misgendering

Gender Perspectives Vol. 20

download[In the Gender Perspectives series, I aim to highlight diverse kinds of personal narratives and reflections on gender, gender presentation, and identity, to broaden the gender conversation and boost a variety of voices. Check out the rest of the series.]

It’s been far too long since our last installation of Gender Perspectives, and I’ve been accidentally sitting on this draft for a while, so let’s get right to what I have for you today:

My Transgender Day of (in)Visibility | Wandering Aloud

Being trans is difficult; being middle-aged and non-binary doesn’t make it any easier. I know that there is ‘no right way to be trans’ and as a rule I’m proud to be out and visible. Still, sometimes I am left with the feeling that perhaps there is a ‘wrong way’

 

What I Want | THEMAGICSPACESHIP

I want to experience the relief and joy and affirmation my binary trans friends experience when they begin to transition and the world starts to read them correctly at last. Confusion is not good enough. Avoiding referring to me is not good enough. Being read half the time one way and half the time the other, and wrong all the time, is not good enough.

 

Self-Expression After Coming Out | Queerly Texan 

My self-expression changed when I became comfortable with myself [as a lesbian], and I think that’s true for a lot of people. When you spend months, years, or even decades being uncomfortable the second you stop feeling even a tiny percentage of that awkwardness, you never want to go back.

 

Gender? I Don’t Know A Gender! | Sofhoney

What are you?

I’m me! I’m Sof. I change frequently – that goes for mood, attraction, appearance, & a whole lot of other things, too. It’s something I beat myself up over – a LOT. It’s something I’ve come to realize doesn’t matter. Not to me, anyway – some people identify very strongly with a gender or sexuality & that is great & amazing & I support & uplift those who identify that way…it’s just that I personally don’t!

 

An Impossible Balancing Act

One of the frustrating things about being genderqueer (for me, anyway) is the balancing act of knowing you need to constantly remind people of your identity lest they forget and misgender you, but not wanting to make your genderqueerness your most important or defining character trait.

I struggle with this on social media particularly. I want to share all kinds of non-binary memes. I want to boost the visibility of trans people generally, and non-binary people particularly. I want the people around me both online and in real life to see non-binary representation often enough that it actually gels in their brains, so that it becomes second nature to them to think about gender as a plurality much greater than a binary, so that phrases like “both genders” are immediately, obviously *wrong* to them in the way they are to me.

I’d settle, though, for them at least remembering *my* gender.

But.

Possibly especially as a person who is agender much of the time, my (often lack of a) gender also isn’t the only or the first thing I want people to think of as defining who I am. For one thing, that’s a weird and (ideally) boring defining trait – can you imagine if we did that to binary people? “Oh, you know Mary? She’s pretty great. Yeah, she’s a woman. That’s kind of her thing.”

Just no.

The problem, though, is  that I really don’t think there’s a magic formula for the right amount of reminders that non-binary people exist and that I am one of them, for the right proportion of gender-related posts versus everything-else-I-like-and-care-about posts. On the one hand, I know there are people who will take any such reminders as too much, as harping, as being overly preachy or political. On the other hand, I know that some people will take any excuse to backslide,  to conveniently ‘forget’ my pronouns, or simply pretend they thought I’d stopped being non-binary or whatever. Any excuse to blame me for their mistakes and for the harm they cause me when they make them, really.

Those are the extremes, of course, and the people at either end of that spectrum aren’t people I am actually close to or really care about – they’ll probably self-select themselves out of my feed anyway. But everyone exists somewhere between those two poles, and I can’t please them all. I will be harmed one way or he other no matter what I do, and I hate that it is all my job to deal with and manage so much of the time.

I need people to know this my gender is vitally important, but once they’ve properly internalized that, I also need them to understand that it also really isn’t.

This is still the best distillation of this whole mess I’ve ever managed and it still doesn’t quite get the whole picture.

I guess I’ll just keep fumbling along!

