Monday, November 14, 2011

Being Misgendered SUCKS

It is unavoidable.  People every now and then use female pronouns when referring to me.  "Oh, I'm just getting this for her."  "Have a nice day, ma'am."  And I know it isn't really their fault-- they looked at my different characteristics, and those read "female".  I still have certain feminine facial features and something I guess you couldn't really call stubble.  I wear a binder shirt to bind my chest, but it works better some days than others.

Yesterday I woke up and wanted to wear something... nice.  So, I put on my Sunday clothes-- button up shirt, tie, slacks.  I shaved, gelled my hair up a bit and I didn't pay a lot of attention thinking about it, but I thought I looked rather handsome.  When my girlfriend got home, we ran and got a double cheeseburger at Wendy's.  When the cashier, obviously new, gave me my food, he got this deer in the headlights look for a second, looked to, where else, my chest, looked up and said, "Have a nice day, ma'am!"  I didn't do anything-- turned, and walked away.  We got outside, and I don't want to be dramatic or anything, but I cried.  Ugh, here I thought I looked masculine, and what did I look like?  Did I look like a butch woman, or a woman dressing up as a man?  He looked at my chest for an answer, and the painful reality was that my body-- my body that is getting in the way of me living a normal life-- , my body continues to betray me.

What does being misgendered feel like for a trans person?  It feels embarrassing, humiliating, and annoying.  It feels dangerously naked.  Completely vulnerable.  It makes you wonder how much you really pass... It felt like I'd made a fool out of myself, and I was absolutely embarrassed.  Which we all know is ridiculous.  I had nothing to feel embarrassed about, and if anyone had any reason to be embarrassed, it was the cashier.  But I went home and changed into a striped polo that's a little bigger on me.  Gender dysphoria makes it difficult for me to truly appreciate my wonderful body.  There are too many features that are an exquisitely painful reminder that I have to struggle for something that should be simple.

Kellie, my girlfriend, and I went out to eat at a new sushi house last night.  A friend of mine works there, and it's open on Sundays, so I thought I'd try it out.  It was a pretty routine sushi night.  Average waitress, good sushi.  This morning, my friend messaged me and we chit chatted, and then she said that she had something awkward to tell me.  Our server from last night had kind of freaked out a bit last night because she couldn't tell if I was a guy or a girl, and my "androgyny" had made her uncomfortable.  Not that she wasn't sure what to address me by, but this woman thought it was her business to be upset because firstly, she couldn't tell if I was a boy or girl, and so, secondly, she couldn't tell if my relationship was heterosexual or homosexual.

There is a very important difference between what happened at Wendy's, and what happened at the sushi house.  Although I think it was inappropriate for the cashier to look at the world's biggest moobs to determine gender, I do think it was a fairly innocent gesture.  He's in the service business, and gendered language is often used.  "Yes, sir", "Thank you, ma'am".  It was very innocent, and I don't really hold him at much fault.

The server at the sushi house, however, completely crossed a boundary.  It is none of her business to be annoyed or disgusted because I do not clearly come off to her as male or female, and it is none of her business to be annoyed or disgusted if my relationship is homosexual OR heterosexual.  In my opinion, an act like this is ignorant, but not innocent.

If you misgender someone, calmly apologize and repeat the correct, desired pronoun, and then move on.  It happens, and it will happen.  When I see someone do that, I see that they slipped up, but they're willing to take responsibility and they take effort to treat me with respect.  And I appreciate that.  It's embarrassing for everyone involved, but I think if you do that, you'll be good most of the time.


  1. It's always interesting to me to read posts like this from transgendered people because I have *no* personal experience (that I know of) with any transgender person and never really thought about what life might be like for them until fairly recently.

    I had a couple questions, if you don't mind answering. They're probably stupid and naive, but I'm curious. Anyway, it's interesting considering the feelings you express about frustration with your body and how it "betrays" you. That must be really frustrating! I can't even imagine. As a transgender person, have you always felt some level of embarrassment or awkwardness about your body because it felt to you like it should be different? If so, how did those feelings differ from your feelings now as you (I presume from the post) are transitioning, or whatever the correct terminology is (sorry, I'm really ignorant about this--feel free to correct me). I mean, I would think it would be harder now because it would cast doubt on the effectiveness of your efforts... or maybe it would be harder in the past because you felt more helpless?

    Also, this is really a semantic question, so I'd understand if you don't care to answer, but would your relationship be considered "homosexual" or "heterosexual?" Like you said, I understand that it doesn't matter, and I don't value either over the other, but I just wonder for the insight your response could give about where you're coming from.

