gerund or present participle: misgendering
1. refer to (someone, especially a transgender person) using a word, especially a pronoun or form of address, that does not correctly reflect the gender with which they identify.
So after emailing my work colleagues, and posting, about my preferred name and pronouns at work here and here, some people are still continue to struggle and using ‘she’. It was all a little surreal as during this period of time, a couple of days actually, the training coordinator, and fellow queer, approached me about diversity training and to check how I was doing.
The first occurrence was when a manager referred to me as ‘she’ when chatting to a client (e.g. “I am sure that wasn’t her intention” and “I’m sure she wouldn’t mind at all”). I’ve raised this once in supervision when I had a client ask me if I was a boy or a girl, which I didn’t respond to and continued to focus on their issue and needs (I work mostly over the telephone or via online chat). I admit right here and now that I struggle so much with advocating and standing up for myself in terms of my gender identity and pronoun preference, however that’s another story.
The second occurrence, which happened on the same day, was when an older 70yr old colleague asked “How are you pretty lady?”. I responded that I was doing ok and enjoying my weekend at work, and also clarified that I don’t identify as female. I believe my response challenged him a little, and maybe I could have not said anything, because as soon as I had uttered that he told me about a recent experience:
He’d entered a workshop that he was presenting at and addressed the room with “Good morning guys!”, which wasn’t welcomed as enthusiastically as he’d hoped by the room full of mothers. Following that he tried “ladies”, which again didn’t go down too well, and ended with “Well how would you prefer I address you as?”. Their response was for him to use their name, which he was quick to explain that he didn’t have the time, having just walked into the room, to have asked.
I got his point and frustration, yet he failed to have learned from this experience. To add injury to insult he calls all the men “guys” or “mate”, which clearly highlights that he see’s me as female. I am yet to talk about my Team Leader about this, more because I would like to find another way to communicate to work colleges about this.
I do not get easily offended when someone makes a mistake with my name or pronoun – I am more than happy to educate, correct or find out a way for them to understand what I am asking. I find this way is a lot better than embarrassing or confronting someone publicly, rather pull them aside when you’ve calmed down and explain that what they said might have been hurtful but ask if they could try next time to remember to use the correct name and/or pronoun. It’s also okay to apologize – “Sorry I keep slipping up, I will try better next time”. Too often I hear about negative experiences that straight/cisgendered people have when they’ve not used the right pronoun or name and encountered hostility, rudeness or verbal violence. Just the other day a close friend recounted a similar experience when they had used the wrong name for someone, which was met with downright aggression. They explained to me that the person, who’s name they’d gotten wrong, had changed their name numerous times over a course of a short period – they didn’t use their birth name, rather an older name to the new and updated current one. Another example is when someone is invited to state what pronoun they prefer and reply by “I don’t mind” or “Whatever” but then get upset when someone uses the ‘incorrect one’.