Friday, December 30, 2016

I Hate Being Misgendered

Misgender (verb. mis·gen·der \misˈjen-dər\). The action of describing a person using the opposite gender pronouns of the gender in which they are presenting. Often done unintentionally, though sometimes done intentionally by stupid asshole jerks.




So, my second day of work I was still feeling fantastic. The first day of work hadn't been a fluke, people were still nice. All was well. My happy soul was bouncing on clouds. And the clouds were made of puppies. Life as good. I was really living my life as a girl!

But I was still wearing a wig because my hair still hasn't grown out enough. Wind makes wigs look at shitty mops and of course my first two days of work we had had wind advisories (50 mph wind gusts and what not). So my hair wasn't looking too hot. And on top of that I lost of my hat. My cute green knit beret is gone!

Goodbye, old friend.
So I needed a new hat. After work I popped into a cute independent boutique in my neighborhood that sells exceptionally girly stuff; all lace and faux fur and jewelry and cute little candles. I went in and found a hat by the door. Yay! It had faux fur and was exceptionally girly. Then I went to check out and there is a younger girl with insanely good makeup working the register.

She's super duper friendly and talkative and I'm about to compliment her makeup when suddenly she's like "Do you want to wear this out?"

And i'm like "Sure."

And she's like "Oh, yeah, I figured 'cause when you came in I thought 'he-'"

And she just stops. Mid-word. Stops. And shuts up. Her eyes go right down to the counter, she wraps it up and I can tell she's mortified. She's not looking at me, not talking and just quickly cuts the tags off my new hat for me and hands it to me.

Yeah, and hey, at least we both ended up feeling like crap, so there's that. I told my partner this story and wouldn't you know it, she feels bad for the clerk. Erg. I do too to a point, but sadly even her feeling bad about misgendering me doesn't make me feel any better. It means that I left my house, commuted on the train, went to work, worked all day and didn't pass. That makes me feel awful. Even someone as wordy and long winded as me can't adequately describe the feeling of dejection. I've built my life upon a house of sand and that house has been washed away by one incorrect pronoun said without thought and in haste.

Oh my gosh, it's like spending your whole life working on a paper for class only to show up and be told you got an F on it, not 'cause your paper's no good, but because your shirt is ugly. It's frustrating. You're doing your best and then someone casually points out that your best just simply isn't good enough.

Well, no one ever said transition was going to be easy.

Shut up, Kim Petras. I didn't ask for your opinion on this.

Then later I had a fun one at work. I was talking to a colleague, let's call him Billiam, and the conversation basically went like this:


Billiam: Hey, Faith, did you get cover sheets on all the TPS reports before they went out?
Faith: Yes, I did and they all went out two days ago.
Billiam: Great, thank you, sir...ma'm.
Faith: S'okay.
Billiam: Um, uh, huh, huh sorry- gotta go. Love you,  bye.

Ah, the flustered habitual accidental "love you." While I've managed to avoid that, I have both accidentally texted a gushy love you to my boss instead of my partner. And I've ended countless texts to friends with a habitual xoxoxo.

So, this misgendering was someone who I'd only been out to for a week and who'd known me for several years as a guy, so in this case it was kinda funny. I can be more forgiving in that situation.


The other thing that I'll forgive is the tricky past-tense misgendering. Seriously, I don't think there's any actual guide as to what's the proper thing to do when you're telling a story about something that a transgender person did before they transitioned. Do you use their new name and pronouns?  Saying something like "Four year old Faith cried because she got a boy bike and she really wanted a girl bike" doesn't quite tell the right story does it? I guess you could use the old ones but then you're potentially outing them.

I don't know the answer. Probably I guess I'd side on the factuality of narrative and use the old name to refer to the past. But then since I also use made up words like factuality maybe I shouldn't have the final say on this question. 

When it comes to linguistics I'm definitely a Descriptivist.
Well, the truth is I get correctly gendered much more often than not. I get my "miss" and "ma'am" and "ladies" when I'm out with my friends. I know for a fact that I can pass and judging from how polite and friendly male sales clerks have suddenly become I must look at least okay.

And I guess that's really what sucks about being misgendered. You can get a thousand she and hers but it feels like it all gets swept away by a single he. It's like how air travel is actually super safe, but one plane crash dominates the news. It's a common error we all make. We notice the things that stand out, especially when they're so emotionally jarring.

So if you're a transgender person reading this (seriously I'd be surprised if I had cis readers), try not to let yourself get down when the misgendering happens. I know that's much easier said than done. Lord knows I'm not that good at it either, but I promise to try too.



Ultimately, I hope cis people will realize how much misgendering hurts. Hopefully in a few years (or who are we kidding - decades), everyone will realize how totally and utterly hurtful it can be to misgender someone, how it can ruin their day or their week and hopefully people will learn to be more accepting and nicer. Hopefully.