How do you, or would you, deal with being misgendered? 30-Week Genderqueer Challenge Part 17

This post is part of my participation in the 30-day genderqueer challenge, which I have modified to a weekly exercise.

Today’s prompt: How do you, or would you, deal with being misgendered?

My instinct when misgendered is still to ignore it or let it slide. When dealing with in-person instances of being misgendered by someone who I’m out to about being genderqueer, I always hesitate on correcting people, and having done so, I usually feel like I’ve missed my opportunity. Though, honestly, part of why I haven’t gotten better at this is probably because it doesn’t happen all that often (both because people don’t often refer to me in the third person in my presence, and also because most of the people I spend my time with – and that I’m out to – are on top of this stuff anyway.

It’s also hard to develop good habits around this sort of thing, though, because I am not out everywhere. I am misgendered at work as a matter of course, and I’m accustomed to ignoring it. I’m sure I would push back if people tried to use their perceptions of my gender to police my presentation or behaviour or anything else, but that really isn’t a thing that I have to deal with, so it’s not even a huge deal.

When I’m not just ignoring the fact that I was misgendered, though, I generally go for a simple, straight-forward correction. When someone on social media says something calling me “she” or “her”, and I know they know my pronouns, I just respond with “they” or “them”. Sometimes I add a “please”, though I intend it more as a “Come on” than an “if you would be so kind”. If they don’t know my pronouns, I am likely to respond with something more like “Not she. They”, to clarify what I’m objecting to.

But yeah. I try to keep it simple. I do my best not to male people think I’m inviting them to derail whatever was actually going on into a conversation about gender. I do my best not to indicate that I am hoping for a weepy, teeth-gnashing apology. It usually doesn’t quite work, but I’m working on refining my technique, so let me know if you have any tips!


Catch the rest of my 30-week genderqueer challenge here!

Being a ‘good’ transqueer

There is a thing that sometimes happens, when I get accidentally misgendered by someone who knows I am genderqueer. It’s not what happens all the time – plenty of people are capable of smoothly correcting themselves, or if I have to correct them, they are good at just apologizing and moving on with a promise to try harder.

But sometimes. Sometimes the person is just. So. Sorry. Y’know? And they want me to know how sorry they are and they want me to confirm that I am aware that they are sorry. And they want to make sure I know that this is just hard for them you know?

And the thing is, I do know. The habit of unconsciously gendering people in a binary way and automatically using the corresponding pronouns with them is so deeply ingrained from such an early age that we don’t even realize we’re doing it most of the time. And changing that is a thing that actually requires work – it’s not a thing you can just decide to do and then do without putting actual effort into it.

I even know that changing the pronouns you use for a person (let alone changing to a pronoun set you’re not accustomed to using, or not accustomed to using to refer to a single, specific person) is actually harder for most people than it is for me, because the way I process language, especially when I’m talking, is not super automatic and I am naturally aware of each and every word I am using most of the time. And not everyone works that way. I get that.

So I tell them yes, I know it is hard (even though I know it’s almost certainly not as hard as they are making it out to be). And they thank me, and they applaud me for being so reasonable and cool about it.

And then I feel gross. Because the unspoken clause in these accolades is always that they are glad I’m not being like those *other* transqueers, the thin-skinned ones who don’t accept that their kinda-trying-but-not-really approach is the best they are willing to offer. The ones who freak out and aren’t doing themselves any favours by alienating so many people who definitely don’t mean to hurt them, after all. Thank goodness I am not like those people, right?

But those people are my people. And I feel the same pain they feel when I am misgendered. And I am angry that so often, when I am still reeling from having been misgendered, again, by someone who knew better, I wind up having to do the emotional labour of consoling them about it, of telling them that everything is ok, that they are not a bad person, even though I was one the one who was hurt here, and even while they offer me nothing to indicate that they will actually do better next time, or ever really.

