If you're cisgender, I hope you read this post. Every word.
I recently had a call from friend who'd had a committee meeting with another friend. They were disturbed by my pronouns, and they were upset I'd corrected one of them who'd misidentified me. At first the caller said "several" people in our group had a problem with me - but honestly in the cold light of day I think there were just two of them. Two of them so bothered that in a meeting I spoke up and said, "Just a reminder my pronouns are 'they/them'!"
Let's get this out of the way.
My cisgender homies! There's one correct response when someone corrects you with pronouns:
Say, "Oh! Thank you!"
Move on, and get their pronouns right!
That's it. That's the game plan. That's what you have to do.
You don't have to share your feelings about it to the person you flubbed on.
You don't have to explain why you messed up.
You certainly don't have to lash out, back-talk, or shit-talk.
The day I got that call, it hurt. I'd thought of those two individuals as friends. I'd shared a lot with them in recent years. Their behavior shows me they may care about me but they care more about clinging to some of their dustiest, most useless bigotries. Their behavior shows they'd rather hurt me than see to their own healing.
I know what some of you want to say:
"Well Kelly, those aren't your real friends!"
Here's the problem though - I wish that was the only example I had, of people literally talking shit about me, because I have the audacity to be out.
Yes, I'm out. And I want the same dignity you - as a cisgender person - get to walk around in every day.
Let me repeat: there is one appropriate response when someone corrects you on their pronouns:
Respond with (a version of), "Oh, thank you!" -
And then get their pronouns right. Practice in the car if you need to, in private. Do what it takes.
You're probably in a little cisgender silo. You haven't surrounded yourself with enough diverse points of view. So - get cracking! Read more trans literature, blog posts, tweets - follow more trans accounts on social media.
You've gotta un-brainwash - or re-brainwash - your noggin.
If you don't?
You're willfully committing to entrenched bigotry.
Yes, you are. It's okay if you didn't really know that until you read this essay.
But, you know it now!
And there are no more excuses.
And: you are welcome! I've spelled it out as simply as I can. You're reading this anonymously. You're not being embarrassed publicly, named, or called out. You've learned you've gotta do better - in the safest of spaces!
I've been misgendered hundreds of times since coming out. When I correct people, I say something along the lines of, "Just a reminder - my pronouns are 'they/them'."
Last Thursday I verbalized this in a business class and the three other people in the Zoom meeting - despite my cordial correction, despite my pronouns being displayed onscreen - blithely went on to misgender me for the duration of our time together.
Each "she/her" was like an ice pick. It hurt. It felt like a slap.
But it's not just that. It's not just the people who ignore me, or think me silly, or misgender me to my face.
For a not-insignificant number of cisgender people any correction, no matter if it's lighthearted or grave, brief or a lengthy email, direct or circumspect - is too much.
Cisgender people get angry.
The screencap I opened this piece with? That's a friend of mine, who corrected someone - corrected them with kindness and tact, privately - and she received a reprisal. She posted about it yesterday. She then shared the story with other friends - and they too, argued against my pronouns.
So yeah. That's me - me who people are angry with. Instead of telling my friend, "Oh - thank you!" and being grateful she is trying to help -
they are pissed! Annoyed with her - and pissed at me!
People are LITERALLY SO BOTHERED by nonbinary identities.
It hurts to be misgendered. Heck, Canada just ruled misgendering as a human rights violation. And I knew, when I came out, that I would receive some disrespect.
I didn't, however, realize how painful it would be. I knew - in my braincase - it was going to suck. I knew it would hurt, because I believed people who told me how much it hurt. So I knew intellectually. And now I get to experience the pain in delightful, real-life Flavor Country way.
It hurts even when people do it "by accident".
Except... there are no accidents. If you have access to a computer and you can read these words, you've had access to the knowledge that you need to stop assuming someone's gender. Full stop.
Speaking only for myself, for today?
I want my pronouns respected. That's it. That's the only ask. I'm not going to require more of you on this issue. I'm not going to go into a speech or tell you my life story (unless you subscribe to my writings - and please do)! I just want that respect. It's respect you receive every day. I hate using this word but, you have the privilege of never knowing how much it hurts.
And a sidenote:
For the cisgender folks who want to quickly put themselves in a camp as different on this issue! They're enlightened! They're "woke"! They say things like:
"I just don't understand why this is a big deal!"
"Why can't people be decent about this?"
"It costs nothing to be respectful!"
Quit saying you"don't understand"!
When you say "I don't understand" what I hear is: "I am in denial how bad this problem is and I'm staying there!" What I hear is: "I don't engage with bigots in any personally challenging way, I just flap my hankie to signal that I'm not icky like them!"
When you say, "I don't get why people are so mean!" you are throwing me to the wolves. It must be nice to "not get it". I don't get the luxury of just "not getting it". I get it every day!
I want you to stop saying you don't understand. Because people who "don't understand" tend to carefully avoid challenging bigots. They re-post memes every now and then - but they won't speak up to their relatives and friends on social media.
I don't need you virtue-signaling that you just couldn't possibly imagine why someone would be bigoted.
I need you to put some skin in the game!
START SHIT! Start shit right on Facebook! Say something in that Zoom meeting! Call them out! Tell them their behavior is out of line, it's embarrassing, it's dusty as fuck, it's Over! Complain to the Zoom meeting supervisor! Make a fuss!
(Carefully respect the safety of your trans friend, and as long as you're doing that:)
** MAKE **
** A **
** FUSS! **
To those who misgender, who keep "forgetting", but especially to those who literally talk shit about me when they're out of my earshot:
Your behavior is pathetic. Here's how it is going to go down. Public support will continue to swing a certain way and one of two things will happen: you'll either slink into respecting our pronouns, suddenly drop your grammar pedantry (when you finally admit you're incorrect, and you're also a Clowne), and pretend you've been sitting at the Cool Kids' Table all along OR:
you'll try to sneakily assert your power by calling me "lady", "girl", or making snide remarks. You'll talk shit behind my back. You'll become one of those creepy bigot holdouts desperately clinging to your prejudice and cruelty because you won't address your own unresolved trauma.
By the way, I've always thought that willfully committing to bigotry, literally and physiologically rots your brain. It gets you that much closer to death.
Just an opinion.
Either way, you'll probably never apologize for how hurtful you were.
I'm over it, and I'm over you.
Bon voyage, crumbums!