I’m not going to sugarcoat this one, okay? Are you ready?
It is never okay to misgender me. It is not okay to call me by my birth name. It is not okay to refer to me using masculine pronouns. It is not okay to describe me as being anyone’s son, brother, or husband. It not okay to call me “man,” “dude,” “guy,” “bro,” or anything else of the sort. Nope. Not okay.
This is not negotiable. There is no discussion to be had about this. Just don’t do it, okay? It doesn’t matter if you are talking about the past before I transitioned and was pretending to be a man, it’s still not okay. I always have been and always will be Amelia.
I get it, mistakes happen and you will likely slip at some point. I understand this and I don’t blame you for an honest mistake—just correct yourself without making a big deal about it, no apology necessary. If you’ve known me for a long time, it may take some time to get used to it and undo the muscle memory of referring to me as you used to. This is not what we are talking about. I can tell the difference between an honest mistake and you simply not giving a damn and having no respect for me. And if you’re doing it on purpose or maliciously, yeah, I can definitely tell.
To you, it may not seem like it’s a big deal, but it is a huge deal for me. When you misgender me you are telling me…
You don’t actually see me as a woman
If you are able to look right at me and gender me as a man, you very clearly don’t see me as a woman. I’m sure you have absolutely no issue calling other women by female pronouns, so why am I different? Am I not a woman like they are? Be honest, I’m just a man to you, aren’t I?
Not that it would be at all okay to misgender me if I didn’t, but I even look like a woman. Yeah, I don’t pass 100% (nor do I want to), but I look a heck of a lot more like a woman than I do a man. Even if you still need time to change the way you see me, looking at me should guide you to the right pronouns.
If you are unable or unwilling to see me as a woman, then you are are unable or unwilling to see me as the person I actually am. If this is the case, I am likely going to be unable or unwilling to continue our friendship.
You don’t respect me as a friend, equal, or person
If you knew me before transition, you should have no trouble understanding how big of a deal it was to come out as transgender. Whether I told you one-on-one or you found out via Facebook, I put my emotional well-being at your mercy. And when I came out to you, I very clearly asked that you refer to me only as Amelia and with female pronouns. I was clear about this. When you do not refer to me as such, you are making it clear you don’t respect me. I told you this was important to me and you ignored that.
Even when you are discussing the past, you are talking about me and I am and always have been a woman. You may have known me by a different name, but that was still me, a woman.
You don’t care what feelings you trigger for me
This is a really big deal for me. When you don’t refer to me as a woman, it’s yet another reminder that the world doesn’t see me as one. It’s a reminder that I’m different from other women. It’s a reminder of a life I didn’t have and the mistakes I made trying to deal with that. It’s a trigger of all the dysphoria I used to feel, how miserable I used to be, and how much I hated myself. It makes me question how I look and whether or not this was worth it. The next time I look in a mirror, I will spend ten minutes picking apart all my flaws and obsessing over the masculine-looking features of my face and body. I look at the size of my hands, feet, and shoulders. I look at my lack of hips or discernible waist. I look at my hairline. I look at my shape of my brow. I look at my giant nose. I look at my Adam’s apple. I look at my long torso and short, stubby legs. I look at all these things and I pick myself apart. Most of these things, I can’t change and the ones I can change require painful and expensive surgery.
On a good day, a really good day, I can shake this pretty quickly. But most days, these feelings linger for hours. Sometimes they linger for days.
When you misgender me, you don’t care that I may end up crying in the bathroom or curled up in a corner somewhere hating myself. Is it your responsibility to walk on eggshells and coddle my emotions? No. But it is your responsibility to not be a dick to your friend, acquaintance, or coworker. Transition isn’t an instant cure-all, these feelings and vulnerabilities don’t just go away. They are still easily triggered. I may not still think about suicide every day, but it still does happen from time to time.
You don’t think what you say matters
Maybe it’s unfortunate for you, but the words you say do matter and how you treat me matters. Maybe I don’t actually care what you think, maybe I do. Either way, your words and actions can still be triggering (see above).
