In The 57 Bus, Dashka Slater writes a real and authentic story exposing the inequalities and discrimination the African American community and the LGBTQ community face daily. One common symbol referenced throughout the book is the card game Sasha played with her friends, also known as the 1001 Blank White Card game. The game brings to light a common form of discrimination non-binary people experience, including not respecting someone’s preferred pronouns, and delivers a raw perspective of judging someone based on their pronoun choice.
In the book, Slater writes about the card game when she writes, “A card called Luke…Sasha… Person was added to the index card deck. If someone calls Sasha by the wrong name, the card instructed, the offender must discard a card from his/her hand” (39). The purpose of the card is to remind Sasha’s friend group that they must respect Sasha’s choice of pronouns, and highlights a common theme in society today that isn’t always respected. Just a month ago, a teacher sued a school district because he was fired for refusing to use a student’s preferred pronoun. The teacher, Peter Vlaming, did not use the student’s preferred pronoun because his religious beliefs did not align. Instead, he promised to use the student’s name and avoid pronouns entirely. However, Vlaming still did not follow through with what he promised and was fired for harassment and discrimination. This shows that non-binary students aren’t always respected, especially within the education system, and highlights a commonplace of discrimination.
While discrimination is commonly found in the education system, disrespecting people’s pronoun choice extends even further: within the conversations people have daily. Columbia Public Schools has a policy that was revised a few years ago to protect students from being discriminated against because of their gender identity and gender expression, allowing students to use non-gender specific bathrooms. However, preferred pronouns are not always respected within the conversations they have with their peers and family members, outside of the education system. This implies that even though a student may be respected at school like Sasha was at Maybeck High School, people may not feel included or validated in other aspects of their lives. In The 57 Bus, this can be found when Debbie, Sasha’s mom, continued to refer to Sasha as “he” after the fire. On the first account, Debbie says, “Don’t you have anything to keep him warm?” (Slater 121) to the police officer, and on the second account she says, “They did it because he was wearing a skirt!” (Slater 122) while sobbing into the mothers arm when Sasha was being transported to the hospital. This shows that even the best meaning people, like Debbie’s mom who supported them throughout the process, accidentally mess up pronouns; however, it can still be detrimental to the person you are misgendering.
Sasha touched on this feeling of being misgendered when stating, “I don’t want people to think of me as a he, and when they say he, not only does it reinforce in their brains that I am a he, it also reinforces it in the brains of the people who are listening,” Sasha explains. “It doesn’t really directly affect me, at least to hear it—it’s more like, Huh, that’s not right. And when people use the right pronoun, when they use they or another gender-neutral pronoun, it feels validating” (Slater 39).
The 57 Bus presents a raw perspective of the discrimination non-binary people face in the community. Slater explores topics that are prevalent in our culture right now, including to what extent is it okay to not respect preferred pronouns, and highlights the importance of respecting people’s pronoun choice.