    So, sorry for the awkward questions. I hope they're not too personal--there's not much social reference for appropriateness of these types of questions :), but I'm grateful for this blog to at least have the chance to ask.

  2. Great questions, Trev.

    Transition is wonderful, but it is tantalizing. When I finally felt like it was possible for me to live as a man, it made it more difficult when someone refers to me as a female. With the help of testosterone, I can look in the mirror, and in certain facial features, I can see the body that I "should have had".

    Gender dysphoria is a complex cocktail of emotion: disgust for your body because you are so tired of it being wrong, disappointment that even with thousands of dollars out of your own pocket you will never have "your" body, grief for losing an experience that would just make things easier. It is an odd sensation-- like, my mind is mine, and my body is someone else's. Growing up, I looked in the mirror, and I never saw myself. I thought everyone felt this way... but when I started to transition, I slowly began to see myself.

    Okay, so I look in that mirror now, and I see a lot of things: curves, hips, boobs, slender shoulders and arms, slight "stubble", a sharpening jaw line, an awesome male haircut, and I can see me in the outlines of my face. What I mean is this: My body does not feel like mine, but my brain composition, which affects my transsexualism, is me, so when I can see "me" reflected in my body, I see "me" more. An intense illusion. An excellent song that describes how this feels for *me* is "My Body is a Cage", by Peter Gabriel (who rocks, btw).

    I consider my relationship to be heterosexual. I am a man who was born with a female body in a relationship with a woman born with a female body. Meh, I'm a man in a relationship with a woman. (BUT, not all trans people think this way. This is how I identify, because I identify much more with my male identity than I do with my female body.)

    :) I don't ever mind awkward questions. Hey, I figure that's part of my thing here, right? anyway, if anyone did ask a question that I thought crossed a boundary (not that I can really think of one-- I'm pretty much an open book), I would politely tell the person that I wasn't comfortable answering. But, no, don't worry, you came nowhere close ^_^

  3. Thanks for your answers! This is really fascinating to me. It's interesting how much everyone takes for granted about life that simply doesn't hold for many others, and when I learn about the diversity... it's really kind of neat. I mean, that sounds so corny and shallow, but I feel like when I learn, for example, what you go through that I could never imagine on my own--and start to feel that empathy--it makes me feel more "connected" somehow, to you, and the world in general.

    I never imagined how emotionally charged the whole process of transitioning must be. It must just feel kind of miraculous to see those changes happening and feeling more fully integrated in one's self.

    I confess, I've always thought gender dysphoria was a little "weird", but as I started coming to terms with my own homosexuality I kind of put any negative thoughts about it "on the shelf" out of fairness. But, after reading your honest and very human experience I don't think I'll see it the same way.

    Ha ha, you've converted me. I'll be more conscientious about gender reference when that comes up, and I can now--without reservation--view positively the transition process rather than mentally setting it aside or simply "withholding judgment."

    I wish you smoothness and success with your own... "process?", "journey?,"--ha ha, whatever it's called--and I look forward to future posts from your perspective. I'll do my best to keep identifying questions I have for you because I do want to learn more about this.

  4. Another great post, Jack. Like, Trev, I love to have your perspective because I'm so ignorant on this subject. It's great to see how you feel and to know (even just a little) what it's like to experience gender dysphoria and take the journey of transitioning to something a bit closer to what you feel your true self is.

    I love that you still think your body is beautiful despite some of the frustrations you might have with it not quite matching up with the rest of your self.

  5. :) That's what I'm here for, Trev. It's always nice to hear that it makes a difference.

    I was ignorant for a LONG time, and I am still learning! :D So glad to have the experience to be on this blog!

  6. What the fuck are you talking about? You aren't being "misgendered", you are being correctly gendered. You are not a man, you are a woman who has dressed up like a man. And apparently you are a fucking idiot too. You can dress up how you want and call yourself "Jack" if it makes you happy, but you're not actually a man so don't expect the world to bend for your weirdo desires.

  7. Anonymous above me, your ugly bigotry is exactly why a blog like this exists. You clearly have no fathoming of how horrible it can be for your mind and body to be on separate planes, and for people's everyday IGNORANCE (because that's what it is) to cut deeply. I WOULD say you should be glad to've been born cisgender... but, really, you're to be pitied more than envied for the disgusting close-mindededness you decided to spew on a blog that isn't even meant for you.

    Keep fighting the good fight, Jack. I feel your pain.