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Misgendering is an Act of Violence and it Needs to Stop

misgendering
3 min read

Before writing this article, I went and looked back at the majority of my tweets that use the phrase “misgender” to help me figure out where to start. In doing so, I got flooded with all of the pain I have felt over the years as people have been constantly and continuously misgendering me.

What does the word “misgender” mean? The Cambridge Dictionary defines it as “to use the wrong pronouns or other gender-specific words when referring to or speaking to someone.”

Misgendering is an act that most often affects the transgender community, which includes transgender people, non-binary people, genderqueer people, agender people, and more. It is the act of using an incorrect pronoun or term for the person, whether on purpose or not.

[Read More: The Internal and External Struggles of Being Gender Nonconforming]

The act of using one’s birth name is called “deadnaming.”

Both of these are, in my eyes, acts of violence. Both of these acts feel like being stabbed again and again in the exact same place.

I came out as non-binary in 2016.

Since then, I’ve had people try to justify to me why they should be allowed to misgender me. I’ve received countless hate messages about my gender. I’ve had people tell me because I’m non-binary and use they/them pronouns, that discredits my identity as a lesbian. I’ve been told that because I present in a traditionally feminine manner, I am the reason I get misgendered so often.

All those things hurt. But what hurts more than all of them combined is just the constant misgendering that happens on a daily basis. The only description I can give of that hurt is the feeling of being stabbed. It feels like a badly stitched wound being opened again, and the pain is mental, physical, and emotional. 

I often think about how this is going to be a reality for the rest of my life. I will constantly have to come out to people and tell them what my correct pronouns are. Beyond that, I don’t know what environments are safe to come out in, so I have to put myself at risk just so that I can receive a basic level of respect. Even if the environment is accepting, I’ll have to allow for the learning curve—which can be a long time—for people to adjust to my pronouns.

This will always be my life.

I don’t know if it is better when people misgender me because they are being blatantly hateful, or if it is better when people are well-intentioned and are truly trying to learn. It is easy to be angry when someone is being hateful, but I feel so much guilt when I get angry or hurt by a well-intentioned person misgendering me.

[Read More: Reshaping Queer Aesthetics and Relationships]

The fact of the matter is that no matter your intentions, being misgendered hurts the same in every situation.

So often, I brush off being misgendered. I let it go. There was even a period in my life where I switched to she/they pronouns because I realized I couldn’t expect people to get my pronouns right; they would always fail me.

I am in pain all the time. I am in pain from this life being my reality for years to come.

I did not choose my pronouns or my identity. That is a complete misconception. I am non-binary/genderqueer, and my pronouns are they/them. That is not a choice I made; it is who I am.

There is no end to the pain I am in. There is no happy ending to this story. Misgendering will be a struggle for me to deal with throughout my life. I only hope that I don’t bleed out from this act of violence.

5 Comments

  • Avatar
    Evan Wiederaenders
    Hi Kav Thank you for sharing your story and your pain. I decided to leave a comment because I have had some experiences on the other side of your standpoint. I worked with a couple of people who went by they/them pronouns. I considered them work-friends, and I think that they considered me the same. Sometimes, when addressing them, I would make the mistake of identifying them as a gender, instead of calling them by their preferred pronouns. I would usually catch myself and apologize, and they would say that it was okay and that they knew that I was trying. However, after reading your article, I have realized that they may have been hurting more on the inside than I realized. The thing is, I am very used to identifying people by the way that I see them. I realize that this can be destructive, and I would like to avoid hurting people when I can, but in the heat of a conversation, it can be easy to slip up and call someone by a pronoun that they do not prefer/identify with. I am sure that with more practice, I will be able to change, little by little, but I was wondering if you had any advice for me, maybe some tricks to remember that will help me to remember that for many, their assigned gender and pronouns or their looks do not reflect how they identify. Anyway, thanks for sharing your story, as it not only helped me to remember some old friends, but it has also helped me to reflect on my own experience and some things that I would like to change. Best of luck to you Evan Wiederaenders (He/Him)
  • Avatar
    Common Sense
    "Misgendering" is NOT an act of violence unless someone is punching you in the nose while doing it. " I will constantly have to come out to people and tell them what my correct pronouns are. " No, you really don't have to do that. Most people couldn't care less how you identify and they really don't want to have that conversation forced on them. This information should be reserved for close friends. Free speech means just that. You don't have the right to choose what words come out of other people's mouths. You are certainly free to be offended by them if you want, but that's not their fault. Calling someone "she" is not hate speech. I'm sorry you've chosen to be so miserable about this but we all have a cross to bear. Yours is being non-binary. Don't expect the rest of the world to carry it for you, we have our own problems and misunderstandings. Politely requesting of your actual friends to call you something that doesn't come naturally to them is one thing, but complaining random people are committing an act of violence for not letting you pick what vocabulary they are allowed to use is a bit presumptuous.
  • […] [Read More: Misgendering is an Act of Violence and it Needs to Stop] […]
  • […] goes without saying that misgendering is massively invalidating and plain unethical. In conclusion, trans women are trans women. Just as […]
  • Avatar
    i don’t feel like this is a safe space to share my name
    To call misgendering an act of “violence” collapses the mistakes the people make in using your preferred pronoun with the awful physical violence that a lot of people live with, as if they are equal, all violence. It seems to me that a more appropriate term would be disrespectful, or hurtful, or insulting.

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