Â Â Â Have you ever been misgendered? Someone looks at you for a split second and in that infinitesimally small amount of time decides if you're a boy or a girl. A decision that cannot be changed in their mind even on a conscious level. Hitherto you are now a "X" and they will refer to you as such even if they try themselves to change their ways. On a subconscious level, imbedded in stone, is your gender even if you know they are wrong and tell them so.
Â Â Â Â This kind of thing can be devastating to the health and mental wellness of a transgender person. Wikipedia defined being misgendered as "assigning the wrong gender to someone and(using) the pronoun "it"" in an effort to describe someone's gender either unintentionally by someone who honestly does not know what your gender is immediately and has to guess to people who use gender pronouns as weapons designed to hurt and destroy. There is a distinct difference between the two situations yet the feelings they produce are one in the same. That pit in your stomach sinks to the floor, your hit with a wave of adrenaline and hormones, and you're left red faced, embarrassed and kind of mad at whomever uttered the devastating, gender identifying, word. Let us take a closer look at the two usual situations misgendering occurs. The first of course being what I like to call, the honest mistake.Â
Â Â Â Â The honest mistake can happen to you a lot depending on how well you pass as the gender you identify with. Sadly your ability to pass as your chosen gender direCredit: Image courtesy of [digitalart] / FreeDigitalPhotos.netctly affects the tendency of people to mistakenly misgender Â you through no fault of your own. You can only pass as well as you can pass and there is no way of getting around that. People are going to take a spit second to judge not only your gender but many other culturally assigned attributes you may or may not have based on how you look. You cannot take this personally, it is just how people are and there is nothing you can do to change that. You can only do the best you can to deal with the misgendering while still holding your head high and being happy with yourself; after all you know what you are and that is all that really counts.
Â Â Â Â Credit: Image courtesy of [stockimages] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net The second, and most insidious type of misgendering is what I like to call the blatant attack. More often than not this kind of assault will come from a cisgender Â person upset with your gender choices lashing out at you, usually from a menial position like sales clerk or gas station attendant. Â They look at you and with a snide look on their faces they exclaim can I help you "Sir!" if you happen to be a male to female transgender person or "Miss" if you happen to be a female to male transgender person or any of the many combinations of people who fall under the transgender umbrella. If you do not conform to societies views of what a woman or a man should look like then people are going to try to make you conform, often in really nasty ways. Â Misgendering being one of the most often used weapons against transgender people. They loudly proclaim what they think your gender is for everyone within earshot to hear and even will go so far as to (yes this happened to me) follow you up the street asking people who pass you if you are a man or a woman. Security guards in stores like Army & Navy in particular like to do this to unsuspecting transgender people simply trying to get through their day like any other human being. Blatant attacks are harder to deal with than the honest mistake and it takes longer for us to recover from the "shock and awe" of their blatant transphobia.Â However there are some things you might want to try when you are dealing with a situation where you have been misgendered:
- Remember who you are and that no one's opinion matters more than your own. Wither it's an honest mistake or a blatant attack we tend to see this is a direct assault on our fragile gender identity as is random people on the street are at war with us(and they are). Your best defense is a strong gender identity and the confidence you need to carry it off.
- Cut them out if you have too. Wear a music player or ear plugs when you are out and about taking care of your daily errands. You won't hear what they say and therefore won't be bothered by it. Also wear sunglasses so they cannot catch your eye and give you that "I know your secret" look that people so often want to convey to you.
- Keep the circumstances in mind. It could just be a matter of an honest mistake and you can usually tell if that is the case. In such situations you cannot do anything to avoid other than blend in perfectly as your chosen gender ( a feat not all of us can pull off) other than just smile and simply correct the person if you feel it is necessary. Â After being misgendered so many times over the years I just smile and move on. I am a transgender woman and happy to be alive.
- Don't bite.Â In such cases as it is obvious that a person is blatantly attacking your gender identity you can do little more than smile and walk away with aplomb. Anything else will give your attacker more weapons to use against you. How you talk for example or how manly and aggressive your stance is. Â I have heard them all and the only defense is not letting them know they have hurt you. Just smile and move on without making a scene. If it's in a place you have to frequent then by all means take the issue to someone higher up in their food chain. The only acception in my opinion to the move on and be mellow rule is if the misgendering is being done in a nasty way by another transgender person. This is the nastiest type of attack possible and they only do it because they know that it will hurt you as much as it hurts them when it happens. In this case I like to call them out on their statements. Bring the question to light to the people around you, showcase them on face book, let them know that our community will not accept such abhorrent behavior.
- Remember what you are. Remember that you are a transgender man or woman, you will never be a cisgender person nor will you always be taken for one. There will always be circumstances where you are outed for one reason or another and you will always be someone who is presenting their gender identity as that of the opposite you were assigned at birth depending on your genitalia(or lack thereof). You cannot change history and you cannot change your DNA no matter how much we wish it could be so.Â You will always be a transwoman or man stuck in the wrong body with various degrees of modifications to make us function and appear as our chosen gender identity. Embrace your uniqueness as transgender and it will bother you a lot less when cisgender mundanes get your gender wrong;Â it is their issue, not yours.
Â Â Â Â You're going to be out there in the world day after day living your life as best you can. There are always going to be situations where you are being misgendered either unintentionally or nefariously by average everyday people. Don't let the minimum wage sales clerk or waitress dull your shine for a single moment. Don't let them try to tear down years of work and painful surgeries with a single, ill spoken word. They are mundane and nothing to a wonderful, unique and spectacular transperson as yourself. There are many of them but only one of you; they will always be jealous of that.