Opinion — 12 May 2017

By Jennifer Snook @sirjid

Chances are, you’ve always been called exactly what you want to be called. Whether it’s a name, a nickname, a title, most people’s wishes are simply accommodated. Even pets get this basic courtesy.
Trans people don’t.

When someone asks my name, there’s always a double take. Once I got a laugh, “No really, what’s your name?”

Once they know my name and accept it, there’s another hurdle. Pronouns. Even when they’re talking to someone named “Jennifer,” who other people are calling “she,” somehow the wires get crossed. They have to be told. Often more than once.

Hearing someone use the wrong pronoun is more than just annoying. It’s more than a sign of disrespect or ignorance.

It’s a reminder. A reminder that I will never be what I want to be. A reminder that I will always have to stop and explain myself. A reminder that the majority of people see me as, at best, a curiosity, and, at worst, an abomination. A reminder that people like me are insulted, beaten and killed on a regular basis for just existing.

It immediately makes my day worse. I stop smiling, I look away, and a little voice in my head goes, “Oh, right. I’m not a real person.”

And This happens every day. Many times. “He.” “Sir.” “Man.” “Bro.”

Every time I interact with strangers, with someone I’m not out to, or someone who just doesn’t — or won’t — understand. A little gut punch to go with my social interaction.

It makes it difficult to go out and talk to people. Being in crowds, especially if I’m expected to interact with them, can cause me debilitating anxiety. Having all these reminders that I’m different and I always will be different and people will always see me as different, it’s tiring and draining and makes me want to curl up in a ball and hide from the world.

There is a bright side, though. The opposite can happen. Sometimes, the right word can make me ecstatic.

Once, I was arguing with a friend of mine. We were both angry and upset, not thinking before we spoke. In the midst of the argument, he called me “she.” It was automatic. Uncalculated. It was just the word that came into his head when he thought of me, even while we were shouting at each other.

And just like when the opposite happens, it causes a strong reaction. It’s validating. It tells me that this person knows who I say I am and accepts it. The right word, from the right person at the right time can make everything else absolutely worth it.

Yes, it may be a mild inconvenience for you to use a pronoun other than the one that first popped into your head.

But for me, it means the world.

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