This is what misgendering feels like
September 20, 2011 § 9 Comments
Not the deliberate, abusive misgendering from people trying to hurt. Nor the genuine confusion of someone acting kindly, but from ignorance. There’s a sweet, older security guard at the BL who calls me ‘miss’ and it doesn’t sting so much as makes me a little wistful, and a little sad – because he reminds me of my Abba, and I kind of want to ask him for a hug. Nor is it someone I’ve only just met trying their best, getting it wrong and then correcting themselves. My appearance is ambiguous – there are lots of women out there who look more stereotypically masculine than I do, and more power to them.
The type that hurts the most, for me, is the type that comes from people who you already feel somewhat safe around. The people who love you – friends, family – or the people you work with in an environment of respect and supposed trust. And this is difficult to write, because it’s always hardest to call out the people we love, the people who love us. Particularly when we know that we rely on them for support and understanding – sometimes these people can be our fiercest allies. But still – they slip. And the reasoning is always ‘it’s a hard habit to break – I didn’t mean it.’ But this is what it feels like.
It feels as though I’m not worth the time it takes to memorise a new pronoun (what, 20 mins of standing in front of a mirror and repeating “Name/pronoun” over and over again). It feels like you’re humouring me, when you say that you understand me – where can those words come from, if you say you know they don’t apply to me? It feels like a gulf has opened us between us – because, instead of seeing me as I am, you see me as the majority of the world sees me. And the relationship you have, therefore, is not with me, but with that person – who is nothing more than a mirage. It feels, to be frank, like having the wind knocked out of you. And when it’s followed by ‘you know I didn’t mean it’ – why keep repeating something you don’t mean?
I already want to apologise for writing this – but I hope that, if cis people know how it feels, they might better school themselves in how to get it right.