When you refuse to see me as a woman, this isn’t just isolated to an interaction between you and me. It’s actually much bigger than that. When you refer to me as a man and I don’t stop you and correct you, other people think this is okay. They think they can call me a man too and it doesn’t matter. This puts an onus on me to say something and correct you every time. Often, this is difficult to do without making it a big deal, it disrupts conversation, is extremely awkward, and makes me look like a sensitive bitch.
When you don’t care enough to gender me properly, you send a message to other people that it’s okay not to respect transgender people. You are saying it’s not necessary to respect our genders and identities. I don’t blame you for the transphobia in the world, but you are being complacent in it. You are contributing to an attitude and a world that doesn’t think I’m a person.
When you speak of the past and use my birth name and male pronouns, you are confusing others who may not know I’m trans or who may not quite grasp it all. You make it harder for other people to see me as a woman.
You are making light of my transition and what it means to be transgender
When you don’t gender me as I have asked you to, you are indicating to me that you have no idea how difficult transition can be. Transition meant risking my marriage, job, friendships, family, and everything I have. My emotional well-being and life will likely always be on the line. I risk my safety just by leaving the house each day.
Every time I go to the bathroom—which is roughly hourly thanks to my hormones—I spend an extra few minutes “fixing” myself. I make sure my hair looks as good as I can get it, my clothes are sitting on me just right, and my makeup is doing what I need it to. I do this every time and I don’t do it for me. I do it for you. I do it to make it easier for people to see me as a woman.
When you refuse to gender me properly, you are saying none of this matters and it’s not a big deal. You don’t care about how much I used to want to kill myself every day, everything I did to get to where I am now, and what I still have to do and deal with. You may not have noticed, but the world doesn’t exactly accept transgender people much. Every day is a fight for trans people and it’s not easy. If you can’t do this one simple thing, it’s clear to me that you don’t respect our lives.
I’m not asking you for a lot, really. I’m asking for you to refer to me as a woman. That’s it.
You think my identity is yours to define
When you gender me as a man, you’re telling me you don’t respect my right to define my identity. You are telling me my gender and identity are whatever you say they are. I don’t get say over my life and how I live it, instead it’s you who gets to dictate the person I am.
You think it’s okay to out me as transgender to a room full of people
Depending on the setting, it’s possible, maybe even likely, there are other people in the room who don’t know me or know my past. Maybe this is the first time they met me or maybe they’ve met me a couple times, but don’t know anything about my life prior to transition. I know it sounds absurd, but there are some people in this world who don’t know I’m transgender.
When you misgender me, you’re outing me as trans to them. You are taking away my right to control that information to the best of my ability. Maybe I don’t want these people to know. Maybe this isn’t how I want them to find out. Maybe I do want them to know, but I’m not in the mood to field questions at the time. Maybe my wife is with me and I don’t want her to have to field questions. It’s not your right to put me or my wife in that position.
You don’t get to tell people I’m transgender. You have no right to do this and I don’t take it lightly. Do you know how these people will react? Are you sure you’re not putting my physical safety at risk?
I may not pass completely, but I like to think I don’t grossly stand out as transgender in a room full of people (this is a pretty huge privilege I have and I’m extremely grateful for it). Even without you outing me, I may not have any say in the matter, especially if I have to actually open my mouth and take part in conversation. Still, neither you nor I can determine how someone will read me when they look at me. They may not see me as transgender and may, in fact, simply see me as a woman. You have no right to take that away from me.
I have said over and over again, I want people to know I’m transgender. I want to be out, open, and visible about it, but this does not make it okay for you to be the one to out me. I have the right to out myself as I see fit. I also have the right to not out myself if I deem my safety to be at risk or I’m simply not in the mood to deal with being everyone’s ambassador to the transgender community (a role I typically enjoy).
I don’t get to clock out from being trans, but sometimes I just want to interact with a room full of people like any other woman would. I have that right.
Simply put, gendering me properly is a big deal.
If you are incapable or unwilling to gender me properly, it tells me a lot about what you think of me and transgender people as a whole. This is a big deal for me and I am not okay with you misgendering me, nor will I listen to your attempts to justify it. It is never okay. Ever.