Before addressing the name question, I will talk about how I have evolved with time.
In India, I have been used to formally addressing everyone as either “Sir” or “Madam” during in-person meetings and in virtual communications when I have known them — “Sir/Madam” or rarely “Madam/Sir” in virtual communications when I could not decipher gender per first names.
As compared to remembering faces, I have yet to learn to remember names even when during in-person and audio-video formal meetings, it becomes difficult for “Sir” or “Madam” to recognize which one among them I am addressing unless there is only one “Sir” and one “Madam” in the formal meeting.
I now understand this to be my unconscious bias. After moving to the United States, “Sir” got formally replaced with “Mr.” and “Madam” got formally replaced with “Ms.” more so in my virtual communications than during in-person meetings, and I was personally happy with my apparent growth. Moreover, I was most happy when I had to address MD/DO/PhD as “Dr.” in my virtual communications as I did not have to decipher gender per first name.
Then, times evolved further. The current understanding is that we must never presume anyone’s gender because gender is a self-identifying characteristic and may have to be self-disclosed at the first interaction itself. However, unless gender-appropriate pronouns and titles have been self-disclosed and thus attached to the full names themselves, the initiators of first interactions may have to first disclose their own self-identifying characteristics and then ask their addressees how they want to be addressed.
Sometimes, this may raise eyebrows when some addressees may question why they are being asked how they want to be addressed, especially when it may appear to them that this must be historically, culturally, and socially self-evident. Alternatively, some may raise concerns about the denial of self-determined privileges with the omission of certain gendered titles and pronouns, which may have historically, culturally, and socially signified privilege.
I personally think that we should formally fall back on full names sans titles and pronouns during our in-person meetings and in our virtual communications at diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplaces unless individuals choose to self-disclose how and with what they should never be addressed.
Date, time, and place of birth with a christened full name may be the most uniquely celebrated characteristic for any person, and therefore, addressing everyone with a full name as a formalized professional workplace policy and procedure may be self-evidently acceptable, culturally and socially.
Titles may sometimes be needed to formally highlight the professional roles of addressed and introduced persons during in-person meetings and in virtual communications, but identification of professional roles can be separately addressed and introduced on follow-through, thus potentially deeming the use of titles to be redundant unless specifically requested by the addressed and introduced persons.
In the end, while envisioning the futuristic title “Hn.” for universal use while interacting with humans and “Okn.” for universal use while interacting with self-disclosed otherkin, I have always been using my full name sans “Dr.” during my self-disclosed introduction before separately explaining my professional role on follow-through to my patients, audiences, and listeners.
I am a sincere believer while proposing the use of full names sans titles as a diverse, equitable, and inclusive measure during our professional and formal interactions unless addressees self-disclose their requests for personally preferred templates of self-identifying addresses.
Deepak Gupta is an anesthesiologist.
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