Navigating Pronouns & Androgyny

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Before Coming Out

I’m over ten years into my transition from female to male and I still don’t pass. I have been very androgynous my entire life and due to that I’ve had the experience of being incorrectly gendered as far back as I can remember. People have always been confused about my gender based on my appearance so the pronouns that people choose for me are always shifting depending on the perspective of what they think determines a strangers gender.

Due to the fact that I’m still rather androgynous, am small in figure, and didn’t take testosterone as part of my transition, I still don’t pass as male one hundred percent of the time. When my hair is just a little bit longer than what I consider to be “short,” I find myself being correctly gendered in public spaces less and less frequently.

This brings me back to a controversial article that I wrote in HuffPost in the beginning of 2017. I wrote in that article “But why doesn’t being publicly misgendered bother me anymore? It’s because I’m comfortable with who I am. I don’t need some random person’s validation to feel man enough.” Which is completely true, I am comfortable with who I am, strangers don’t determine my gender, however, the constant misgendering does get in my head from time to time. Sometimes it bothers me and sometimes it doesn’t (like at the time when I wrote that HuffPost article). Being misgendered often causes me to feel more unsafe walking around the world and using public bathrooms. I start to second guess everything I’m wearing and try to look more masculine because of the fear of being physically attacked in a public restroom. In public bathrooms, I’ve been chased out, yelled at, and called names. So getting physically attacked isn’t that far out for me.

“I start to second guess everything I’m wearing and try to look more masculine because of the fear of being physically attacked in a public restroom.”

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Photo by Jeremiah Alexis, Dec 2018

I’m not ashamed of being androgynous. I don’t need to look completely masculine, whatever that means, to please my ego. But like every other trans person, in this day and age, I just wish to feel safe as I go through my daily life, or the safest I can feel as a trans person living in the United States. 

When strangers call me he/him it feels completely natural to me. It just feels right. There’s not really any other way to explain it. It doesn’t make me feel hyper or high or anything. It just makes me feel how I feel in my brain. Complete. Normal. Whole. Whatever you want to call it…

When a friend or someone I’m working with calls me she/her pronouns, it almost feels like my brain is exploding. They start talking about me while I’m standing right in front of them saying “and she…” Sometimes I can brush it off my shoulders, and sometimes I’m just too tired to do that. (Not physically tired, but emotionally worn out from being trans.) When I’m too tired, immediately my brain starts sizzling and I miss the next few words or phrases of what the person is saying after the “she” slips from their mouth. It’s like my brain freaks out and has a complete what the f*** moment. Is it gender dysphoria? Fear? A mix of both?

When a friend calls me “she”, I correct the person quickly saying “he.” I hope that they correct themselves next time they “slip up.” However sometimes, I end up having to correct people dozens of times. Week after week, they continuously make the “mistake.” At what point, for me, does it become not a mistake anymore? When I’ve corrected someone in my bubble several times and they still aren’t getting it at all, they’re still not correcting themselves or acknowledging their error, they’re not making any effort, then it’s not a mistake anymore. My personal rule, I don’t have to give them a pass anymore. It’s time to sit them down and let them know how it makes me feel personally and how they can do better.

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Photo by Dory Fine

As for people that I meet once and am only having a short interaction with (ie. waiters, bus drivers, etc…) I usually don’t make the effort to correct them. There’s not really a point of using so much emotional energy to do that and there’s no point of putting myself in more of a risky situation as a trans person. So, sometimes I do just let it go, so that I don’t drain myself.

“However, my friends and family and people that I am interacting with in my life on a regular basis, I correct them, and educate them and hope that they can grow from their experience of misgendering me.”

However, my friends and family and people that I am interacting with in my life on a regular basis, I correct them, and educate them and hope that they can grow from their experience of misgendering me. Hopefully, after I have a talk with them and they finally get it, they won’t misgender the next androgynous or trans person they run into.

Personally, I find it more polite when people ask me “What are your pronouns?” Instead of just assuming and getting it wrong. So cis people, when you’re in a safe space, go ahead and ask… It’s better than making someone feel uncomfortable or afraid.

“…(he/him/his) aren’t preferred pronouns, they are required pronouns.”

Lastly, my pronouns (he/him/his) aren’t preferred pronouns, they are required pronouns and I expect the people close to me in my life to acknowledge and respect that. Stay true, stay you. Peace.


Written by Ryan Cassata (@ryancassata)
http://www.ryancassata.com/
My latest creation:

 

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