can do that, too," Kacey adds. "In my experience, pronouns are a way for trans and gender non-conforming people to express themselves fully in any given conversation. Pronouns matter to me because they represent who I am."

Isa Reese, a senior who also works at the Atlas Center, uses she and they pronouns: "I like when they are used interchangeably. It recognizes all aspects of me."

Isa Reese uses an analogy of the gravitational pull of planets as one way to think about gender.

Isa Reese uses an analogy of the gravitational pull of planets as one way to think about gender.

“He/they” masks are among the options.

“He/they” masks are among the options.

Isa wore a "they/them/theirs" mask during the recent mask pick-up session and described a friend's space analogy as a way to think about gender: If genders are planets, which one(s) do you feel pulled toward? "I hover around genderless and feminine, mostly," Isa says, adding: "Thinking about it in a limitless way such as space allows for us to see all of the living gender experiences that can happen."

Mathew says it's important that the College has a center like Atlas and that its resources are helpful for a variety of students, including allies. In a world where intolerance and violence targets some people based on gender expression and sexual orientation, Mathew also believes it sends a clear message: "Our College supports this. You can be yourself and don't have to be afraid."

About Atlas Center

The Atlas Center and diversity resource room has existed at Nazareth since at least 2016 and is part of the Office for Diversity & Inclusive Excellence Education, within Community and Belonging.

Get a mask

Anyone on campus can request a mask, through Saturday, May 1, 2021, using this pronoun mask request form. The masks are prioritized to go to students first, then to faculty/staff as supplies permit. Walk-ins are also fine whenever the Atlas door in Shults is open. If you have Qs, email atlascenter@naz.edu