13 comments:

  1. Looking at your pictures, no question you're a girl. By the way, make-up looks great, just right for daytime at work.

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    1. Thank you! I've tried to perfect a daytime makeup look for work and I think I've basically gotten it down. And I appreciate your comments. I hope I can pass better as my transition progresses.

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  2. Faith,

    Misgendering hurts a lot. But it is up to us to send the correct signals, and then hope they are processed correctly.

    Why do I put some of the onus on us? Not all people are attentive in their conversations. For example, customer service calls go through to people who hear the same thing day in and day out. They listen for specific words in context, so that they can help a caller. It would be cognitive overload for them to remember what gender a person is - they depend on voices that pass a "telephone test". So many of us fail, and get misgendered out of something other than malice.

    But I do get upset when people misgender us out of malice. One blogger I read is about 6" plus, and people from a nearby church go in to harass this lady where she works, deliberately misgendering her politely. She can't do much because they are out the door before her manager can talk to these folk. Since she can't react, she has 2 choices - deal with it, or find a new job out of the public eye. And this sucks.

    Like you, I hope that cis people will realize how much misgendering hurts. But until then, it's a cross to bear, and I'll deal with it until I die. Hopefully, future generations will not need to deal with this as much as we do now....

    M

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    1. Okay, that is awful. C'mon, would Jesus go harass a poor transgender salesclerk? Something tells me no.

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  3. Hi Faith,
    Thanks for your blogs and the truth you write from your heart. Noone has the right to hurt others sometimes it just happens. The tongue can be our own worst enemy it takes just a slip of the tongue to hurt someone. Most times i think its unintentional but that doesn't help.
    I think you have the right attitude.
    You look great and i can't ever imagine You as anything other than a beautiful woman.
    Keep up the great work. Smile and have a great new Year

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    1. Thanks, Missy! You know, I do try and present the good and the bad. Not too much other either though, cause being transgender is complicated business.

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    2. Faith, you do a great job. i enjoy your blog because of how honest you are in representing the the Trans world. As sometimes some just glamorize it and some fantasize about it. I am at point in my life that it's too late to go thru a Transition. so i remain in the closet as a crossdresser and live the fantasy out through wonderful Women like yourself. So keep up the great job and smile through life regardless of what others say. Believe in yourself because You are beautiful inside and out.

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  4. I try not to worry too much about misgendering. But it does feel lousy when it happens. I do pretty great in anonymous situations. But people I've known forever are a different story. I've even been misgendered by the person I've known the longest, myself! This story makes me feel a little better: I have a cis girlfriend who is tall, athletic, and is very beautiful like Rosalind Russell (yeah, envious!). She does keep her hair quite short. She tells me she's been "clocked" trans several times, and is "sirred" at the market every now and then! Oddly this is comforting to know.

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    1. That's so funny. No one ever thinks that misgendering is something that happens to cis people too!

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  5. I'm cisgender, Faith! (Straight white male at that). I think you and your blog are awesome. I can't speak much about misgendering as I don't have any trans friends but I can do my best to empathize. More people should.

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  6. Hi Faith, You know the saying about when something goes wrong and you question whether it is a conspiracy or a cock up, presume a cock up.Humans can make genuine mistakes. Malice burns. Genuine humanness even when it cocks up can be forgiven.
    You are proceeding at an astonishing rate. Be a bit gentle with yourself.Your own hair is growing. Great. And wigs cause all sorts of problems and may look ordinary in the wind or after a while. Agreed. And I know how important it is to look beautiful. But My guess is that as you become more experienced living as a woman, that importance will diminish. Because you will know your womanliness is more than skin deep, more than cosmetic, more than how well coiffured you are.
    Maybe it follows Maslow's hierarchy of needs. When the basic needs are met, we look to meet the next level of need. Self actualisation comes after having a good hair day, girl, but it will come.
    And who among us would measure a cis woman down, because her hair was a mess? We would think such comments showed misogyny.
    Everyone who reads your posts is willing you to succeed.
    You will.
    Geraldine

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  7. Hello transman here! First off I'm gonna bookmark this page for inspiration.! You go girl! I've been on hormones now for 1 yr and a month and today I got misgendered. What you said about building a house on sand couldn't be any truer. I had got comfortable between my 10 month and 1 year mark hearing sir, boy, he and him, etc. It made me so incredibly happy, words can't describe! Finally I had made it to who I am and the world agreed. But then it happened again, and for the first time in a short while I was misgendered again. And this time during the furthest point of my transition. How was I supposed to feel? Well I made it this far at least? What am I supposed to think? I honestly wonder will there ever be a point in my life where I could escape it.. A place where I don't have to hear mess ups from family or friends or collègues or strangers. It's exhausting! So I am right there with you girl. It's not easy it's not. But reading something relatable helped a lot, so thank you. Hope you keep trucking on! You rock girlfriend!

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