setting boundaries

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!

Questions from the search terms: “I changed my name but people still call me by my old name”

From my search terms this month: “I changed my name but people still call me by my old name”

Dear searcher,

I am so sorry that is happening to you. I want to be very clear, in case you don’t know, that this is a problem with other people and not with you. But, since they aren’t doing the work to fix it, you’re going to have to take up some of the slack. There are some simple things you can do to (hopefully) help these folks start calling you by the right name.

First, get in touch with the people who are calling you by your old name, and directly remind them of the change. Keep it as simple and direct as possible:

“Hey, you may have forgotten, but I changed my name [x days/weeks/months] ago. As a reminder, my new name is [your new name]. It is important to me that you do not call me by my old name any more.”

Optionally, you might want to add a statement like “I’ll try to remind you right away if you forget again.” This will do a couple of important things: it warns them of your intent not to just let it slide from now on (I don’t know if you’ve already been correcting people every time or not, but even if you have it may be helpful to reiterate that you are going to keep doing so); it sets up your reminders as something you are doing as favour to them, to help them out with this transition; and hopefully it will make them less defensive when you do correct them, because you’ve established that you mean it in a friendly(ish) way.

Step two is to do your best to actively correct people, immediately, when they mess up. If you’re already doing this, great! It’s actually something I am terrible at, so you are doing better than me on this front. If you haven’t been actively correcting people, then they may push back when you start (though this is why I recommend sending a direct message first, since it clarifies your position and sets the stage for the idea that you expect them to be taking your name change seriously, and makes it harder for them fall back on an excuse about how they didn’t realize it was important).

You may get some people (parents are especially prone to this, since they will likely have the strongest attachment to your old name, having chosen it themselves) who will ask for special dispensation not to have to change to your new name. For them, just reiterate that it is important to you that people call you by your new name – if there are specific reasons for this that you are comfortable sharing with them, do so. If it’s relevant, you may also want to point out that it would be confusing for other people to hear them still calling you by your old name, and might send the message that it’s ok for them to do so too. You can even tell them that because they are important in your life, it’s especially important that they call you by the correct name.

If people really are being stubborn about it, you may want to pull out somewhat more overt or aggressive methods. Start wearing a name tag around them. Flat-out ignore them when they call you by the wrong name (this tactic may also go over better if you state your intention explicitly: “Because it is important that you call me [new name], I will no longer be answering to [old name].”)

You can continue to escalate your insistence on people using the correct name as far as you need to, up to and including deciding to start cutting people out of your life if they refuse to respect you by using your new name.

This is really a boundary-setting exercise, and I encourage you to seek out general advice on setting boundaries to get other ideas about how to make this boundary stick. The “boundaries” category on Captain Awkward is a good place to start.

I wish you the best of luck!