When people want to complain about “Political Correctness gone mad” they name Misgendering. It frightens me when they say Democrats or other relatively Left parties should drop PC, and pick on trans folk, as if we had lost the Left the elections, and throwing us under the bus was the route back to being in contention. Constantly complaining about dopey things, from pronouns that “misgender” to whether Ann Coulter should be allowed to speak at Berkeley … has become a hallmark of Team Blue over the last decade. It’s no small part of the reason Red America threw up their hands, looking for any alternative to push back against the inanity wrote Matt Labash in the NYT. Labash is a Republican, but Democrats say this sort of thing too.

This gets wearing. The archetypal PC idiocy is treating trans folk with courtesy. Possibly the complainers felt even gay marriage was off limits; too many people support it, no-one is particularly attacking it. They may in the future, but not now. But some people take pride in misgendering- calling me “he” and feeling self-righteous about it. I slip up myself, so don’t object to people making mistakes, only to people who do it intentionally, or do not see why it is offensive, like Labash here- I think he finds the complaints dopey, not the “mistakes”.

It matters to us. We transition whether or not the circumstances are propitious. We fail to thrive, or get murdered, where they are not. The callous answer is something like “Well, truth matters to me, you’re really [or not] a man”- but it is an excuse to be callous, a preference for being nasty to us, a way of finding someone to look down on. Some prefer the liberating chance to be cruel over the chafing requirement to be courteous.

They have such an elegant way of expressing it! We named the microaggression “misgendering”, one simple word for when someone uses pronouns as if I were a man. That means when the Right wants to allude to trans folk, they merely need quote “misgendering”, in scare quotes because they deny it is a real word, though it usefully names a phenomenon and has wide currency: it is in the Oxford dictionaries. And some Left-wing writers say the Left should abandon the more extreme political correctness, and the example they choose is Misgendering.

They might choose abortion in the US, and write of “reaching out to pro-life Democrats”. This article in NYT points out abortion is an economic issue. Poorer women have more unwanted pregnancies, where they cannot afford a child, then where they could not continue in work or education fall further into poverty. On that basis, misgendering is economic too: we will transition even though in an atmosphere of hostility will lose our jobs.

Inequality matters. The inequality of badly paid workers with insecure jobs matters, and I want them to vote Left; and the Right makes them angry, then diverts the anger against out-groups, such as immigrants or LGBT folk. The Right-wing siren song is that nothing can be done about the inequality, but at least you can feel better if you can express anger against an out-group. They want to blame immigrants, then call third generation British Asians “immigrants”, then foment hatred for us. First they come for the immigrants, then the queers. Who’s next? Might it be you?

12 thoughts on “Misgendering

  1. Ignorance is only bliss for the beholder. There are those who will always misgender, but there are also those gender variant individuals who will self-identify without projecting a clear image for even the most courteous and well-intentoned to be able to discern what pronouns would be appropriate. I’m often confused about which pronoun to use for some people, so I know that the uninformed and ignorant are, as well. I believe that I present a pretty clear picture that I would expect to be referred to with feminine pronouns, but I’m still not so ignorant that I expect others to know for sure. I know cross dressers who can affect a credible feminine image, yet they don’t really care which pronoun is used for them.

    “They” is becoming more and more acceptable as a genderless pronoun. I certainly I prefer “they” to “he” or “him” for myself, although I have really put much effort into being worthy of “she” or “her” status. For those self-righteous individuals who don’t care which I prefer, and go out of their way to use the masculine pronouns, I have, on occasion, responded by referring back to them with “asshole” or a word that may relate to some prominent feature of theirs – from which I might be expected to draw a prejudiced conclusion. I usually simply ignore it, however (after giving the person a look of disapproval for their indiscretion).

    If I may be next for the haters, I can only hope that I will be a whipping girl, rather than a whipping boy.


    • I refuse to be hurt by people who misgender. I feel able to express resentment to them: I will not be cowed by them. I consider saying that my pronouns are whatever feels right to the person speaking. Then I can hear what they think of me. “Whipping Girl” is a book by Julia Serano.


  2. “Well, truth matters to me, you’re really [or not] a man”- but it is an excuse to be callous, a preference for being nasty to us, a way of finding someone to look down on. Some prefer the liberating chance to be cruel over the chafing requirement to be courteous.”
    I tend to disagree. People, most normal people that is, react to what they perceive. If people perceive you as male, or even a male “presenting ” female they will still see you as a man. If your voice, mannerisms, or any other of countless clues reveal some incongruity, then why are they, the public, responsible for your shortcomings?


    • Why should it be a shortcoming?

      Trans women are taller than the average, may not want facial feminisation, may have large hands: the presentation shows we are trans women, could that possibly be enough?


    • I’m confused by how you can understand the concept of a male presenting as female and not see the intentional misuse of preferred pronouns as anything other than an aggressive act. In my mind, it’s a bit like using a racial slur to use a word with the intent to impose your view of someone’s “shortcomings” on them. We don’t call elderly people “old” to their face just because we can tell they’re old–it’s rude. Why is pointing out gender-related characteristics any less rude?
      I completely understand that the English language doesn’t give us a convenient way around using gendered pronouns, and social conventions haven’t quite found a way to accommodate this linguistic quirk, but there’s no excuse for not trying. You’re not justified, you’re just being a jerk.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Addie, I’m considered to be old by some people, and I have been called an old lady a few times. I’ve never argued over that! (I consider myself to be a very young 66-year-old woman)


        • I’m not going to dispute your personal experience–I was just brought up to believe that it was rude to use the word “old.” Like you say, most people don’t consider themselves to be “old!” I’m 30 now, and that age seemed ancient when I was a teenager, so it’s all relative anyway. My point was more that most people consider it a breach of social etiquette to comment on someone’s physical appearance in a way that could be interpreted as negative, and I think calling someone old falls into that category and we somehow refrain from bringing it up. I might be wrong though–I’m only describing my own experience!


          • Addie, I was not disparaging your comment at all. Perhaps I should have said that I have been called an acerbic old lady! It is truly unfortunate that respect of elders has diminished over the past few decades. I was taught to show respect as a child, and by the time I reached “elder” status it seemed to have become almost passe. The irony is that I grew to be a woman, and to be recognized as such is so much more important to me than being considered old. The alternative to growing old is death; the alternative to my being a woman could be death, as well.


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