Please use my pronouns!

Not so much a blog post this week, as a request.

You see, as I have been trying to explain, I suffer from a thing called gender dysphoria. This means the legal and social identity assigned to me when I was born (female) does not feel relevant, authentic, comfortable or congruent with who I really am, and causes me actual distress. It has been a struggle for me to admit this, because the world is not very understanding towards transgender people.

But transgender is genuinely what I am – the classification imposed on me is just plain wrong for me; it does not work. As such, whenever somebody labels me or addresses me as female, I feel just like the trans woman in this picture feels about being labelled male:

pronouns

These are my preferred pronouns: They/them/their. Please let go of issues such as how they are difficult to use, or “not correct English” – language evolves to reflect human need, and besides there is plenty of evidence to support the use of singular they – you probably already use it way more than you realise. Frankly, you’ll get used to it with practice; your suffering of a little linguistic awkwardness does not really compare to the misery I feel in being continually invalidated by language that does not describe me.

Imagine if everyone called you “shorty”, and although you’re short, you didn’t want your identity based around your shortness. People would be pretty mean to go on calling you “shorty” after you said please don’t.

Well, when you call me “she” or “woman” you’re effectively saying my defining attribute is my vagina, and honestly I think what’s between my legs is about as relevant as how tall I am or what colour my eyes are. Just because everyone’s in the habit of labelling people this way, doesn’t make it useful.

If you really cannot get your head round using they/them/their, I’d like to offer you other options:

You could use my name, or my initial: Sam came over and I asked S to stay for tea

You could use ze/hir (pronounced zee/hear): Ze laughed/ I called hir/ Hir eyes gleam/ That is hirs/ Ze likes hirself – this seems to be the most popular pronoun choice next to they.

If you find another legitimate gender neutral pronoun (other than “it” – ugh!) – feel free to use that. I don’t mind being called per, ve, xie, co or any other neutral pronoun.

Or it you are unable to use any of those other options, I would infinitely prefer you to use male pronouns for me than female pronouns, because at least that would acknowledge and not invisibilise my transgender identity and my male aspect.

I have watched people around me accept my partner’s change of name and impending transition while being dismissive of my own, equally legitimate gender dysphoria. Try not to think of being transgender as some sort of linear scale, where non-binary people are just a watered-down version of “fully” or “properly” transgender people – that isn’t how it works. All transgender people, just like everyone else, are a unique scatterplot of different traits and experiences, biological and social influences that add up to their own individual conclusion. We need to be respected for who we say we are. We each have our own trials and challenges. I admit I have lots of privileges at the moment in not transitioning, but having my identity constantly ignored, whilst it has some advantages in terms of my safety, is profoundly psychologically distressing.

So please, if you want to help me not feel constantly distressed, eradicated and marginalised by the language you use, please don’t call me “she” or use female ways to describe me.

I am trying to be patient – I know it is difficult and I frequently misgender myself, so I will not be jumping down your throat for getting it wrong, but it would mean a lot to me if you would accept in your own mind the necessity of the effort to try. Because my welfare is at stake in this and gendering me female is psychologically undermining me every time it happens.

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13 thoughts on “Please use my pronouns!

  1. Astrid

    Pretty careless/ignorant cisgender person here. I admire your flexibility. At the same time, it shocks me that you have to provide people like me with a dozen options to address you and they still use “she”. I know I am having a hard time shifting perspective from what gender I think somone is to what gender they identify with. I experience this even with cis people who happen to have gender-neutral nicknames on the Internet. That’s no excuse though.

    By the way, did you choose the term “suffer” deliberatelyw hen talking about your gender dysphoria? Some trans/genderqueer people I’ve heard of don’t consider it a disorder, so I’m curious.

    Reply
    1. Sandy Hope Post author

      yeah, I do suffer, because I was coercively given an assignment at birth that feels oppressive to me and is very hard to wriggle free from – it’s the cisnormative social construction around being trans that’s the problem, not being trans itself

      Reply
  2. Morag

    Will continue to do my best! If I do slip it’s not intentional, but I accept that it’s hurtful and that’s not how I want to make you feel.

    Reply
    1. Sandy Hope Post author

      thanks 🙂 I don’t mind that people slip up, I appreciate it’s a big habit to break but that people are making the effort means a lot 🙂

      Reply
  3. K

    This needed very much to be said. It’s vital that people realise how important pronouns are; how language in general isn’t just a way to communicate an idea. It’s more than that: it’s a social tool we use to position ourselves, and others. Gender pronouns are among the most damaging words in the language in this regard. A friend of mine, whose spouse is genderfluid and whose mother is a socio-linguist with strong opinions about the power of language, prefers to use gender-neutral pronouns for everyone, regardless of sex or gender identity. Hir argument is that, that except in very specific and rare circumstances, nobody’s gender/biological sex should be relevant to the conversation. By identifying someone as ‘him’ or ‘her’ we are effectively saying that their gender makes a fundamental difference to how we should interpret and interact with that person – it’s no different from referring to somebody’s race or religion or age (also a common one, regrettably) every time you mention them.

    I hope it won’t be long before gender-neutral pronouns are more widely adopted, in formal language. It’s long overdue.

    Reply
    1. Sandy Hope Post author

      Yeah I’ve seen that before and I think Jack is exercising his relative privilege here – clearly it’s very easy for trans men and AFAB trans folk like me to minimise the distress the T word causes trans women who are the overwhelming recipients of trans hate and violence. Belittling people for asking for others to be sensitive to the inherent trauma in that level of societal oppression is a sign of entitlement and it’s as old as the hills – “don’t be so sensitive!” said the 1970s boss when he slapped his secretary’s ass and called her saucy and she didn’t just smile. I’ve no time for any effort spent in critiquing how people articulate their oppression, that’s never where the focus should be. As someone who has a masters degree in trauma, I also call him on the idea that oppression is not inherently traumatising – I believe it is.

      Reply
      1. Yen

        I thought the whole thing was incredibly dismissive. He blames academia for the conflation and devaluing of certain concepts while at the same time (as an academic) minimizes individual experiences. I wanted to comment on the original thread but didn’t want to be attacked. I am an advocate for trans* folk and didn’t know if I should have opposed a person who supposedly is an “expert” on these issues.

        The whole diatribe about how neoliberals are a bunch of over-sensitive zealots was just over the top as well. I can’t help but wonder what his students are getting from his classes.

      2. Sandy Hope Post author

        I think we can critique him because he was being dismissive of an issue that predominantly affects trans women – chalk it up to plain old sexism and unchecked male privilege

      3. Yen

        Oh, yes and thank you for your thoughts. I thought I was the only one for a second. Those comments are brutal to see.

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