Don't Be So Certain
Updated: Feb 27
I suppose I should start with the bottom line, which is, sex, gender and orientation are not synonymous. Like, not even close.
Sex is your assignment at birth - whether male or female or in possession of both male and female parts.
Gender is your self designation - whether man or woman or nonbinary.
Expression is your behavior, your appearance, your mannerisms - whether “masculine” or “feminine.”
Orientation is who you are romantically attracted to - whether men, women, none of the above, all of the above or the spaces in between.
And while the permutations of sex, gender, expression and orientation are arguably endless, I am of the opinion that each and every one of us is perfectly and wonderfully made.
Here’s what’s also true though: No single permutation looks a particular way for certain.
We think like it does. But, it doesn’t.
We talk like it does. But, it doesn’t.
We act like we know. But, we surely don’t.
Why is that?
Are we in that much of a hurry? Are we so arrogant to think we will cross paths with one another again and again and again? Have we forgotten we are furthest from gods?
Each and every time we lean into presumption about who a person is; how he, she and/or they identify; how he, she and/or they dress; and who he, she and/or they love(s), we forfeit the gift of sight. We reject the opportunity to see the wonder humanity truly is and was intended to be. We are choosing implicit bias over discovery, stagnation over progress, and comfort over breakthrough.
Here’s my challenge:
Act like you don’t know. Because you don’t. Until you ask.
Ask. Early and often. (Because you are chronically curious about people, and give an authentic damn.)
Lead by example to create safe spaces. (i.e., “Hi, my name is Madison, and I use she/her/they/them pronouns, and you?”)
Make neutral verbiage choices a starting place. (i.e., "What is your relationship status?” “Do you have a significant other?” “Tell me more.")
One of my most memorable workplace watercooler experiences began with a conversation I overheard, and it went like this:
Person A: Couldn’t help but notice the ring on your finger. What about you and your wife? She made the move yet?
Person B: No, my husband has not made the move yet, but they begin their transition next week.
Person A: My sister has a girlfriend, thinks she’s gay. Totally get it. Good for you.
Person B: Right.
Person B: **exits common area… coffee cup abandoned**
For those curious, few things:
This exchange was between a new hire (Person B, he/his) and his manager (Person A).
Said new hire left the company for “an offer he couldn’t refuse” less than a month later.
Said offer required a cross continental move - husband (they/them) in tow.
Moral of this particular story? In a world where far more are closeted than out, don’t piss on flowerbeds. Alternatively said, when another invites you to see them, take the invitation seriously. And, don’t you dare shut your eyes.
(Said offer, by the way, didn’t factually exist, I later was told by Person B.)
Then, as I land this plane, a reflection exercise:
If I tell you I am black, female, that my pronouns are she, her, they and them, and that I identify as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, what have you ACTUALLY learned about my orientation, for example?
Am I a lesbian? Am I bisexual? Am I asexual? Or otherwise? Am I giving a nod to my orientation at all? Could I instead be inviting you to explore my identity or choice of presentation? And if so...
Do you nod and smile? Do you ask that I speak more specifically? Do you perceive and/or accept my invitation? Why or why not?
Then, how would you begin to leverage what I’ve shared in a manner that demonstrates your commitment to creating a safe space for me, and in turn, a safe space for you, and in turn, a safe space for US?
#TDLR (Too long didn’t read?): The here and now is a gift, hence why it’s called the present. Take pride, pun intended, in delving beneath surface level engagement.
Then, even at the point where you THINK you know a person on the heels of a particular line of questioning, it’s quite probable you still have no idea who he, she and/or they are.
It’s by mastering the art of seeing and being seen do we become better allies, advocates, change agents and revolutionaries to those untapped, overlooked and lacking statistically significant workplace representation.
The capacity to thrive is our birthright.
Unsolicited bonus tip: Be reminded that identity is fluid. This means how one self-identifies today won’t necessarily be how he, she and/or they self-identifies tomorrow.
Said another way, mastering the art of seeing and being seen is more than asking questions and demonstrating chronic curiosity. Mastery DEMANDS lending space for others to navigate the human experience - from self-exploration, to self-discovery, to self-definition, to self-redefinition… On his, her and/or their own terms.
Y’all get me?
Connect with Madison on:
Madison L. Mobley (she/her/they/them) is black, female, millennial, and a Columbia University Alum who, once upon a time, majored in Sociology and aspired to be a freelance journalist. Spoiler alert: Freelance journalism didn’t pay the New York City bills, resulting in a reluctant power pivot.
Fast forward 10+ years, and Mobley's career journey includes time at EMC Corporation, Dell EMC, & Procter & Gamble where she's held global leadership positions in sales, category management, customer advocacy, and HR strategy.
Present day, she is an Enterprise Sales Director at Fairmarkit, a venture backed Procurement Tech startup.
There, most of her time is spent automating tailspend management (most often the 20% of annual spend made up by 80% of an organization’s suppliers) and driving supplier inclusion and compliance through intelligent sourcing.
Madison's approach is wildly unconventional, and her appetite for disrupting the status quo for the better is insatiable. She attracts professionals who are visionaries in their respective industries, seeking competitive advantage and distinction.
In EVERYTHING Madison does, whether personally or professionally, she is an unapologetic advocate for a brighter future (of work). A future that must be representative of the world in which we live. A future that’s growing bolder. A future that demands leaders walk the talk or get called out and left behind.
Find her on LinkedIn and/or Clubhouse using her outside voice at @madisonlmobley.