As someone who lives and presents as two genders, I think about gender identity a lot. When en femme, I identify as transgender and bristle when feminine pronouns are not used by others when interacting with me. I know one should never assume someone else’s pronouns, but when I am dressed to kill in a dress and heels and spent $65 on a makeover, I think it’s pretty safe that I am a her.
Being called male pronouns when en femme can also sting in a way that can ruin my entire day. Sometimes I can shake it off, but other times, especially if I am having an ugly day, it can linger in my head for longer than it should.
Sometimes someone can mistakenly use pronouns when speaking with me, but they will quickly correct themselves. But when it appears they are using male pronouns on purpose in an effort to be vindictive, then it becomes an issue of common courtesy. To intentionally call someone by the wrong pronouns is simply cruel. When someone uses the wrong pronouns, I will always correct them. Well, unless it’s clearly pointless. T-girls are pretty adept at knowing when someone is mis-gendering them intentionally.
Identifying as transgender covers a lot of gender identities. Not that labels matter, but I feel that bi-gender is a more specific term when it comes to my identity. I have two gender identities, and besides underdressing or something subtle, such as wearing “girl” jeans, my wardrobes do not crossover with each other. Like my closet, my gender identities are very separate from each other.
Gender identity, pronouns, specific labels are very significant and important when en femme, but in male mode these things do not come up very often. When I present as male, no one ever calls me by pronouns that do not match my gender presentation. This is cis-privledge.
Last week was International Pronoun Day. According to their website, referring to people by the pronouns they determine for themselves is basic to human dignity. Being referred to by the wrong pronouns particularly affects transgender and gender nonconforming people. Together, we can transform society to celebrate people’s multiple, intersecting identities.
Users on social media were commenting on their own pronouns regardless if they were cis, trans, or non-binary.
Although providing pronouns on a social media profile is pretty common for our community, I am also seeing it more often for cisgender people. The more cisgender people state their pronouns, the more normal it becomes when someone who is transgender states theirs, especially when it changes. I also see this happen as a show of solidarity and support for the trans community. Why should only transgender people have to state their pronouns? Why doesn’t everyone?
I appreciate anyone showing their support for the transgender community. Even a small and subtle thing such as this makes me happy. It’s reassuring to know we have allies out there.
Through my blogging, the MN T-Girls, and just simply being visible in the real world, I feel I am a positive voice and representative in the transgender community. But I wonder if I am doing enough for our community in my male life.
I vote for candidates that support the same social issues I support. I use the correct pronouns for my non-binary coworkers and friends. I defend our community when someone attacks it.
But could I do more? I write a lot about activism and awareness here, but I rarely bring up the same things on the social media that I use in my male life. Hannah goes to Pride celebrations, but perhaps I should go presenting as male.
In the few people I have come out to, identifying as transgender or bi-gender or as a crossdresser is the last thing they would have guessed about me. I wonder if that means me being an ally for our community is also just as much of a surprise. Maybe I should do more to show my support and solidarity in my male life.
As a straight white male, I have never had to fight for my rights. I have never had to fight for the right to vote, to own property, or to marry who I wanted. This is another example of cis/hetero/white privilege, to be perfectly honest. When marriage equality was passed, it took the entire LGBTQ+ community fighting for it, but it also needed the support of the non-LGBTQ+ community as well. Similarly the transgender community is waiting for the Supreme Court to decide on whether or not sex can be a determining factor in cases of employment discrimination in regards to the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Of course, the transgender community is involved with making sure that we are protected, but the cisgender community needs to be involved, too. Like many issues, this decision should not be based on gender identity, but it should be a basic human rights issue and it’s a little insane this is even being argued.
In order for the transgender community to have all the rights and protection and respect that we deserve, it’s going to take everyone, regardless of gender identity, fighting for it.
It’s going to take both sides of me fighting for it.
5 thoughts on “Both Sides of Us”
“…Why should only transgender people have to state their pronouns? Why doesn’t everyone?”
Because of our white male cishet privilege? 🙂 Less flippantly, most folk in our office have a gender and pronouns that match their birth gender. That’s also how I present as a straight, white, cisgender heterosexual man….at work.
When we did an ally course this summer, we were asked what was one thing we would do when back in the office? Well, like you, I could come out, I could run T ally courses, etc. But…. While I’m not really bothered what fully think of me, I do worry about the effect me being out would have on my wife and children.
So, I took the option to put my pronouns out there in meetings and in my email signature. I am hoping it makes it just one of those everyday things, so folk that do have to do that, that they don’t feel they’re out on a limb.
Sometimes that’s all we can do in the situation we find ourselves. Being an ally, standing up for those who feel that can’t, and maybe being a little bit out to trusted colleagues and friends.
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This is a powerfully insightful article Hannah.
As I’ve grown more comfortable in my own identity, and less fearful of being outed, I am much more comfortable only expressing support for trans people, even in my white male mode. Most people have responded very positively to these overtures.
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I’ve realized this quite a bit… I’ve put an LGBT sticker on my office door and have an LGBT Flag in my office. Obviously, those are relatively superficial gestures, but I’ve been working to do more to support the LGBT community… and not just as Alicia!
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“e more cisgender people state their pronouns, the more normal it becomes when someone who is transgender states theirs, especially when it changes.” Agreed, well said.
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