05 October 2011

Pronoun Wars (6 months ago)

  • Pronoun Wars

    Last night we went to the store. I was in jeans and a button down with my hair in a ponytail, a giant blue leather purse and dangling earrings in my ears. He was in jeans and a hoodie with a hat on, skate shoes, wallet in the back pocket. I paid for my purchases and as the cashier was ringing him up I heard her say "hello ma'am". I looked up, thinking she was addressing me because I had forgotten something, and that's when I realized that, yet again, he was being called she.

    I watched his face scrunch up for a millisecond before he clamped his mouth shut and conducted the entire transaction in silence. I didn't know what to do. I was boiling with rage and just wanted to find a way to make it all better. Couldn't the cashier see that every piece of clothing he wore was only sold in the men's section? What was she basing her gendered salutation on? A few minutes earlier he had asked her a question, was she basing it off the octave of his voice? Yet again I cursed the circumstances that make him unable to start hormone therapy or pursue gender marker/name changes until the United States government no longer owns him.

    Is it my place to jump in and defend his honor when that happens, or am I supposed to stand there and take my cues from him? What if he doesn't want me to make a scene, or he thinks it isn't a big deal? Who am I kidding, it's always a big deal. I can see how much it hurts him when they mistake him like that.

    So, if it was you, what would you do? How do you deal with this constant need to defend your identity? What do you do in that situation? How do you say to someone "I'm not a "ma'am", I'm a "sir", and would appreciate you address me as such"? There's no good way to do it that I can think of.

    about 6 months ago · Delete Post
  • Now, I am not the tearjerker type of guy.. but this truly got to me.. reading this, made me recount that situation, as well as a few others that have happened.. I truly never thought about what went through the mind of transgender people's partners', families', or friends' minds when these things happen.. thank you so much for writing this -CMD
    about 6 months ago · Delete Post
  • was important to me to get this out there because I always feel so effing helpless and useless when this happens. I used to love being called "sir" back in my gender bending days, but it's been ages since anyone's called my gender presentation into question. I wish I knew how to handle it and how to correct people that make mistakes. - JLA

    p.s. I don't know why it isn't letting me post as myself. I edited the settings, but whatevs. I'll try and fix it when I get home.
    about 6 months ago · Delete Post
  • An interesting question.

    I'm of the opinion that if you want people to pronoun you correctly, then it is important to politely correct those who don't. Making sure that people pronoun you correctly serves as more of a self confidence booster than anything else given that many of the people that any one individual interacts with on any given day are strangers and are not particularly likely to interact with you again.

    Finding the head space that allows you to correct people about your pronouns serves in it's own capacity towards making you more capable of passing. The less you question it, the less other people will as well.

    about 6 months ago · Delete Post
  • I don't know why people are so afraid to correct people, including myself. I've learned that when it comes to strangers, you probably won't see them again. I pass 99% of the time now, and when that 1% happens to come up, I look at them funny and just say "i'm a guy". My current partner in my early stages of transition would make sure to use male pronouns for me so there was no questioning. My advice is to use male pronouns for him no matter what. So if he got ma'amed I would figure out some sort of sentence directed towards him with a male pronoun. Always stand up for your man. It doesn't have to cause a scene. Just correct them as politely as you can muster

    about 6 months ago ·
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  • To me Gender is such a fluid thing that I rarely think of pronouns. If you have ever heard me talk about my SO you will realize that I tend to switch genders in the middle of a sentence and for part of our relationship it didn't bother him in the least. Now though that he is working on passing more I tend to remember the male pronouns. Though at times I just totally forget. Its not for lack of respect for him at all. Sometimes it is really hard to remember that I separate Queer home life (where things like this don't matter) from Queer work life where I am just happy I work somewhere where I can be out.
    I also think that sometimes its an age related thing when I forget. No not that I am so old that I can't remember, but that a lot of people my age just aren't used to being so out about things.
    Heck with as fluid as I tend to be I can get sir'd before my boy does. Wrap your mind around that one.
    about 6 months ago ·
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  • well, as you guys know (since only people who know me IRL have posted on this so far, lol) I use the preferred pronouns of the individual in question. I just don't know how to handle it when you're in a situation where there's no need for a pronoun (like at the cash register) and the wrong one gets used. If we are both there, should I handle it since I"m crazy outspoken, or let him handle it? I mean, this has happened with various people in various cities at various points in my life. I'm always unsure what action to take. - JLA
    about 6 months ago · Delete Post
  • JLA,
    I am honestly surprised you don't just say something like, "Honey did you remember the condoms?" Casue even if that doesn't make the cashier change pronouns it would sure make her think.
    I think the only time it bother me is when the person is trans themselves of part of the community and by addressing my boy as she it's like they are trying to remove themselves from the community. We had a server that was very family and trans that kept addressing my boy as she even tho the server heard me use male pronouns with him. Both of us respectfully used she for the server but she kept using she for my boy. To me that is the hight of disrespect.
    So i guess just short of going "Hey, this is my boyfriend!" there isn't a whole lot you can do in passing situations. If its a friend addressing him as female I would definitely correct them.
    about 6 months ago ·
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  • well, we were at Staples, so I don't think the condom line would have worked there. I did bust out a "oh, you can give him the bill" when we were at dinner and the server used the wrong pronoun, though.

