PSA: Misgendering and mis-naming

published on Oct 29, 2019

CATEGORIZED AS:

Uh oh! You slipped up and referred to someone with the wrong pronouns. Now what?

It happens. A lot, actually, especially around me as a newly-transitioning woman. But how you respond to that mistake can be worse than the mistake itself.

First, let's look at the best way to handle it:

PERSON: "...and that's when he -- I mean she -- decided to eat the whole perogi!"

In this example, PERSON 1 acknowledges their mistake and moves on. This method is clear, quick, and doesn't draw undue attention to the mistake. 

And now, let's look at what happens all too frequently:

PERSON 1: "...and that's when he--" [Looks at the transgender person to whom they were referring] "Oh goodness, oh dear, I'm so sorry. I'm sorry. OK? All right? I usually don't do that, but it's so hard, you know, having known you for so many years before..." et cetera.

If you read my trans ally PSA on Being Vocally Supportive, you'll remember that it's very often we (trans people) feel on the outside. Making a point with regard to the mistake heightens this sense of feeling like "other." 

It's also quite draining, energetically, to have all the stares and double-takes directed your way, to never know how the Sheriff's deputy manning the security at the county courthouse door is going to respond to you, or have the table in the coffee shop suddenly hush when you walk by.

If I also have to take the time and effort to assure you that it's OK that you made the mistake, that I know you're not trying to be hurtful, that's one more draining moment in my day.

Help a sister out, and just treat it like you would any other simple mistake you might make in speaking.

Following up on the advice from the previous column, the simplified version for interacting with trans people is to just act around them like you would any other person.

Thank you.

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Abigail Head


Improv nerd, geek girl. She/her.

Theater owner, actor & improviser, writer, filmmaker, minor league humorist, and generally-opinionated scuttlebug.

Lover of the em dash, proponent of the serial comma, and staunch defender of "literally" literally meaning "in the literal sense".