The Power of Pronouns

#microaggressions  #misgender  #my life  #transition  #transphobia 

On Tuesday, I wrote about feeling great and being very happy with where I am with transition related stuff. It was just one of those days where I felt awesome and beautiful. Every time I looked in the mirror, I loved what I saw so much. My confidence was through the roof. Unfortunately, like pretty much everyone else, we have ups and downs with our self-confidence and sometimes things happen that can shake that confidence.

What I looked like yesterday

What I looked like yesterday

After work yesterday, I had to run over to the vet real quick to fill a prescription for our oldest cat since it turns out Hattie, the new one, has intestinal parasites and we need to treat all three of the cats in case she had already spread it. Anyway, I’d been having a reasonably good self-confidence day. I wasn’t looking as good as Tuesday, but I liked the way I looked, cute even. I was rocking some new pants I had gotten over the weekend, my Against Me! shirt, some cute dangly earrings, and a pony tail. I had sort of a rough afternoon thanks to getting sucked into an argument I wasn’t originally a part of, but I was starting to get over it.

It took a little while for them to fill the prescription at the vet and I was chatting with the two receptionists while I was waiting. They asked how Hattie was and everything felt normal. I wasn’t thinking about “how do these people see me?” I was just happy feeling like an average and unremarkable person. They were both being super friendly and I felt totally like they unquestionably saw me the same as any other pet-obsessed woman who walks in their door. Everything was going fine until the one receptionist referred to me as “he.” There was no coming back after that, even when the other receptionist continued to properly gender me.

I’ve written before about how it feels when someone willfully misgenders, but this is a bit different than that. In a lot of ways, it’s actually worse when it’s completely unintentional and the person doesn’t even realize they’re misgendering you. It means when they look at you, they, for whatever reason, see a man. No matter the fact that I have boobs, a woman’s hairstyle, makeup, nails painted, jewelry, and women’s clothes, they still unquestionably see a man. This wasn’t an ”I’m not sure what this person is so I’m going to avoid gendering in either direction” confusion, this was a straight up “you’re a man” situation.

Did this person do this on purpose or to hurt me? Nope, not even close. They were incredibly friendly and nice to me, just like they are every other time I’ve been there. This is a person who looked at me and saw nothing but a man.

Another photo of what I looked like yesterday

Another photo of what I looked like yesterday

I’ve gotten to the point where when I look in the mirror, I no longer see a man staring back at me. I see the woman that I am nearly 100% of the time. I may pick out countless features that bother me or look manly to me, but when I just look at me as a whole, I see a woman. When someone else doesn’t see this, it cuts through so much. Am I deluding myself? Do I not really look how I think I do? Is it still that obvious? Are people only humoring me when they do properly gender me? I say it time and time again, but I don’t care about “passing.” I don’t care if people read me as transgender, in fact, I generally prefer that. What I do care about, though, is being seen as a woman. Being misgendered like this tells me that at least some people don’t see me as I see myself and as I want to be seen. It’s very shaking to my confidence in my ability to leave the house and simply live my life as a person without having to be treated as some sort of “other.”

Over the weekend, in addition to #YesAllWomen, there was another hashtag going around. #CisGaze was being used as a way for trans people to sound off about the aggressions, microaggressions, transphobia, and transmisogyny we deal with on a day to day basis. I made a few of submissions myself, among them was this one:

Here’s the thing, misgendering someone is never cool, whether they’re trans or cis, pass or don’t pass, look like your definition of their gender or not, or whether they express themselves femininely, masculinely, or androgynously. It’s just not cool and it hurts. I happen to look very much like a woman and I dress very much like a woman. There is no question when looking at me that I want to be seen as a woman…since, you know, I am a woman.

It may not seem like it’s that big of a deal. What’s it matter what one person says or does without even thinking? They didn’t do it on purpose. There are thousand ways to dismiss it, but it does matter. It’s a constant reminder that the world doesn’t see you as you. It separates you out from the rest of society as saying “you’re different” and “you’re not who you say you are.” “Your gender and your identity are up to my discretion.”

EDIT: I meant to mention this and totally forgot before publishing. If you’re not sure what pronouns to use for someone, ask. Really, this is okay. Just don’t say “hey, are you a man or a woman?” Instead, something like “I’m sorry, I didn’t want to assume, but what pronouns do you use?” works just fine.