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Monday, September 7, 2015

Guest Post: "Too Long; Didn't Readjust" (Pronouns)

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 9 seconds. 

Written by a friend of mine, Samantha Em, a transgender woman who was gracious enough to allow me to repost this here:

tl;dr When you misgender a transgender person, say, "I'm sorry," once, and move on. If you didn't realize you were misgendering them, and they correct you, also say, "I'm sorry," once, and move on.

<start rant>
Transgender people are misgendered often; even by intelligent and compassionate people; even by our most ardent supporters and allies. No problem. Really.
It was mistake. They didn't mean anything by it. They didn't even realize they were doing it. Transgender people are misgendered even by other transgender people. Hell, I even misgender myself sometimes.
It also isn't a problem if they didn't catch their mistake. Our brains seem to rely on an "autopilot" and a litany of "shortcuts." Modifying those mental pathways takes time. It wasn't instantaneous for us either.
Mistakes happen. We get it. We really do. After all, we're the ones who fought to overcome society's brainwashing to live our lives authentically. We understand that this is hard for other people, too. And those that we see putting in the effort are afforded leniency in return.
Again, mistakes are not the problem.

WHAT *IS* A PROBLEM... is people not apologizing when they realize they've made a mistake.
IT IS A PROBLEM... if people get defensive when they are corrected.
IT IS A PROBLEM... when people shut down conversations instead of listening.
IT IS A PROBLEM... making transgender people feel like we're badgering people for every slip up.

I can't speak for my other trans friends, but I only correct about a third of the misgendering mistakes I hear... and I hear them all... and every single one stings. Sometimes the person isn't worth it, other times there is no time, and some people react so poorly to being corrected that they have to really be on a roll for me to say anything... and then they still get upset when they are corrected, telling *me* to drop it!
Misgendering a transgender person is not like misgendering the family pet. Misgendering a transgender person invalidates their gender identity; it outs them to people who have zero business knowing their business; reacting poorly to being corrected teaches people that pronouns are "no big deal."
Other people look to you to for how to react to us. If you're cool, they are more likely to be cool, also. Likewise, if other people see you misgender us, but then catch yourself and apologize, that teaches them the appropriate behavior.
You will make mistakes, and that's okay, but please say, "I'm sorry," once, so we can all move on.
</end rant>

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