    WIN! - JLA
    about 6 months ago · Delete Post
  • This ignites lots of feelings that have been put deep down inside of me. It happens more than it doesn't, in my opinion.. but a lot of the time I just get a confused look and muffled whispers. In no way, shape, or form, is this EVER okay to just ALLOW someone to treat you that way, whether they know you personally or it was a mistake. Gender is something that has become a HUGE issue to me, and over the past few years, I have met some amazing people, male or female. I agree with the majority of you, that there shouldn't be a title, or two boxes to check male or female. There should just be a space for your name and age. Society will never subside to understanding fully..atleast not yet. Maybe in a few years the government will loosen up the reigns on the disgusting laws they have passed, but until then... United we stand, Genderfuk proud. -J roc
    about 6 months ago · Delete Post
  • Sometimes people get odd about it but usually they apologize if they offended me. Maybe I'm used to it, and maybe i've informed enough people that i see often so now it doesnt happen normally.
    about 4 months ago ·
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  • I think this is a really interesting discussion actually.

    Going back the original post, the clothing you described matches what my wife and I both wear on a regular basis. I think the only "female" clothing items we own are sports bras, and maybe a couple of pairs of the female boxer-brief underwear. We both identify as bois, but also use female pronouns and still identify as lesbian as well.

    So, basically masculine centered females, I guess. I personally consider myself kind of genderqueer, because I don't identify as male, I don't consider myself trans, but I also don't entirely identify with being female. That being said....

    When it comes to the queer community, I could care less if people use female or male pronouns when addressing me. It's such a fluid environment and I know they aren't using he/she as an insult or in an attempt to shove me into some stereotypical box, so it is really inconsequential to me.

    But outside of the queer community, I do expect people to use female pronouns. Yes, I have short hair, dress in clothes from the men's department, and have masculine mannerisms. But most of the time when straight people are "sir'ing" me, I know it's not a genuine mistake.

    It's them finding a way to say "because you're masculine, and because you don't fit the stereotype of what I think a woman should look like, it makes you less of a woman or not a woman at all." It's often done in an insulting manner, because my gender presentation has made them uncomfortable in some way.

    As far as correcting goes, I let it slide a lot. Or if they "sir" me, I'll refuse to respond to that, at which point they usually get the message. Or I will walk away entirely.

    I think it is hard when it comes to service industries and retail industries too. I have worked both, and I avoided pronouns as much as possible, because honestly, you never know what someone prefers to be called. There are also people who feel "sir" or "mam" makes them sound old, and that's a whole different set of problems, lol.

    As a cashier you aren't going to ask every person what their preferred pronouns are, and it probably gets really confusing for cashiers who get a couple like the original poster and her boyfriend, who identifies as male. Then let's say that same cashier gets me and my wife, who probably have a very similar gender presentation when it comes to clothes and hair, but we want be addressed with female pronouns....

    So, ultimately, on first glance, that cashier is going to be really clueless on what to do, even if she doesn't want to be insulting.

    Ultimately, if it seems like an honest mistake, a polite correction should fix the problem. If it seems like it is done to be nasty.... then it could lead to an altercation. Which is where you have to make the decision of whether or not this one instance is worth fighting over, or if it's better to walk away and not deal with that person.

    Most of the time I just try to walk away, because I don't feel like it is worth it to have something possibly escalate and get out of control.

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