(This week was Transgender Awareness Week! Here is a contribution:)

Today's essay comes to you from a deeply deflated place of absolute garbage-face because I've had a rough few days. Yes, I'm going to talk a tiny bit more about being out and nonbinary, yes I promise I'll be back to something more frivolous next week - my long-promised Rick Springfield "problematic fave" lyrics analysis? A navelgazey treatise on Dune (2021)? My favorite vegan holiday recipes?

We'll see.

But I wouldn't write this piece, if I didn't think it would help a lot of people.

Literally nothing takes the mickey out of me like being misgendered - being called "girl", "lady", or "she/her". I am not a "lady" or a "girl", and my pronouns are "they/them".

Being misgendered hurts in a way that is hard to fully articulate - and keep in mind: I write, in part, for a living! These pains are something almost all trans individuals understand deeply, yet they are pains that very, very few cisgender people ever really could. So by explaining a little more in this piece (please don't stop reading!) I am asking you to trust me because if you marinade in my brainspace a little while longer at some point some of my words will click, and you'll go on your merry way making things just a little better for a population that is daily under siege.

I of course can't speak for all trans individuals and nor do I try, but I can say that most of us find misgendering to be upsetting, stressful, oppressive, discouraging - or far, far worse: absolutely soul-destroying, triggering, or panic-inducing. I can also say with confidence that all misgendering instances are not created equal: our experience of and response to these events will depend so much on circumstances: how we feel (that moment, that day, or that week), how trusted and respected we are in our social circle, our family backgrounds, our workplace adversity, our sense of physical safety (or lack thereof), our socioeconomic status - et cetera.

But yes, it hurts. A heck of a lot more than you realize.

There's one simple solution to all of this! -

And that is for cisgender people - in other words, those of you assigned a gender upon birth ("It's a boy!") and who are on the daily pretty comfortable living with that assignation - to stop misgendering, to stop assuming gender based on appearance, and to look upon your language and your behaviors with an exacting lens, ready to speak up and change the world.

Keep in mind: it is happening and the world is changing: we are becoming more inclusive, we are becoming more science-based in regards to the gender spectrum, we are dropping the dead weight of a toxic cis-normative worldview. We are saving lives and we stand to reduce the suicide and self-harm rates of our trans children and teens. It is already happening! Don't let it stop! Keep up the momentum!

This good work needs to continue, and every day is not too soon.

So if you're cisgender and reading this - there's something you can do:

Correct people.

Correct them every time. Correct them when your trans friend is in the room (or group text, or Zoom meeting) - and definitely correct them when they are not! Interrupt the conversation. Say, "Kelly's pronouns are 'they/them'" - or "Her name is Amber and her pronouns are she/her" - or whatever applies! If the offender misgenders again (oh they will!), just speak right over them and firmly say the proper pronoun or name - "they", or "her", or "Amber" - et cetera.

Keep it brief - but keep it constant.

Yes. Speak up EVERY time!

And yes, this move is ... well if not aggressive, it's certainly assertive.

And it's important!

Not enough cisgender people do this. I think you either aren't thinking about it much (not even noticing when trans peeps get trampled on, Hiiiiiiiii), or you are thinking about it sure, but you feel a little shy.

But let me get more pointed:

You aren't correcting, because you are COWARDS!

I mean I'm actually laughing while I write this. You do realize you are cowards? And I'm not even picking on you specifically. You also surely must realize I'm a coward too, right? I was misgendered twice last night, in a large group setting. I said not a word. Not a peep.

Of course the reprisal that I face, for speaking up as a trans person, and the reprisal YOU face, for speaking up on my behalf, as a cis ally -

I mean, they're not really comparable.

Trans homies are afraid for their lives, afraid of getting fired or denied career or scholarship opportunity, afraid of being socially excluded, beaten, or murdered.

You're afraid your aunt will get annoyed with you at the holiday dinner. That kind of thing.

But STILL.

Yes, we are all cowards! Lily-livered pantywaisters!

I mean ... does anyone find this - as tragic, as serious, as deadly as it all is - at least a tiny bit comic, I mean just a little? You've got the transphobes literally SO BOTHERED over trans identities, literally SO OBSESSED with the genitals of trans individuals, literally SO INCENSED that nonbinary people exist. Literally LEAVING THE ROOM when we show up and laugh-reacting on our posts! They are that bothered!

You've got people like me who sometimes speak up for ourselves and sometimes don't, sometimes simply not willing to invoke more hostility and derision, then if we don't speak up we come home and just feel like little Nerds and all terrible about ourselves and at some point on some level - for me at least, speaking only for me - these moments become a tragi-comic thread in my wonky-as-fuck personal tapestry -

And you've got the "woke" or progressive cis homies out there who think they're better or above the fray but it turns out they can't offer up ONE LITTLE PEEP when their grandpa or best friend misgenders!

Way to take one for the team! "You brave little cis-boy!"

I mean on some level... we're all just scared for real reasons or fake ones and on some level we're all - sometimes - just doing a terrible job.

But sometimes we're doing a GREAT job. Like me. Like me, for writing and publishing this piece.

I digress.

***

Listen - each time you correct, it's like a glittering diamond in the rough. It helps more than I can say! I want it one day to be the NORM, that someone catches it EVERY time - but we aren't there yet!

Are these matter-of-fact corrections the ONLY thing you need to do, to make the world a better and safer place for trans peeps?

Hell nah!

Is it a major, important, steady drumbeat that we need to bring to our social life?

Oh yes. Yes, very much so!

Listen: people are pack animals. They really are! Cisgender jerks get away with bullying trans people because we (as a culture) let them. Maybe you don't see it (because deep deep down, you don't really care), or (as is more common) you pretend you don't see it, or you decide it's not a big deal.

Well please: put a little energy into this!

I'm tired of telling you how bad it is, and I'm tired of telling you it's important and all the reasons why. If even two of you reading here decide to believe me on this and do better, my hard work for this week will be worth it.

So yes:

Be the badger!

The They-Badger.

Speak up. Every time!

Picture yourself: you're stalking. You're hunting. You're waiting. You're POISED! You are a predator. You are not going to let anyone get away with this shit! You're not HOPING everyone gets gender respect right from now on: you're EXCITED for the next fucker who slips up because you're going to rush in and DESTROY them in the comment section! (Well not destroy but - correct them. With vigor!) You're going to give yourself this little mission! It's not gonna happen on your watch! Put a little app on your phone. Reward yourself with a little chime!

One day this bullshit will be part of Days Past, and you'll hang up your little bandolier belt with all the notch marks of the times you absolutely crushed the little dorkasses who love bullying one of our most marginalized populations! You'll - misty-eyed, with fond remembrance - remember those "good ol' days" but of course you'll be glad how far we've come, and that this is an non-issue.

That'll do, pardner. That'll do.

So yeah: you're doing good work.

And I thank you for it.

From the bottom of my absolutely deflated, but still valiant, still struggling, coal-black little heart.

Thank you!