Monday, November 13, 2017

Miss gender, misgendered Miss Gender?

Have you been “misgendered” or “dead named” lately? If you aren’t trans or aren’t involved in the trans community, you probably have never heard these terms before.

“Misgendering” is when someone addresses you with a pronoun or a word particular to a gender that you don’t identify with. So, for me, it would be someone referring to me with a “he,” “him” or “his” instead of a “she,” “her” or “hers.” Of course, words like “sir,” “gentleman” would also be “misgendering" for me.

To be “dead named” is to be called the name that you used to go by. So, for me, if someone called me “John” instead of “Maeve,” in the parlance of the trans community, I would be a “victim” of “dead naming.”

At work, I often, accidentally get called “Johnny” or referred to with a him. Usually, guys are so quick to catch it and are so apologetic that it makes me feel guilty to have caused them any stress around this to begin with. Some guys just plain forget. Sometimes, I forget. We’ve worked together for so many years, in some pretty intense situations, I would feel like a jerk if I pointed out their innocent mistake. And in a way, “Johnny” is kind of sweet thing to hear, every once in a while.

On calls, I almost always get called “sir” by patients and citizens if I get called anything. I am wearing a uniform that is male in nature, as are all female firefighters, in the fire department. Some of these women firefighters, often get called “sir” too, even though they are very undeniably female. I don’t want to correct a citizen about my gender. I am there to do a job for them. I doubt they care if I am male, female or a robot, so long as I get the job done.

In the last couple of months, I have noticed that when I am off work and in public, I never get called “sir” anymore. My appearance might occasionally cause some confusion, but people are friendly and usually opt out of calling me anything gender specific. If I get called anything, it’s “ma’am,” or if I am with my wife, “ladies.” Not to say I don’t get some angry looks sometimes. For some reason, these glares usually come from older women.

Only once did I feel like someone was being mean to me by purposefully misgendering me. I was changing my name and my gender marker on my automobile insurance over the phone. I told the woman on the other end that my name was now Maeve and that, legally, my gender marker had been changed from male to female. Yet, she kept calling me “sir,” so I started calling her “sir.” Repeatedly. This really exasperated her and then she finally quit calling me anything. I have to admit, that was kind of fun.

In the trans community being misgendered or dead named really can upset some people, no matter how innocent the intentions. To be honest, many trans people have had a harder time than me (so far) in life. Like many of us, some of these folks are barely keeping it together and the wrong pronoun or name can really be devastating.

I think I have always been, for better or for worse, someone who does not want to unnecessarily cause anybody any woes. Not to say I haven’t been a shit-stirrer, because I have - big time. But, when I have had to seriously confront someone, it is usually done privately - one-on-one. I do this because I don’t want someone to feel embarrassed or ashamed because of something I am saying. I know how it sucks to be embarrassed in front of others and I avoid making someone else feel that way. Not to say, I don’t falter. I can be an ogre on Facebook and I am not proud of that. And when someone is being a bully, all bets are off.

So when people get my gender wrong or my name wrong, and they are not doing it to be mean, I let it go. That’s just me. I know in the transgender community that often people correct others because they feel like they are spreading awareness or that they are paving the way for other trans people to come. I totally get that. And I also understand the stress we all feel when we are regarded as something that we know we aren’t. It can wear you down.

It has recently occurred to me that I may be the only trans person that many people know. And, in a way, I, as the kids say, “represent.” Almost all the people I know have one relatable example of a transgender person. Me. And for the most part, people who were my friends before I came out are still my friends today. I know that some of them might scratch their heads, or they might be uncomfortable at times, but I am still competent at my job and in my relationships.

I have stated before that I would rather have laws that protect me and my family rather than have people be “nice” to me. Laws that say I can’t be fired because my gender might make people uncomfortable, laws that say I can be in public and use public restrooms, laws that protect me on equal footing with everyone else are laws I want to protect. These laws didn’t get on the books because there were so darn many trans people that the sheer numbers made it happen. Nope, we are a very small part of society. These laws stand because good people value kindness, justice and freedom. Most of our allies have never met an “out” transgender person before. I hope that when they do, the trans person they meet is kind and respectful to them.

And for my friends, when they hear something about transgender people from the pulpit, from talk radio, or some other source with an agenda, they can compare that source’s information with their experience of knowing me and working alongside me.

To intelligent and kind people, experience and truth will always speak louder than ideological propaganda. And I am merely speaking the truth when I now disclose that I am transgender. It’s a truth, that for most of my life, I had avoided disclosing because I thought I would outgrow it or could outrun it. Also, I felt shame and embarrassment for what I was. But, I now own it and am honest about it. What others want to do with this honesty is their decision.