A Rant

7 05 2009

Please note: I don’t want advice. I don’t want to be told that I shouldn’t feel this way. I don’t want to be told how I should feel. So if that’s what your reflex is, please abstain from the comments.

I just want to rant to sympathetic ears (eyes?). If you can relate and share in the ranting, by all means. But I don’t want to be rational right now so no advice.

I can’t rant about this on Facebook. Too many people from work on there and some of them are the ones I’m ranting about. I really doubt that any of them read this blog . . .well, I know one does on occasion because he’s mentioned it but he’s not included in the rant because he’s gotten it right from the beginning.

So, on the surface, everything is great at work with regards to my transition. Everyone accepted me, no one gave me a hard time, it was all love and rainbows. A bunch of co-workers even came ot my transition party. So, no harassment, no discrimination. One colleague even said that he thought that it was cool that if anyone in our department did manifest problems with what I am doing, they would be the one to be ostracised. Yes. What a nice, progressive lot.

And, yeah, it’s true that I really can’t complain about that overall vibes.

But.

Fuck.

After ALL this time, when are they going to get the damn pronouns right?!? I was patient for a long time. And lots of them do get it right. In many cases, I don’t know because I’m not there if people refer to me in conversation about work related things. When I’m not there to glare as mistakes, do they even correct themselves if they say “she”?

Anyway, what set this off? I got “she”d by three different co-workers today. Three. 3. Trois. Drei.

In one case, the person corrected herself immediately and moved on. Good move.

In another case, the person corrected himself after I gave him a look of death and said: “What?!?!” But I got that look of “Whatever, it’s not such a big deal, just deal with it.”

In yet another case, the person said “she” to a person I had just met, a relatively new employee who, undoubtedly had read me as male until that moment as 100% of people that I meet have been doing for MONTHS now. Can you say confusion and in need of explanation now?

That’s the thing. When they screw up and I point it out, they don’t even understand why it’s important. I’m the one who is seen as making a big deal out of it but they don’t even realise, or want to it seems, that it’s like they just stuck a knife in my chest, knocking the wind right out of me with their lack of recognition of my gender. And it’s even worse when it comes from someone that I had considered a friend. Someone who has always claimed to “get” me.

Well, if you get me so much, how can you not get that it IS a big deal when you consistently verbalise an identity that is no longer mine, by the same token demonstrating that you can’t see me for who I am?

Why do you NOT get that you complicate my life in relation to new people when you “out” me and force me to have to explain to the new person who I am? When you remove my power to disclose to new people when I see fit?

We, trans folk, are told all the time that we take it too personally when people screw up our pronouns. Most of us are understanding in the beginning, though. And yet after over a year, when people still screw up, you start to wonder.

I understood that when I still had a delicate girly face and a girly voice it was hard to read me as male. I was patient. I didn’t make a big deal out of it.

But christ, I have a fucking beard now. I have a deeper voice. My chest is bound so tight that sometimes it’s hard to breathe. I go through all this shit with the chest binding so that I can present myself to the world in a way that concords with who I feel I am and I’m the one that is taking it too personally, being impatient and making a big deal out of nothing?

In response to that I say FUCK YOU. You’re the one that is losing the privilege of knowing who I am. And I say privilege not because I think I’m any more special than anyone else but because I know that I’m as special as anyone else and that I have a lot to contribute to the lives of people that take the time to know me for who I am.

REMINDER of opening disclaimer:

I don’t want advice. I don’t want to be told that I shouldn’t feel this way. I don’t want to be told how I should feel. So if that’s what your reflex is, please abstain from the comments.

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24 responses

7 05 2009
genderkid

I hate this too. I’m still in the I-seem-kinda-girly-so-I-should-understand phase, yet it still pisses me off when some of my friends stop trying to use “he” and my new name. I tried calling them by the wrong pronouns to see if they got it, but that didn’t really affect them because their gender identity is otherwise validated all the time.

And by now all my classmates know I’m trans, but they think it’s a kind of dark secret side of me, not a huge part of who I am as a gendered being. So they never even thought of using he/him/new name.

I think it sucks that your colleagues are acting this way; THEY are the ones who need advice on how to treat a fellow human being. Thanks for the invitation to rant with you.

7 05 2009
Jacky V.

Hey Genderkid. Thanks for sharing. From what you say, it seems they were trying then they stopped? That’s weird. And it’s true, people wouldn’t be that affected by the wrong pronoun if gender isn’t a big issue for them, I guess. So it wouldn’t help them see the point. They don’t get that they’re hurting us, I think.

It’s also funny how some people see it as such a taboo thing that it would be inappropriate to use the gender that doesn’t match the body. *sigh*

7 05 2009
genderkid

Yes, a couple of people just switched back to female pronouns, especially when we’re in school… I wonder if it has something to do with not wanting to look silly. It might just be inconsiderate forgetfulness, though.