And I don’t quite know what to do with that. But I have started pushing back in small ways. When someone minimizes the impact of their words on me, or when they tell me it was a just a reflexive mistake, even while I am reassuring them that I know that, I take the opportunity to point out that the fact that reflexively misgender me is in fact the real problem. It tells me that they still see me in the gender I used to pretend to inhabit, even after all this time. It tells me they have not done the work to change their perceptions of gender (which is something we should all do, all of the time, regardless of anything else).

It is hurtful that there are people who have known me through my transition, that still see me as a woman. I know that it is true, really, and I’ve never expected anything else, but it is still shitty to be reminded of it. It hurts me. I am hurt by their lack of effort, and by their unconcern. And from now on, I am going to make sure that they know that.

Hopefully it will help.

On “ladies”, and not being one

I realized recently that my relationship to the word “ladies” (specifically, my feelings around being included in a group of people being called “ladies”) is a little complicated.

Ideally, generally, I prefer not be called a lady. Because I’m not one. And when someone thinks I am, they are not really seeing me, and that is a uniquely uncomfortable experience.

And mostly, I don’t get called a lady. It happens sometimes if I am out with a lady friend (or someone else who is perceived as such) that wait staff will call us “ladies”. I always cringe inwardly but don’t say anything, because hey, passing short-term relationships like that often aren’t worth it.

Though there is always that little voice in my head that is miffed – how hard is it to just not gender people? “Folks” is an easy enough go to, and more recently I was pleased with a waiter who just called me and a friend “you two” (as in “how are you two doing? Can I get you two anything?”) – it worked very naturally and made me happy.

It also still happens at work. Because I am not out at work (Yet! I swear this will happen though!) I am often lumped in with the “ladies”. And this is where complicated feelings happen.

The thing is, ladies are often awesome people, and it can feel like a compliment be counted as one of them. It all depends on who is saying it really – a waitperson on auto-pilot is just off-handedly misgendering me, but people at work are including me in something pretty great.

To be honest, one of the things I love about working in public libraries is the sheer lack of men. Going to a departmental meeting and being the only person there who isn’t a woman as amazeballs, y’all. My bosses are all women, and the only men working at my branch (though this isn’t true system-wide) are entry-level workers. It is a strange and lovely experience.

And when these amazing people include me among their number, part of me kind of wishes I was one of them.

Of course, I *am* one of them in all the ways that count to me – we are working together to make our library awesome and engage kids and help people with all of their various needs. And I don’t think this will change significantly ifwhen I come out as genderqueer.

So yeah, I don’t know what the point of this is. Just, having mixed feelings about being misgendered is weird, is all, and I felt like writing about it!

I’m curious of other people have had similar feelings?

What to do about babies and gender

[Content note: reference to adult-child related sexual creepiness]

As a person who intends to have kids at some point, and as someone who is very aware that you can’t tell what a person’s gender is (/what their gender is going to be or whatever) when they’re born, I have to deal with the question of what I’m going to do about my future babies and gender.

I mean, hopefully it’s obvious that I have no intention of imposing any sort of gender norms or expectation on any kids I have. And I will listen to them about their own gender as soon as they are able to tell me about it. But there is still the question of what to do about pronouns etc until they’re able to do that.

In an ideal world, I would lean toward using neutral pronouns – either the perennial ‘they’, or something specific as more of a placeholder (I remember reading a long time ago about someone who referred to their fetus using the ‘ou’ pronoun, and I like the idea of using something that isn’t so clearly linked to non-binary/genderqueer identities, since that may carry a lesser version of the baggage involved in traditionally masculine or feminine pronouns.)

But living as I am in an entirely un-ideal world, I’m not sure this is what I will actually end up doing. I may very well wind up simply using the pronouns assume the baby is cisgender (unless they’re intersex, in which case, gender neutral pronouns it will be until I can hear otherwise from them), as a sort of default/educated guess (since there is a high likelihood that they will be cis), for a few reasons.

