The Inescapable Misgendering

Ah, misgendering. The occasional slip of the pronoun from someone that, as much as I try to deny it matters, does. It happens very rarely from people I don’t know, except on the phone, but not as often there as it used to…my voice improves with practice.

No, the slips mostly come from friends and family. It’s funny, really, because there’s always this moment of embarrassment on their parts because it’s not malicious, they know they’ve erred and I’ve become much more gracious about it because the fact is that no matter how long they know me as a woman, they will always have that knowledge of me as a man and that is their primary knowledge of me. They will always see me in the present lensed through that past version of me and it isn’t so easy as a mental find and replace of all the male pronouns and names for female. The brain is more complicated than a simple word processor.

I was reading Lynn Conway’s site and while it is very dated, there was one bit on how if you transition in place, you will always be seen as you were in some respect (and I’m paraphrasing a great deal). I find this to be true because just about everyone I know, about  every adult I know, I’ve known for many years and I know it’s not even that they see me as a trans woman, but that they see me as they saw me with a variation in presentation. And it’s not that I’m all that different in certain respects, but I am certainly different in others.

And I don’t want to be seen or treated as a variation of Him. That’s not who I am. If anything, I was a variation of Her…of me, but I cannot expect others to understand that at that basic level where they need to make that switch in their minds and keep it switched always and forever because for whatever reason, keeping the switch frozen in the female position is hard work.

I don’t want to explain to them how much it hurts me because if they knew, every slip on their part would make them feel terribly and I believe to the point where they would prefer not to interact with me rather than make me suffer and suffer in kind. So I’m a martyr, right? I take the occasional wrong pronoun with something like a pained smile and good cheer to protect them from feeling their mistakes are a source of pain for me. There’s no winning with this. Merely a stalemate of feeling uncomfortable every now and again.

All the everything of transition will not erase the past if the past stretches far enough back.