I really should be asleep right now, but I wanted to actually get a post out on the day that I say I post.
Anyway, this past week has really been tough. I’ve been misgendered three times within the last 10 days. The first time was when a professor that I’ve had virtually no contact with before this semester used a female pronoun in reference to me when talking with me and an attorney. At first I didn’t quite hear her, but it did finally register in my head. Then I had to think for a second to make sure that she was referring to me and not the female attorney that I was talking to. About the time I decided the professor was in fact talking about me, the attorney apologized to me for not correcting the professor’s use of the wrong pronoun.
The second time I was misgendered was at my favorite (at least one of) professor’s house. The professor invited all of his class to come to his house for snacks and a discussion. As we were circled around, sitting on his back porch, he referred to me as “she.” He quickly corrected himself and moved on, but that one hurt pretty bad.
This professor has been one of my most active supporters. I met his wife once before when I was at his house with a group of students before my first semester started. I had him for contracts my first semester of law school, and he invited our class to his house. His wife greeted me for my second trip to his house by saying, “How do you do, sir?” I hadn’t had enough contact with her the first time that I was there for her to know that I’m a guy. Needless to say, this professor is someone that I respect greatly.
I ran into the professor the next day, and he apologized. I accepted his apology, but I’m still pretty hurt. He said that he doesn’t know why he used the wrong pronoun. Honestly, I’m not so sure either. About 75% of the time I’m read as male. Albeit, probably a 14-year-old one, but male nonetheless.
The third misgendering was by a very close friend. We were talking about dating, and he used the phase “another woman.” I called him out on it, and he apologized profusely. I accepted his apology too.
Back in January, I used my friend’s paper cut analogy to describe how being misgendered feels. The friend that misgendered me asked that I describe why being misgendered hurts so that he could be a better advocate when it happens. I’ve thought about it a lot since he asked, and I’ve come to the conclusion that the ability to define oneself is a most treasured aspect of being human. When someone misgenders a transgender person, on some level it’s dehumanizing. I’ve come to the conclusion that when someone misgenders a trans person, it’s because the misgenderer doesn’t respect the trans person or similarly, the misgenderer doesn’t believe that the trans person.
All of this is to say that it is very important that you take great care to use the right pronouns when talking to or referring to a trans person.
All the best,