Misgendering

The following is an excerpt from a journal entry.*

When a cisgender person is misgendered, they are usually quite offended and justifiably so. They might even make a big deal out of it, without being seen as overreacting. When a transgender person (especially one who does not pass) is misgendered and dares simply to point out that they were misgendered, without getting offended or making a deal (big or small) out of it, they are often seen as being rude and not taking other people’s feelings into account. It occurs to me as I am writing this that I am so used to thinking about other people’s feelings at being corrected and so used to putting all of my effort into making the other person as comfortable as possible that I seldom or never think about my own feelings at being misgendered, and I am actually surprised when  someone asks that I correct them every time because they don’t want to get it wrong (and even then I am always saying that I really appreciate their effort and I am not offended when they slip up and that its totally understandable that it takes a while to get used to a new set of pronouns for a person).

I wrote this while thinking over a conversation I’d had with a friend who was telling me that I can’t be correcting her all the time when she uses the wrong pronoun. This left me at kind of a loss. I put so much effort into making sure that I am not correcting anyone too often that I sometimes wonder if I am not correcting people often enough.  Also, she generalized the conversation of one whole evening into “all the time”. As it happens, that was the conversation I chose to make a point that “no, I really did mean it about the pronouns” because no one had made any apparent effort to use the correct pronouns after the first conversation. Even then, I was trying to be very careful not to correct any more than absolutely necessary to make my point. I was, however, growing increasingly annoyed at her saying “she… sorry” and then never actually saying “he”. Was this more about my correcting her “all the time” or was it more about her not wanting to actually use my preferred pronouns because she is part of a transphobic religion? She is, in fact, the only person who has ever told me that they feel like I correct them too often. Eventually, she came out and said that she does not want to be corrected, at all, ever. The “all the time” generalization suddenly made a lot more sense.

How do I even deal with someone like that? I guess I can understand that some people really hate to be corrected on anything, but that’s not a blanket excuse that makes repeatedly misgendering someone suddenly ok. If someone refused to respect my preferred pronouns in an obvious way, I would just stop interacting with them (if possible). It’s not entirely clear that’s the case here, although it’s not entirely clear that it isn’t, either. If someone said “don’t correct me, ever” and then made a successful effort to use the right pronouns on their own, then I guess that would be alright. If they don’t make a successful effort on their own, though, it doesn’t really seem like there is any polite way left to try to get them to use the right pronouns. Well, maybe politeness is overrated. If they can go off on me for correcting them “all the time” then why can’t I go off on them for misgendering me (literally) all the time? Correcting someone may be a faux pas, but misgendering someone is downright rude (unless, apparently, they are trans… *grump face*).

This feels good, standing up for myself and saying that it is not ok for people to misgender me (even if I am trans and don’t pass yet), and yet I am still spending so much time thinking about other people’s feelings about being corrected that I have barely any idea what my own feelings about being misgendered are.

* This was totally supposed to be a lazy blog post where I just posted something verbatim from a pencil and paper journal entry, but then I ended up writing a bunch of other stuff, so I guess you’re just going to have to deal with having a real blog post.

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