The main one is, I just don’t know that I have the energy to have all the conversations that would be involved in refusing to gender my baby. Although I am not going to adhere to gendered expectation with clothing, toys, etc with them, I know that people would push back harder against gender neutral pronouns than other things, simply because it makes them uncomfortable to use them. Which is a terrible reason, obviously, but still. I have enough work on my hands doing this for myself, and people are more upset by gender neutral pronouns when they are applied to children, and more prone to inappropriateness or downright violence (or trying to get me to lose custody of my children even, probably) than I am prepared to deal with.

Which, on some level I feel like maybe I should not have kids unless I am willing to fight for that for them. But on the other hand, I don’t think that placeholder pronouns alone are going to harm a kid who is otherwise raised as much as possible without gendered expectations. I don’t think that ‘he’ or ‘she’ is somehow inherently a more harmful placeholder than ‘they’ or ‘ou’ could be anyway.

My other fear, though, is not about me and my own energy, as much as it is about my child. A baby who is referred to by gender neutral pronouns may attract some really unsavoury behaviours from people who really really need to know the baby’s ‘real’ gender. I am quite sure that refusing to indicate a binary gender for my baby would make a whole lot of people suddenly really interested in changing that baby’s diaper, or helping them with their bath, or something. And that level of creepiness is not something I want a baby or toddler subjected to.

I am also afraid that being quite to obvious about my gender neutral approach to parenting would result in other adults trying to over-compensate for that, and my children being subjected to even more over-the-top, explicit gender policing than they otherwise would.

So, I dunno. I don’t know what the least harmful route to take, really. I’m just going to do my best and what feels right, I guess.

Dysphoria and how you manage it: 30-Week Genderqueer Challenge part 5

This post is part of my participation in the 30-day genderqueer challenge, which I have modified to a weekly exercise.

Today’s prompt: Dysphoria and how you manage it

I actually wrote a bit about this not too long ago, but I didn’t really address management tactics, so here goes.

The main thing for me, in dealing with the social dysphoria that inevitably comes from being misgendered on the daily by people who just plain old don’t know any better, is constant reminders that I am not defined by how others see me. I mean, hilariously, people also tend to assume I’m straight, so given that level of obliviousness, I find it hard to be bothered when they think gender is binary also.

I find it easiest to manage social dysphoria when I my self-presentation is authentic and when I haven’t already deliberately watered down my gender ambiguity out of fear. If I’ve deliberately presented myself as binary-gendered (whatever the fuck that even means, really…), then I find it harder to shake of misgendering that occurs, because I partially blame myself, even though I know that’s not actually valid or called for. on the flip side, if I’m looking good by my own standard, and if I feel awesome about the image I’m projecting, I’m just straight-up less likely to care what other people think about what I look like, so.

As for body dysphoria, I don’t have as much experience with it. Some days I look in the mirror and am surprised at what I see. Some days I am suddenly in love with my body and some days I am shocked when my body seems gendered to me in a way I don’t want it to be. I mean, I know bodies don’t have genders, I just don’t have better words for that experience. Sometimes I look in the mirror and see a woman’s body, and I have all kinds of feelings around that. Other days, I see my body, and it is a part of me and who I am, and it is great.

I don’t have any really solid ways of dealing body dysphoria, though it is usually mercifully short-lived for me. Binding helps, but if I am in this headspace, I will really only see the ways in which binding fails to give me a distinctly masculine shape, so it definitely doesn’t get at the root of the problem, whatever that may be.

The only other thing I can do is throw myself into activities that absorb my brain, the ones that settle me into a more agender space, where I am less aware of myself as a physical being, and more just a free-floating context-free self – writing, or watching tv, or crafting can do this for me. Though I think this might actually more honestly be an “ignore it til it goes away” approach rather than an actual preventative/management measure.

So yeah, I’d love to hear others’ strategies for dealing with body dysphoria, since I don’t really have any solid ones.


Catch the rest of my 30-week genderqueer challenge here!