Friday, October 3, 2014
Personal Pronoun Problems
Jay's mom in contrast called with birthday wishes:
"It's the birthday man!"
"Mom!? Did you really just say that?"
"Ugh humph. Whatever."
Utter dismissal. On Jay's birthday.
"Why don't you start calling your mom a man and using male pronouns? Show her how it feels to have her gender identity denied," I suggested.
Jay came out to her parents about a year and a half ago. She gave them simple, brief articles to read and videos to watch. They looked at nothing.
Each time Jay talked to her parents they asked about genital surgery. Each time she reminded them that surgery was still years away; they should be asking about pronoun preference instead.
Six months ago Jay told her parents she was ready to switch to female pronouns. Her mom said she'd have to "process it."
They obviously still have not made the switch.
Why is it so hard for people to use requested pronouns? This is a real question for my blog readers out there. Please explain to me the psychology behind being an a-hole about pronouns, because I can't understand. It's such a simple request, often the only thing a trans person asks for in terms of support. It requires almost no effort to change "he" to "she." Granted, it's easy to slip up, especially when the subject isn't presenting traditional gender cues (my wife still passes as a man most of the time). But I'm not talking about the well-intentioned mistakes, the slips of the tongue. My wife doesn't care if people mess up 50 times, as long as they're trying. It's the people who blatantly resist acknowledging her gender identity who are infuriating.
I have been running into my own challenges with pronouns lately. I refuse to call Jay my "husband" or use male pronouns anymore. It feels inauthentic. Wrong. A lie. However, there are still people she's not yet out to-- coworkers or acquaintances at parties for instance. Sometimes she wants to socialize as her androgynous self and not assert her gender identity, not correct people when they label her erroneously, not have to explain her life story. I respect that and want to support her. But I can't bring myself to say "he." So I find myself dancing around pronouns entirely. I repeat her name a lot, or awkwardly answer questions without a noun at all:
"What does your husband do?"
"Oh, uh works in tech."
I look forward to the day when Jay is out completely and I can say to the world, "Yeah, that's my wife. She is awesome. I've nicknamed her Princess Kitty Boom Boom Gumdrop Lollipop*."
*True story. She even has a theme song.