Did They Just Say ‘She’?

One of my classes involves a lot of discussion. I have an obviously masculine name, which has been used to name me many times over the course of the semester. We have also all done oral presentations. No one has given me any sort of problem with my name or appearance all semester, and people generally identify me as male over 90% of the time, anyway. I can almost take it for granted that people will perceive me as male. So when a couple of people referred to me using feminine pronouns during the class discussion today, I wasn’t sure I’d heard them right.

Well, that wasn’t the only reason why I wasn’t sure they’d actually just said that. I have an unfortunate tendency not to trust my own memories and perceptions. If someone remembers something differently than I do, I’ll assume I’m the one remembering it wrong. If someone else hears something differently, I’ll doubt my perceptions rather than theirs. Even when I am just showing up for an appointment, I’ll go out of my way to make sure I have the appointment card with me, as physical proof, to myself and others, that I came to the right place at the right time, because apparently I have so little trust in my own memory and perception that I’m never comfortable insisting “No, I’m sure I came at the right time.” So when someone uses the wrong pronouns for me in a situation where I’m expecting people to get my pronouns right as a matter of course (e.g. a class with a lot of discussion where I’ve been known by an unambiguously masculine name for half a semester), my first thought will be that I must have heard them wrong.

This incident really threw me for a loop. I wanted to ask someone else if they heard that, too, to verify my own perceptions. I decided to ask the teacher if she heard it, after everyone else left. If multiple people in the class were using the wrong pronouns for me, she would be the first person to talk to in order to deal with it, anyway.

It turns out she didn’t hear it. She wasn’t sure it hadn’t happened, though, she just didn’t notice it if it did. I said a bunch of things to minimize the whole situation, like that it’s not a big deal, and maybe I heard them wrong anyway, and I’m sure they weren’t doing it on purpose. But she told me that if I thought I’d heard it, that it had probably happened, and she took me seriously. So we talked about what she could do to deal with it if it happened again. I asked her to just make a point to use the correct pronouns for me if someone used the wrong ones (not to correct them, just to use the right ones and hope people learned by example). I wanted as little attention drawn to me as possible.

But now I’m thinking I should’ve asked her to correct people if they use the wrong pronouns (using the no big deal method–just correct them and move on). It would draw slightly more attention to the issue, I guess, but it would be more likely to work. I guess I am afraid that if she corrects someone using the wrong pronouns, that they will try to insist that I am a girl. In front of the whole class. That’s much more likely to happen if someone was purposely using the wrong pronouns, I think. And there is one person in the class that I could imagine doing that on purpose. But if that did happen… the teacher would have my back. She would be the one dealing with the problem. I could just sit there… being horribly embarrassed… *sigh* But, even if that did happen, maybe at least some people in the class would learn the importance of using the correct pronouns for people. Maybe it would be worth it. It’s not like I’ll have to deal with any of these people after the class ends, anyway. It’s not a class in my area of study. So that would end up okay, right?

I really hate dealing with shit like this, though. It’s even worse when I end up wondering if I’m making a big deal over nothing. It’s more likely that it actually happened if I heard twice than if I only heard it once, though. Imagining it once is plausible, but twice? When he/she and his/her are sooo much more distinct than, say, man/ma’am? But I still keep doubting myself.

And why can’t my voice just drop an octave or two already? That’s the number one thing that leads people to think I’m female, anyway. Or is it the way I dress? Is it my hair? Is my binder even more worn out than I thought it was? I’ve already been avoiding wearing a pendant I really like because it seems like people identify me as female more often when I’m wearing it. And I have this ritual of staring at myself in the mirror any time I’m wearing a new shirt or hoodie, or wearing something old in a new way, to make absolutely sure that I don’t look like I have too weird of a bulge on my chest. And then even if it probably looks fine I usually end up changing my clothes multiple times before I go out, anyway. I’m sad that summer is coming, because I won’t be able to get away with wearing a hoodie over a light sweater over a t-shirt over a binder any more. It’s just getting too warm for that. And I’m not sure I’ll feel comfortable wearing fewer layers to obscure my chest fat, especially when I’m wearing a backpack, which has a way of pulling loose clothing tighter against my chest.

