Sunday, July 18, 2010

Then Why Does Misgendering Matter?

Also known as: "It must be so nice to be comfortable in either social role (even though you say you aren't)" and "I don't care about non-binaries enough to find out what things are like for you, so I'm going to make snippy digs about how I have it worse and therefore don't have to care about non-binaries".

This conversation happened on facebook in a conversation about passing: Person1: "I don't really identify as female. I identify with both sexes. It's kinda hard to explain." Person2: "okay, then why would passing as male as opposed to female be an issue?"

Non-binaries get this all the bloody time. I don't know what Person1's exact gender is. If Person1 is bigender, a lot of bigender people have the problem that they don't enjoy passing as either all the time. If a bigendered person is currently a werman, he won't enjoy being called a woman any more than any other guy (of course, having the other half of his gender denied is aggravating as well). It can be just as painful. Bigendered people get the distinction of, somewhat literally, switching from trans to cis without any real control over it. With current medical technology and androgyny acceptance, it's fairly difficult for bigendered people to get a body/presentation they're comfortable with all the time. In other words: No, being bigendered doesn't mean you're happy when you don't pass. It means it's even harder to figure out how to pass unless you have Androgyny Powers (what I call being able to switch from passing as male to female and back fairly easily, or just passing as androgynous).

And that's with people who are literally both. The rest of us still get these snide comments about how we can be happy in either social role. News Flash: I CAN'T. I'm not comfortable in either role. Binary gendered people, visualize something for a moment. If you're trans- this should be easy. Think back to the last time you were misgendered, for whatever reason. If it happened often, think about how that felt. Think about the pain when no one saw you as the correct gender. If you didn't pass easily, think about how aggravating it was to work to look like who you know you are and have it be ignored. Now remember this feeling, and expand it to feeling like you would be misgendered no matter what you were called. If you've never been misgendered- imagine how it would feel to try and convince anyone what gender you are, and have none of them believe you. For complete strangers greet you with the wrong option out of "sir" and "ma'am" and just looking confused and disbelieving when you go to correct them. Just imagine that anyways.

The entire world can flip a coin- heads is werman tails is woman or vice versa- every time someone sees you and it comes wrong all the time. You will never be called the right title, pronoun, or gender by a stranger (it's touchy on friends and loved ones) no matter what you do. Even painting a giant sign saying "I go by [pronoun] and my gender is _____" will just get skeptical looks and laughed off as a joke unless you're in an extremely trans and queer friendly environment. Even when your pronouns and gender fit the binary, people will react with confusion when you tell them your pronouns. It can be even worse with less accepted pronouns.

When you don't fit into the binary, the closest to being correctly gendered most people get in this world is a stumbled "Ma'a--- si--- ah...?". Which isn't necessarily what non-binary people want. And that is not easy to achieve because people don't like androgyny. Small amounts- some people think it's cool or cute when a girl acts is a tomboy and acts like "one of the guys" (but not completely, she's still a girl, she can't be treated the same as guys!). Some people compliment a boy for being sensitive (within reasonable limits, a boy who cries too easily is just "a sissy"). But in those cases- you can still tell who's a man and who's a woman. You can still assert your sub-conscious "right" to constantly know what genitalia every stranger you meet has.

But proper androgyny, where you genuinely can't tell? People don't like that. It makes people confused and uncomfortable and even angry because it's unknown to them. It throws their life views into question. When you're walking the line between what society sees as a "werman" and "woman", people seem to become hyper-aware of every little gender-tell and unless you have the right combinations, they'll slap a label on you, and sometimes they'll be more fervent about that label when you point out it's wrong (or not entirely right), as if constantly misgendering someone will make that false-gender real. Some people are content with a close-to 50/50 split of what you're being read as, but that really is about as good as it gets, and is difficult to get with friends and family and people who know you as a certain gender.

The idea that we can deal with misgendering any better just because being correctly gendered is so hard on binarists (and I know quite a few trans people included in that description) is insulting. Our gender is just as valid, our preferred pronouns are just as valid, misgendering isn't any more acceptable than it is to misgender a woman or werman. Our dysphoria (social, bodily, or otherwise) is just as real. The habit so many people have of dismissing, denying, and erasing non-binary experiences is problematic. So often the assumptions people make about non-binaries are directly disproved by actual non-binary experiences, and even when this is pointed out the speaker doesn't seem to care.(sometimes they do, but I've seen too many who don't)

So, yes.

Misgendering does matter. Even when it's applied to me.

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