8 05 2009
zibeline

Thanks for sharing those thoughts.

What you say about people telling you that using the wrong pronoun is not such a big deal and you should not make a big fuss about it is, I think, the same kind of argument people use when racialised people complain about racist words or phrases and are told that they overreact. For me, when one keeps on referring to someone with a specific word they were told was offensive or simply inappropriate is rude and insensitive.

There’s someone I know (a former neighbour) who’s lost some of my respect because she kept on referring to a trans woman as “that gay guy who dresses as a woman” and using the pronoun “he”. And, of course, as you said, outing the person all the time.

However, I have to say that such an awareness doesn’t prevent one (me) from the occasional and unfortunate mistake.

Anyway, thanks again for the ranting, Jacky, it’s a very interesting one 🙂

8 05 2009
Tarald

I would have started to use wrong pronouns about them. And if anyone called me on it, I would have explained that pronouns obviously didn’t matter for those people, or that their own pronoun-use seemed to be the opposite of a persons gender.

It might not work, but I would get my frustration out.

8 05 2009
Shirley Anne (UK)

Well what can I say Jacky? Shit happens as they say but you know it only falls out of arseholes! LOL………..It is so frustrating isn’t it and downright offensive too. I got it and once in a while still get it from assholes who don’t know any better. I usually do what Tarald suggested and use the wrong pronoun, subtley of course, when addressing them, especially if they are in company.

Shirley Anne x

8 05 2009
Jacky V.

Zib: You’re absolutely right about the parallel with racial talk. I see that a lot with terms that are used in the media or by politicians when discussing Native issues and they don’t understand why Native communities react. It’s the same kind of thing: the mainstream thinks it’s the marginalised group that is making a big deal out of nothing.

You know, occasional mistakes are not the bigger problem. I mean, yeah, it hurts a bit but I can easily overlook occasional mistakes, myself. Like the first person I referred to in my rant: she just corrected herself and moved on. And if she had been the only one that day, I wouldn’t even have dwelled on it since she did the right thing immediately.

It’s the ones that don’t catch themselves AND get defensive when I call them on it that really piss me off. They’re not willing to take responsibility for their actions so they minimize the impact of their behaviour and trivilialise the other person’s feelings.

Anyway, thanks for the comments and thanks for your sensitivity! It’s great to have allies like yoU!

8 05 2009
Jacky V.

Shirley Anne, that expression is hilarious! Shit happens and it falls out of arseholes. I love it.

It bothers me less when it’s just people. But part of what really got me down is that one of the three is someone that I considered a friend for a long time, someone I really liked and cared about. I actually looked up to this person.

I’m using past tense because I have to completely detach myself from him now. It’s been more than once and he’s just not getting it. I can’t afford to maintain a bond of friendship with someone that keeps hurting me.

8 05 2009
gnatalby

That really sucks, I’m sorry that some of your coworkers are jerky.

I’ve had a sort of pet theory that anything bad that happens (unwanted sexual advance, panic attack, people being inconsiderate jerks) is heightened when it happens at work, since you can’t easily just get away nor can you do much to alter who is in your environment.

8 05 2009
Brielle

I would feel awful if I did that – and I think the key thing is ‘feel’. These people around you don’t feel anything when they do that to you. They have no idea of how they are making you feel, or how they are undermining your process with others. I hope none are doing it maliciously, with intent, because that’s where I would want to give you advice…

I’ve dealt with pronoun / name glitches lots and I have to say that I think a lot of people don’t bother to ‘feel’ anything about trans or lgbt folks because it is part of their homophobia – it would make them feel affiliated, connected in a way that’s uncomfortable. I know this is childish and wrong on their part, but my experience tells me that that is simply how people behave (or more accurately, are programmed to behave.) These people have never spent the time to understand their subconscious gender, their subconscious sexuality. It seems incredible to me that young people would still be not learning that about themselves. The extent to which a person has no feelings, how deep it goes – that is what determines psychopathic behavior. To me this kind of behavior can be an indicator of that type of personality. If someone displays that to me, I tend to keep an eye on them and make sure they aren’t profiling me in any way. It’s not paranoia, it’s just routine maintenance. Good luck at work. You are the one who has expanded your knowledge of being-ness, and therefore – you are allowed to go to the next level.. hehe. cool, eh?

9 05 2009
Mish

Grrrrr….arrgh!

9 05 2009
Jacky V.

Thanks gnatalby;

Yeah, that’s one way of looking at it. It’s true that you usually can’t choose your co-workers so it can be tough to deal with. You can’t just leave the situation without facing consequences of your own. Usually.

In my case, as a teacher, I don’t actually *have* to have that much contact with colleagues. We socialise of our own free will. Our actually work, aside from the monthly department meeting, doesn’t bring us into much contact.