I really hate dealing with all of this doubt and uncertainty and insecurity all the time. I especially hate when things like this happen and remind me that at least some of it is warranted.

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7 thoughts on “Did They Just Say ‘She’?

  1. You shouldn’t doubt yourself so often! From what you described, I bet they actually said “she,” so I’m glad that you told a teacher about it. I also can’t imagine what it would be like to be in your shoes. How do you deal with all of those things and all of those people?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, complaining about it on the internet and then getting reassuring responses helps, lol ^.^

      Also, reading about other people dealing with similar things and knowing I’m not alone. And being at a campus which is supportive of LGBT folks, and even has an office for LGBT student services where I can go for help if I need to. And having supportive friends and family. And supportive professors, for that matter.

      Also, dealing with all the shit that goes along with transitioning sucks slightly less than not transitioning, so there’s that.

      Thanks for the encouragement. I am trying to start doubting myself less. I can’t believe it took me until just very recently to even notice that I do that at all! Actually, it was when I read about gaslighting and how doubting your memories/perceptions is one sign that someone might be gaslighting you, that I noticed that I do this. But nobody is, or has, gaslighted me. Unless you count society as a whole telling me I’m a girl for most of my life, even though I’m not? Seriously though, I wonder if that actually counts.

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      • That’s good. I am happy that you have supportive friends and family, because I know that many LGBT people do not. If I was trans or gay for example, I am almost completely sure that my parents (dad mostly) would reject me and be ashamed. (They are both very conservative. Not very religious though, luckily.) I can’t imagine what it’s like for people without supportive family members.

        You’re welcome! That’s interesting. This one guy in my science class a few years ago was transitioning, and to me he was very passable (transgender male) so what made me a bit angry was the fact that some people went out of their way to call him the wrong name and wrong pronoun. The worst part is that he didn’t correct them. I felt so bad but at the time I was more shy than I am now. Also, I almost know for sure that this was on purpose. Thinking about it now, maybe he was like you, and he thought that he didn’t hear them correctly.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Actually, my parents are both conservative and religious. I was very afraid they would reject me when I came out. But instead they just didn’t know what to think, and after they educated themselves about it and had some time to get used to it, they became very supportive.

          With the guy in your science class, if it’s something that happened multiple times and was even noticed by others in the class, I think it’s likely he heard them just fine. It can be really hard to stand up for yourself and insist that people use the correct pronouns for you, especially if you aren’t sure that anyone will back you up. Also, it’s inherently a little confrontational to correct people and requires good assertiveness. When I started transitioning, I absolutely did not have the sort of assertiveness that I do now. There were so many times I let it slide when people used the wrong pronouns. And when I finally did decide to be assertive and make a point that I totally actually meant it when I asked people to use masculine pronouns for me, I ran into resistance from one particular individual. She kept telling me that I couldn’t be correcting her all the time (read: at all), and she would say “sorry” instead of correcting herself when I did call her on using the wrong pronouns. I always felt like I was asking so much of people and needed to be patient and understanding–to the point where I was sacrificing my own needs trying to bend over backwards for other people, which absolutely did not work with that one girl. As much as she tried to make herself look like the good person, she had absolutely no intention of changing her pronoun usage. And she blamed me for it as much as possible.

          Anyway, my main point being, it can be really hard to stand up for yourself and insist on correct pronoun usage, especially if you are on your own without support, and you buy into all the messages that you’re asking for too much and being unreasonable when you correct improper pronoun usage. And, of course, it’s even harder if you’re not sure you even heard them right.

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        • I knew this guy for a while, and he’s not exactly the shy type. He used to be, but then he started to open up once he identified as a male. I believe that he just didn’t want to start anything. I also knew another transgender male, and he was the opposite of shy. He was very open for being trans, and although I didn’t like him (for his personality) I did really respect how confident and proud he was to be trans. The transgender people that I have seen are not that shy in my experience. Probably because I live in a very open and accepting city. So I don’t think this applies here.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for sharing this. Even though I’m always trying to get my language right, it’s so good to know the power it has on people. Really good blog post.

    Liked by 1 person

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