A day or two ago, I ran into someone named Margaret Elizabeth Franklin, Jr. Well, I didn’t exactly run into her. I was being nosy like always, and I felt compelled to insert myself into her conversation. It was so fascinating. Usually, I merely listen when I’m being nosy. But this topic reeled me in. If you want to have privacy, don’t have conversations in a public place talking all loud. At least talk in a whisper or soft murmur. I can’t help it if I happen to hear what you’re discussing. ***laughing out loud***
Well, anyway, I was sitting in the lobby of an office building and a lady seated near me was talking to someone and identified herself as Margaret E. Franklin, Jr. She is the first female I have ever known of who was a Junior. It intrigued me, as I’ve been been very interested in studying non-traditional roles and responsibilities in our interpersonal relationships. So, I butted into the conversation, being that I’m such an inquisitive person. Margaret was named after her mom, Margaret Elizabeth Franklin. Mom is Senior, and this lady is Junior. This situation solidified for me a lesson I learned a couple of years ago. You can’t ever look at names to judge someone’s gender. A Junior is traditionally reserved for men, but women could just as easily be a Junior too. Margaret told me how her parents couldn’t decide on a name. They had been going back and forth over many different possible names without reaching an agreement. Dad suggested in frustration, “We should just name her Margaret Junior and call it a day.” After a short pause, they thought it would be the perfect name, and they decided to stick with it.
You can’t ever rely on a person’s name to determine their gender. I have worked with women named Eddie, Kyle, Andre, and Le’Dennis. My mom used to go a hairdresser in Waldorf, Maryland named Mikey. These are all names one might presume were men. Then there are names like Quincy, Shawn, Terry, Jamie, Chris, Randy, and Alex – all of which are unisex. Sometimes when responding to email messages at work, I get stuck knowing how to respond. Just this morning I was in that situation. I don’t want to write, “Mr. Smith” when it should be Ms. Smith” or address someone as “he” when “she” is the preferred pronoun. So, I try hard to address people in neutral ways if I’m unsure. Perhaps the person is gender fluid and is okay being addressed as either (or neither in some instances). I’m getting more comfortable asking if I the situation lends itself to do so. I would rather ask than get it wrong and address someone incorrectly. My friend Darren Calhoun opened my mind to this.
I told Margaret Junior how impactful her story was to me and I thanked her for speaking with me. I also let her know I’d be writing an article in my blog about our conversation. She thought that would be wonderful. I tell you like I told her, stories like this help to open people’s eyes and help eradicate biases that exist among the genders. In a world in which we’re now more aware than in year’s past of embracing people’s individual differences especially when it comes to gender roles and non-binary* labels and identities, the conversation I had with Margaret Junior reminded me how important it is for everyone to be secure and confident with themselves whoever they are; furthermore, it’s equally as important for everyone to respect others’ choices and let people be. Live and let live is the most stress-free way to be. Thank you, Margaret Junior, for helping me spread the word.
*Non-binary is a term that refers to individuals who label themselves neither as male or female, or as neither masculine or feminine. Sometimes non-binary can also refer to a person who identifies with a gender that is different than the anatomy they have. Some people use non-binary as a sub-compartmented term encapsulated within the transgender umbrella. Another term that is often bantered about in this context is intersex or intersexual (or intersectionality), though the terms are not necessarily interchangeable. This variations in the meanings of these terms can be a little confusing and also could be a separate article on its own. I’m making a note to write one on some future date. I’m not sure when that will be. But if you hunger to know now, watch this short, superb video clip. It’s a perfect description. Actually, it’s one of the best explanations I’ve ever seen.