In my situation, it’s more that some of these colleagues were people I considered friends.

Mish: Damn right.

9 05 2009
Jacky V.

THanks for reading and commenting Brielle. No, none of them are doing it maliciously. They just don’t understand how it makes me feel, as you say. They don’t feel what I feel and they can’t put themselves in my place. I’ve tried putting myself in theirs and that’s what allowed me to be patient with them in the beginning.

10 05 2009
nix

well, that is just fucked up. i’m sorry that this has happened to you, and i wanted to agree with what the others have said and remind you that yes, you have every right to be royally pissed off with these people. you are not making a big deal out of nothing.

10 05 2009
genderoutlaw

Um, yeah, I totally hear you, and am in the same boat (pass me a paddle!!)

It’s not malicious, as you say, it’s unfeeling and unthinking. Some of it may be unconscious, and some of it is conscious–people not wanting to step outside their little bubble of comfort to extend a little grace.

“So, it makes you uncomfortable to switch pronouns with me? How about a little compassionate thinking about how uncomfortable you make me feel as I present myself to the world as male only to be outed by your slips? How about some recognition of my journey into manhood, friend?”

I was reclusive before transition, and this all makes me more so now.

10 05 2009
genderkid

Wow, I didn’t know that this happened to so many trans people; I thought that I had come out in the wrong way, or made some other mistake, and that was why people didn’t respect my identity.

Judging on all the answers to this post, it’s a common problem. I’m not exactly glad to know that we all have to deal with this –I wish it were easier for all of us– but it’s comforting to know that it isn’t my fault (and that I’m not making a big deal out of nothing, either).

10 05 2009
Jacky V.

Genderkid . . .nope, you’re certainly not alone in this. I think it’s one of the biggest complaints I hear from fellow trans folk. There is no wrong way to come out . . . we all have our own way. People seem to have trouble switching pronouns no matter what. Again, I understand how it can be tough in the beginning because people act on pure reflex. But after a while . . . it’s enough!

10 05 2009
Jacky V.

Nix: Thanks for the extra reassurance : )

Gender Outlaw: I agree about it being unthinking. And when you call them on the unthinkingness, it DOES make them uncomfortable because then they have to THINK and that is HARD. It takes WORK and, as you say, consideration and compassion.

22 05 2009
Names do matter « genderkid

[…] go back, but I still think that’s unfair. And I’m more certain than ever that names are not foolish at […]

9 06 2009
Jan

It really is nice to see someone else this upset over pronoun-mangling–no schadenfreude intended. 😉

Though I must admit, it’s a bit of a stretch to expect everyone to get mine right 100% of the time, since I’m genderqueer and only bind on ‘Boy Days’.

On the other hand, it’s not like I’m asking them to shatter the rules of grammar, either. It’s common practice–not to mention politically correct–to refer to a singular person of unknown gender as ‘they’ [they, them, theirs, etc.].

Ex.:

Joan: This cold just isn’t getting any better, so I went to the doctor yesterday.
Jim: Oh really? What do they think is up?

-sigh- Not that hard. Not that hard at all.

10 06 2009
Jacky V.

Hi Jan;

Thanks for reading and commenting! Unfortunately, it’s true that many people take us less seriously in our gender identification when it is fluid. They think we are playing a game or something.

As for the gender neutral “they”, there are still many who argue that it is awkward. I like it but I know people who insist that it’s not proper grammar. Even if it wasn’t, though, it’s important to remember that PEOPLE create language and grammar and we can choose to change things.

17 06 2009
Kai

I totally understand where you’re coming from. My best friend’s coworker only ever knew me as male, until my friend felt comfortable enough (and asked my permission) to tell her about my transgender status. Now the coworker slips up and calls me “she.” WHY? She’s never even met me, has only ever known me as male. But now that she knows I was once female, she slips up and uses female pronouns. How is that even possible?

Sometimes I really wonder about people.

17 06 2009
Femme

Holy shit do I ever understand. Sometime I feel like walking around topless just so the stupid idiots will get it. Those idiots mostly being family.
I’ve done that, use wrong pronouns on a stranger if they screw up on me, usually goes right over their head. And now a days it doesn’t bother me so much on that odd occasion it may happen, but friggen people who are suppose to care.

18 06 2009
Jacky V.

Hi Kai and Femme. Welcome to my blog.

Kai: Yes, that is seriously fucked. I had that happen to me once when someone found out I was trans. Weird.

Femme: Yeah, it’s worse when it’s people who are supposed to care and that you feel (or felt) close to. Last time I saw my mother, she said “she” in reference to me EVEN MORE than she used to! It was like she went out of her way to talk about me in the 3rd person when I was around even when it wasn’t necessary. Even my sister noticed it.

Anyway, thanks for your comments!

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