A fact of transgender life: incorrect gender and/or pronoun usage amongst ourselves happens

THE GUERRILLA ANGEL REPORT — “A man in a dress”, “he’s a male to female transsexual”, “he calls himself Brandi” — whether ignorant, unintentional, confused or deliberate, mainstream media simply cannot get it right. Writers gaffe, anchors misspeak, copy editors get confused and proofreaders change previously fixed errors back into mistakes again. Every day one can find a handful of such gaffes.

Should it be this way? Of course not. But until all things transgender become the norm in this ignorant world, I suggest we not blow gaskets but instead, educate and move on.

Indeed, in my own research I’ve lost track of a person’s correct gender more than once. In other research instances, contradicting sources left me making educated guesses, but usually choosing to use “person” instead. Sometimes, often actually, there is very little in the media to work from.

There are very few of us writing almost exclusively on trans issues and most of us are likely unpaid and don’t have a second set of eyes looking over the material. In reporting, paramount are the four “W”s — who-what-where-when. On trans topics, it is correct gender and pronouns over the “W”s, period. And with the source material likely being incorrect somewhere within it, we’ve our hands full.

So, if anyone of us, or our allies, should make one of these gender errors, know that society gave us the downside of a lopped playing field. Give us a break, hmm?

This does not, however, excuse ANY media that deliberately misinform, or launches a hate piece. If this happens, there should be no holding back.

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I wrote this piece after a LGBT organization was blasted by a trans blog for getting a gender wrong on a story they wrote based on a TV station’s news report.  A third trans blog later stated that the LGBT’s initial report was correct after all. Getting confused? I know I was. I changed the gender in my report from “male” to “person”. Then back to “male” again.

More details: http://transfeminism.tumblr.com/post/22124376693/correction-trans-man-bashed-in-memphis-saturday-before

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Categories: Transgender, Transsexual, Trans

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15 replies

  1. It is also hard for people who have known you for a long time to remember all the right pronouns too. When they’re just being nice and slip up I can joke about it. When they’re not being so nice I very firmly correct them: no nonsense, no joke, get it right! Thank you!

  2. Pronouns really underpin so much, it’s amazing and only when you transition do you yourself become aware of this.

  3. I don’t see why so many trans individuals insist on rubbing it in others faces. I’m trans myself and I just let people call me whatever they want. As long as I’m comfortable in my own skin, I don’t care what others think. You’re essentially just acting like a spoiled little kid who can’t ignore the bully on the playground cause he called you names, except the bully in this case most of the time doesn’t even realize it.

    • Anonymous, I understand that youre probably a very thick skinned person and its great that this method works for you- but for most of us, the correct gender pronouns are really important.

      I agree that for genderqueer folk it is quite difficult for others (other queer folk included) to get it right all the time, and indeed, some GQ folk shift their gender pronouns, sometimes in a short space of time, sometimes not informing others. This can lead to tensions in queer spaces and a lot of egg left on faces. What can we do about this? Well, not necessarily have Anonymous’s approach to things.. maybe it works for them as i said.. i guess dont be too hard on people who misgender you as a result of you having changed your gender status and not informing anyone.. eg someone who calls themselves “they” suddenly decide to transition but dont tell people and because they still initially look the same, people cant truly be expected to realise that they want to be referred to in male pronouns.

      Just be patient, inform the important people in your life of your changes, and if you choose not to do so, I guess thats when you have to expect people to try and guess your gender.

      • I’m not saying you have to take my approach, don’t get me wrong. I’m just trying to say for the cases of people who don’t want to accept it or who think it’s morally wrong, that’s their choice and their belief, who are we to judge? Simply ignore them and give it some time. Eventually as it becomes more understood, people will accept it easier.

        For those who don’t get it, you have to stay patient. I still have trouble after nearly a year of switching to “he” for a ftm friend of mine, and he knows I’m trying. It’s hard for some people.

        • It’s great for you that you don’t need to be respected and can happily exist in a transphobic environment, but it’s a shitty mode of existence to promote to other trans people and saying that asking for respect is ‘rubbing it in cis people’s faces’ is fucking fucked up..

          I am of the conviction that anybody who chooses to disrespect me based on their ‘beliefs’ is worth exactly jackshit as a human being. This is not up for negotiation and I have no problem judging people whose rectal-cranial inversion is so advanced that they would espouse these views- if I don’t deserve respect, neither do they.

          • So you’re saying that it’s either your way or go to hell? Clearly a mature way to handle such a complicated issue. That’s one of the reasons people do stuff like that in the first place, you’re acting just like them by doing that.

            • Whoa, victim-blaming much, bro? I’m saying that people who can’t respect me have no place in my life. That’s called self-preservation, not immaturity. When cis people are shat upon by society and trans people are considered the norm, *then* I’ll be acting like an asshole.

    • The problem with just letting others do whatever, is that it could inadvertently out you to someone you REALLY don’t want to be outed to. Be it personal, private, or professional.

      I have three simple rules for this:
      1. If you don’t know, ask! (Privately of course)
      2. If you don’t like it, SHUT UP!
      3. If you can’t shut up, get drunk!

  4. I am a strong defender of Trans people (being gender fluid or genderqueer myself), I still mess up the proper pronouns because my friends all have different ones. One wants NO gender pronouns, most want the typical for what they are (m-t-f being female) and a few prefer the shi and hem. Sometimes if I knew one prior to transitioning, I mess up often, sometimes still calling them by the wrong name even. I don’t mean to mess up and thankfully, most of them know that. It’s not like I am intending to refer to them as the wrong term and I am usually the first to correct someone else if I notice it.

  5. I transitioned MTF 7 years ago and, personally, I mind when people screw up the pronouns. I certainly do not “blow a gasket” when someone uses the incorrect form but, depending on the circumstances and/ or whether or not it was intentional, I will very deliberately remind folks to use proper pronouns. I have also been known to make phone calls or personal visits to local radio stations when improper comments about Trans folks are made on air. After all, I did not spend all this time, money and energy on transition, only to still be called ‘sir’.

  6. If it was unintentional, getting upset is silly. And if it is deliberate, getting angry is exactly what they are trying to provoke. A better strategy is to learn to laugh in their face. That way they don’t win.

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