February 26, 2014
Corrections and Confrontations
Hi, I’m an afab agender junior in high school using they/them/their pronouns! I started coming out part-way through sophomore year, and am pretty open about my gender now but haven’t necessarily up-front told everyone??? Its just not a thing I hide at all anymore and I reference now and then. My school is actually super accepting and queer-friendly, which is amazing, and some of my friends are really good with pronouns. My mom’s making an effort that I really appreciate, but she still messes up a lot. Do you have any advice on how to correct people on pronouns and gender? When it comes to speaking up for other people I have no trouble, but when people use she/her/hers pronouns on me or refer to me in very female-exclusive ways I never know what to say and always just end up staying silent. I know most of these people mean really well and when people mess up I don’t think they ever mean it maliciously, so I don’t want to be confrontational, but it can get pretty uncomfortable. Thank you!!!
I’m so glad that you have a pretty good environment! I’m not so glad that you don’t feel like you can call people out when they screw up with you! I totally understand not wanting to be confrontational, I really do, but I don’t think that what you want requires confrontation, so I hope I can help you stop thinking of it that way. You know that you have their support, they just need a little bit more help at expressing it properly and seamlessly. The back-and-forth in the intent versus impact discussion could go on for days and you wouldn’t get anywhere, so let’s get away from that a bit! Yes, the people misgendering you probably don’t mean anything by it, but does that make it suck less? If it did, you wouldn’t be sending me this message.
Treat yourself the way you treat others! Usually the way I go about corrections is waiting until the person is done speaking (nobody really responds well to being interrupted, I always try to prevent potential conflict) and say something like “could you use they instead of she, please?” or “could you use a word that isn’t gendered?” If they already know that’s what you need from them and they’re just having a hard time keeping it in mind while talking about you, their response should be along the lines of a quick apology and correction. If they make it into a big deal about how it wasn’t on purpose and how “you know I would never!!” and how they aren’t bad people then… they’re being selfish. It’s about you! And in my experience, it’s never a huge thing. Just a little reminder that, hey, I’m not a girl and I would like you to remember that for me and bring that into our interactions. At this point, I just give people a Look when they mess up and they typically self-correct pretty quickly. The most I can give YOU is just the knowledge that you are as deserving of having your gender be affirmed as everyone else in your life, but that’s easier to read than to consume and accept and believe to your core. So I have a suggestion to take some of the weight off you! I’m sure you have friends who are better at affirming your identity than others. Grab a few of those people and ask them to spot you. I’m sure some of them already call out people who misgender you at least a little bit, but just pull them aside and tell them that you’re having a hard time with correcting people and that you need their support! You said you don’t have a problem speaking up for others, and you’re not the only one who feels that way! It doesn’t have to be your responsibility entirely, and I’m sure your friends will be happy to ease your burden a bit.
Good luck!! You definitely don’t need to handle this entirely on your own.