Pronouns can be a nightmare for people who are transitioning gender! When I first transitioned gender from female to male, most people who knew me kept forgetting to use the correct pronouns (“he” and “him” instead of “she” and “her”). A pronoun is a word that takes the place of a noun, and very often they are gender-specific – that is, they communicate the gender of the noun they represent. So in effect, every time someone called me “she”, they were calling me a woman. This was despite the fact that I presented as 100% male, had facial hair, had a legal male name, and was accepted wherever I went by strangers – without doubt or question – as male.
Sometimes I just wanted to yell at them: “WHAT about me looks like SHE to you?”
I found these gender-specific pronouns mistakes really offensive, and they made me feel very hurt and very angry. I would have conversations in my head with people. I would tell them that I had been through an incredible journey to transition, including major surgery, pain, stress, and disruption to my life. All I was asking them to do was to respect my journey and my expressed wishes by simply using a different gender-specific pronoun.
Was that really too much to ask from people who professed to care about me? At the time, I didn’t think so. After all, it’s not rocket science:
Gender-Specific Pronouns are DIFFICULT to change
But then … my youngest child announced that he (who until then I had thought was she) needed to transition gender. He informed us that he was in fact a boy, not a girl. Of course, once I got over my surprise, I was determined to support my teenager in his decision.
But now it’s three months later, and I still keep forgetting to use his new name and male pronouns! I correct myself constantly, but I do keep making those mistakes. Even though I know perfectly well what I should be doing.
A couple of days ago I had an interesting conversation with a very special, non-trans friend about this. I told her I was having trouble with the pronouns, and with remembering to use my son’s new name.
She said: “So now do you see how DIFFICULT it is for us?”
And yes, now I DO see how difficult it is.
When I forget to use my son’s new, chosen name, or when I forget to say “he” – I am not doing that because I don’t honor and respect his choices. More than most people, I understand what a difficult journey he is on, and I want to support him as much as I possibly can. But 15 years of habits die hard, so I sometimes make mistakes.
This says a lot about the lack of flexibility of my brain, but nothing about how much I respect my son.
When it Comes to Gendered Pronouns – Give People the Benefit of the Doubt
In fact, 11 years after my own transition, and now starting to support my son’s transition, I have come to understand that changing pronouns is extremely hard for most people. In future, when people make mistakes about me, I will give them the benefit of the doubt, and assume that they love me and respect my choices – until they explicitly tell me otherwise. I will no longer take their mistakes and the inflexibility of their brains as an insult – instead, I will try to remember that we are all just human, and most of us genuinely are trying as hard as we can to be kind to each other.
On the plus side, after 11 years of trial and error, my partner now gets it right ALL the time (and gently but firmly makes sure others do too) – so I know that with enough love and respect, it IS possible for people to change their use of pronouns. I look forward to the time when I get it right ALL the time with my son.
Did you like this post or find it useful? If so, please support my blog:
I would appreciate it very much if you would SHARE it with others (using the Share buttons) or LIKE my Facebook page. Or click on one of the Amazon links before buying from Amazon – small commissions are really helpful! BEST OF ALL – just SUBSCRIBE to my blog. It makes you part of our community, and gets you free weekly updates about new posts. Thanks in advance – reader support keeps me going and makes it all worthwhile!