The ‘Shit Cis People Say’ Alphabet: P is for “Phase”

Welcome to another episode of the Shit Cis People Say Alphabet! Today:

P is for “phase”

I wrote about this before, when someone close to me expressed a concern that my non-binary-ness was a phase.

For some reason, cis people are very concerned about the stability of other people’s gender identities, and seem to have decided en masse that unless they are sure that your gender and pronouns are never going to change again, then your preferences aren’t real and don’t have to be – or possibly even shouldn’t be? – respected.

You’ll see this particularly with children; cis people spend a lot of time hand-wringing about whether simply recognizing and respecting your child’s stated identity may – somehow – harm them if they later decide to identify with the gender they were assigned at birth.

I am here to say: it literally does not matter whether a person’s currently stated gender turns out to be a temporary ‘phase.’ It really doesn’t. It’s none of your business in the first place, for one thing. If a person changes their mind about their gender, or if their gender changes later, then that’s what happens and it’ll be fine. Why do you even care?

More importantly, even if this is a phase, what makes you think that you somehow have the magical ability to know what that person’s gender is or will be after the phase is complete? Defaulting to pronouns based on birth-assigned gender simply because you think someone’s non-assigned gender might be a phase is nonsensical, to be honest. It always makes the most sense to go with the best information you have available, and the best information available always is, and always will be, the information you get from the first-person perspective of the person whose gender you’re worrying about.

So, honestly, just stop worrying about whether someone’s gender is a phase! If it turns out to be one, they’ll let you know, and you can handle it then!

 


Check out the rest of the “Shit Cis People Say” alphabet!

6 comments

  1. Not *directly* on point, but your “so what if it’s a phase” attitude reminded me of something else that’s always bugged me: the persistent insistence that sexual orientation is/is not a choice. I mean, so what if it feels like a choice (for some people)??

    We’re pretty gosh darn clear, to take another example, that religion is a choice. And that sometimes people go through phases where they are more or less devout, or they may change faiths altogether. Doesn’t stop us from seeing faith as an important element of identity, deserving of respect.

    And so what…

    1. That all being said, it’s not exactly a choice in many cases. I’m not an atheist by choice exactly. I was convinced of atheism. I can’t just choose to believe something else. This is what I believe (or don’t believe). Most people I’ve met feel similarly. They might choose how to practice their religion but ultimately many religious things and the concept of choice doesn’t exactly fit together neatly in my head.

      …And back to the point of the post, it’s *not* a phase in many cases, and sometimes the counter argument “even if it is a phase, still worthy of respect” is sort of giving the bigots and other non-accepting people too much credit as correct, it feels like to me. For so many people they agonize over if it’s just a phase, and they don’t come out until they’re pretty confident it’s not. Yes some of these people are young, but spending 6 months thinking about this is a big chunk of life for someone who’s only 15, for instance. I’m cis myself so I may be wrong about all this but I also am asexual and see this with asexuality arguments, the “so what if I won’t be asexual forever” comeback… Other (usually cis) people being concerned it’s just a phase should consider the idea that the 15 year old, or whoever it is, almost definitively has considered that more in depth than the cis person, and it’s a form of gaslighting to insist they don’t know how to interpret their own experiences, that they’re too transitional to be real, etc. I don’t necessarily love the counter argument “So what if it is a phase? Still use their pronouns” completely, because it seems to accept that it’s LIKELY it’s “just” a phase.

      1. Lemme clarify: I don’t believe calling something a “choice” renders it frivolous or easily interchangeable. My choice of lunch meat for a sandwich may not reflect a deep, considered compatibility with the rest of my identity and aspirations for a life in which my body and spirit can feel most at ease; my choice of (for another example) whether or not to have children most certainly does.

        The rest of your comment speaks directly to why, for me, the “…and so what?” approach feels so important. Because our collective insistence on “NOT a choice,” “NOT a phase,” often seems grounded in both need and desire to push back against the bigots. To deny them the space from which they pick apart our lives, or the lives of people we hold dear.

        I, like you, am concerned about the 15 year-olds agonizing for months (or YEARS) about what it looks like to be true to themselves. I, like you, want those kiddos protected from harm, be it gaslighting or physical violence or anything else they’re facing down from bigoted adults. And on their behalf — to stake out space for those kids to try on identities; to speak truths that they may or may not know the truth of *until* they are able to speak them; to do all SORTS of developmentally appropriate self-formation — it costs me nothing to face down the bigots and say, “I hear your argument, and so what? That the best you got? So. What.”

        Thanks for the conversation!

  2. When we let family know our child was a trans girl my sister and her partner wrote a long letter stating “their position” on the subject. They felt due to the risk it being a phase they would need to keep their children (2yrs and a yet to be born baby) away, until such a time that our child was old enough to understand the full implications and decide for themselves. So sad.

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