What I Really Hear When You Misgender Me And What You Should Say When You Do

Here I was thinking we could have a nice, simple post go up this week, maybe I’d finally get around to reviewing my current favorite dick, but then some people decided to be shitheads and now I guess we’re talking about gender again. I’m not going to unpack all of the terrible things that were said on the Savage Lovecast this week, and why they were awful. You can read the transcript, and the 280 character version of my thoughts if you’re not sure what I’m talking about.

I do want to tell trans folx out there that you can be loved, desired, and respected regardless of how well you pass. If passing is a priority for you, then you have the right to do whatever feels good to you to make that happen. If passing isn’t a priority for you, your gender still deserves respect. If passing isn’t possible for you, your gender still deserves respect. Sometimes it will be hard, hell, a lot of times it will be hard, and I’m not gonna feed you some bullshit about fish in the sea, but you don’t need to choose between your gender and being loved, and anyone who tells you otherwise needs to be taken out back with the rest of the trash.

Now, lets talk about what was probably the least egregious of all of the catastrophically terrible things that happened in that ten minutes. Let’s talk about misgendering.

Here’s the thing about when people misgender me, I don’t care if it was malicious or if it was just a mistake. I don’t have to be okay with it. Even if it is a mistake, even if you slipped and the wrong words fell out of your face, that tells me something very clear about you. It tells me that “she” is the first word that comes to mind when you think of me. It tells me that, every single time you’ve gotten my pronouns right, it’s only because you course corrected mid-sentence and replaced your reflex.

It tells me that you are humoring me. Maybe it’s because you don’t want to fight, or because you know you really should respect my gender (especially if you want to be such a good little progressive liberal), or maybe it’s because you really care about me, but you’re just going through the motions. It tells me that you might respect me, but only in theory. It tells me that you don’t see me, because if you did there wouldn’t be any corrections to make. There wouldn’t be any mistakes to make. The word “she” and your idea of me would never approach one another in your brain.

And, I’m gonna tell you a secret… I do hold people to different standards. I did melt a little bit when the cishet men I know flawlessly switched my pronouns the second I asked. I did give them cookies, because I knew it was new to them and it mattered to me that they took the time to learn. I do understand that people who knew me when I used other pronouns are going to slip up, simply out of habit.

I also have zero tolerance for trans people who fuck up, because they know how much it hurts. I have zero tolerance for people who learned my pronouns the second they met me, and still mess them up. People who have never known me as anything other than the non-binary boy that I am, yet still default to “she”. I see you. When you misgender me you’re telling me that I said “non-binary” and you heard “so like, basically a lady right?”. I said “non-binary” and you saw my curvy figure and classified me in the femme portion of your brain anyway. I said “they” and you heard it as if it were a nickname. “Oh hey, I’m a she, but my friends call me they.”

You don’t respect me, you don’t see me, and you’re only humoring me. So you can kindly fuck right off.

__________

If reading all of this is making you nervous, good. I’m tired of hand-holding, my emotional bandwidth is at zero this week, and I really need people to stop being the fucking worst. At the same time, I get it. You’re going to fuck up, especially if you knew me pre-transition. Hell, I’ve fucked up other people’s pronouns. Hell, I’ve fucked up MY OWN pronouns. Here are some tips for what not to do the next time you mess up someone’s pronouns.

1. Don’t Make Your Guilt My Problem: Apologize briefly and sincerely. “Oh, sorry.” is all you need. No hemming and hawing, no raking yourself across the coals, no “Oh my god! I can’t believe I did that! I’m so sorry! This isn’t like me, I didn’t mean it! I don’t know what came over me, I’m the literal worst, I…” and on, and on, and on. It’s awkward for us, it’s awkward for you, can’t we all just move on? Must you force me to continue to live in this moment with you?

2. Don’t Expect Anything: As the person you just misgendered, it is not my job to forgive you. It is not my job to assuage your guilt and remind you that “No, you really are a good ally, you were mean to that Trump supporter on Facebook the other day, and I saw you smile at a trans person just this afternoon!” You might not even get a cursory “It’s okay” because guess what. It isn’t. Let’s move on.

3. Don’t Make Excuses: I don’t care that I’m not wearing my binder today, or you’re distracted, or “Oh, uh, no, I was totally talking about that other person over there, not you.” You fucked up. Be better. I’m tired.

4. Don’t Do It Again: Really. We’re all tired of talking about this.

 

 

About Bex

Bex talks about sex, a lot, and feels this is the only way to reduce the stigma and lack of education surrounding it. When they’re not trying to save the world, talking about sex to strangers, typing frantically, or sticking things in various holes they are usually indulging the other facets of their geekery.

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  • The Palimpsex

    This post is everything. I almost ground my teeth into powder with that stupid fucking comment on your Instagram. Sending love and spoons.
    -Ave

    • Bex

      Ahahaha omg that was TERRIBLE! Like, I’m so out of spoons that I just laughed because they couldn’t possibly have messed that up any more.

  • Sara

    Great post Bex,
    I am also guilty of misgendering people sometimes, and though I don’t feel it comes from a place of disrespect I will admit it is hard for me since there are certain connections that my brain has made over my life. I am trying to fix it. But as you pointed out, you can even misgender yourself sometimes.
    There should be some allowance made for the connections society has helped form in our brains. We can only keep trying to fix that for the next generation! So good for you, you should be mad. we are greater than the sum of our parts and we can overcome these pre programed ideas.
    But please, don’t think I don’t respect you. Because I really do.

    • Bex

      I occasionally misgender myself because I have over 25 years of people calling me “she”. That’s a lot to unpack, the only other person who shares that is my mother. There is no excuse for people who met me while I was using the pronouns I use now.

      I also want to gently invite you to consider why you felt compelled to comment with a whole paragraph of excuses on a post that deliberately asks people to stop making excuses for misgendering me.

  • Kean Woodsworth

    Fuckin’ PREACH. I was so angry when I heard that segment, Buck Angel is awful!!
    Also, Buck DID misgender him when he first started talking, right? That wasn’t just me?
    Anyway, I think we all need to call in and bitch because that was horrifying and that man needs to hear better advice from trans people who don’t shame him for his transition choices. UGH.

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