Sunday, 3 March 2013

I'm hopeless at misgendering

    I mentioned in my last post that I'd been to a panel discussion on transgender politics and being a better ally. There's one thing brought up during the evening that has been dwelling on me for a few days so I think deserves a moment's contemplation.
    The subject in hand was misgendering, and the audience discussion turned to one of calling it out. Unsurprising given that many of them were politically motivated students, they live to a large extent in a culture in which calling out provides a means of garnering kudos. Different causes from those of my student days, but plus ça change!
    I felt that something had been missed, namely that not all misgendering is malicious. People slip up, it's only natural. I'd be the first to hold my hands up here, I dread  the moments in which my brain tells me something automatically and I say the wrong thing. For me the danger comes when meeting transmen at the start of their transition before their T kicks in, my damn brain has so often had a "she" hovering about to be said without thinking.
    So if someone misgenders a trans person by all means tell them so, but hold on a minute before breaking out the big guns. There are two things to ask here: Did they do it deliberately, and how did they react afterwards? If they purposefully emphasised an inappropriate *HE* or *SHE* and responded with anger when politely corrected, then let them have it! But if they went red-faced and said something like "Oh shit, I got that wrong, didn't I, sorry", then smile and move on, next time they'll remember and get it right. It's never appropriate to make a scene unnecessarily, it doesn't make us any friends.

14 comments:

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    1. I was thinking of your work misgendering score that included you as I wrote this.

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    2. It was a horrible discussion with my dad when he did it by mistake and started to totally beat himself up over it.

      As I said to him, if you feel that bad about then really, you don't need to feel bad!

      I pointed out the Shame Sheet we had in the office (and that I had two marks on it) to help him realise that it's not just him, it happens.

      Stace

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  2. I have a friend at my Church. she is "of a certain age" and originally from Ghana so English is her second language, although you would not realise unless you knew her well. In normal general conversation she can get a little exited and will often use the wrong pronoun, this is not deliberate just the nature of using a second language.

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    1. As long as she does it to others too, that's the test.

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  3. Just after my transition one of my colleagues made a point of looking at me and calling me John. After a couple of times I was waiting for it and interrupted with "Do I really still look like John?" He had to say no as our boss was with us, and he didn't do it again. I would have been prepared to make a complaint but I feel it went better this way.

    Yesterday I had to call out the RAC. The telephonist called me Sir, but that's just incomplete speech training and I didn't comment. I noticed afterwards that the repair man had "Mr" on the form. If I had noticed before he left I would have asked him to change it.

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    1. You can still get them to change it

      Shirley Anne x

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  4. Your advice makes good sense Jenny, always give the benefit of the doubt unless you discover it deliberate. I think we all make mistakes occasionally and not just with mis-gendering. I asked a lady once when her baby was due to which she replied that she wasn't pregnant....LOL

    Shirley Anne x

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  5. I checked with the RAC. I am a "Ms" on my membership but they can see there used to be a "Mr" with the same initials. I said I didn't want to raise a formal complaint but I would appreciate it if it didn't happen again.

    Oh Shirley Anne! The "When are you due?" when she isn't is really bad.

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    1. Yes Mary and I wanted the ground to swallow me up. Whilst we are on the subject I also once congratulated a guy for having a beautiful daughter (about three years old) to which he replied that it was his SON......I admit I have put my foot in it once or twice but then I'm merely human.

      Shirley Anne x

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  6. For a three year old it's not as bad, although it could be seen as criticism for dressing a "pretty boy". Could this be used as a pre-emptive strike in case they misgender you? You could use the "Well after my mess up what should I expect?"

    When I come to think about it, the RAC have not had a Mr and a Mrs with the same initials. There was a Mr J D and a Mrs J E but I'm a Ms M. I don't feel it's worth pursuing this one any further though.

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  7. Sorry to carry on like this, but the RAC sent the "Parts Receipt" to my former name. I have sent a letter asking for an explanation. That's still not quite a formal complaint.

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  8. There are times when misgendering is willful but a lot of the time you've got to take a big slice of chill cake.

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  9. I don't really intend to take this any further, but I'll be interested to see how they try to "explain". Specially if the honest answer is "Somebody found out you are trans and gossiped it all over the office.

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