People showing up at a self defense class are often a bit nervous. We try to put folks at ease as much as possible with a friendly opening. We thank them for showing up and compliment them on their bravery for being willing to dig into such a loaded and powerful subject with us. We let them know where to find bathrooms and drinking water. We ask if anyone’s familiar with the story of Home Alive, and fill in any missing important details.

Then we briefly introduce ourselves, and, unless the class is very large, start a go-round where everyone gets to share their name, their preferred gender pronoun (we like to explain why we are asking this — see below), and something else — maybe one thing they’re hoping to get out of the class, or maybe something more relaxing, like one thing they’re looking forward to about springtime. Then we move into Agreements.

Note on why we provide the opportunity to share preferred gender pronouns: Our society is structured very strictly along a two-choices-only (binary) gender system. It’s enforced every time we fill out forms, refer to someone in conversation, or even try to use a public restroom. This works fine for some people, but not very well for the many gender-variant folks who don’t fit easily into one or the other box. So we ask this question in order to avoid assumptions and support everyone’s right to self-identify. We encourage everyone to listen and respect each other’s preferences.