Friday, October 3, 2014

Personal Pronoun Problems

My mom mailed my wife this birthday card, with the envelope addressed to "Ms. Jay." She couldn't have found a more perfect greeting, down to the word "transparent."

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.

4 comments:

  1. Why is it so hard for people to use requested pronouns? Hmm, maybe I'll tell u next year when I come out to my parents who have known me only as male for 48 years... where I thus anticipate issues. But Jay's mom seems to be deliberately not respecting Jay, and I wonder if it is alas a display of displeasure, because it seems very deliberate and must be very upsetting. Hope things inprove...

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    1. Thanks for the comment, Andrea! I wish you the best of luck when you come out to your parents. We have a number of friends whose parents reacted horribly (I mean downright cruel and abusive) when they came out as trans, but have since become supportive. So even if there are issues at first, often it just takes time.

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  2. Ugh. I do think as a society so ingrained in gender identities that it can be hard (especially when you've known someone for so long) to get it right 100% of the time. I have hope that as our society becomes more accepting of non-conforming gender identities that this will become easier, and that we will be able to view people as individuals rather than a member of their born gender group, but it will take time. But, like you said--it's not about being perfect and never making mistakes (as I would hope that those transitioning would be equally patient with their friends and family who are trying!), it's about showing that you are really, truly making an effort. To me, anyone who deliberately uses the wrong gender pronoun or at least doesn't show remorse or effort to change when making mistakes, isn't really showing true empathy or understanding, regardless of how "accepting" they think they are being. As much as I think it's important to be optimistic and look for the best in others, it worries me that people who do that will never really "get it". Ugh, people sometimes...

    In other news, do we all get to call Jay Princess Kitty Boom Boom Gumdrop Lollipop? :P

    Also, love the card and totally not surprised by who gave it to her. :)

    xoxo

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    1. Some people may never "get it," but I've seen so many come around and surprise us, that I still hold out hope!

      Alas, Princess Kitty Boom Boom Gumdrop Lollipop is a special wife-only name. :)

      xoxoxo right back at ya'!

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