This week has been tough. I have fought twitter trolls and TERFs (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists). I have fought my own self doubt and the sinking feeling of realising that if I am going to wait to be correctly gendered by a stranger, I will be waiting a long time.
In many safe spaces introductions take place with name and pronouns, but that is not how the world works outside of those places. I introduce myself with my name and often try to offer some hint like "I'm the sort of guy who..." but when this clue is, inevitably ignored and I am placed firmly in the female pile, I shrug and stay silent.
As minorities we learn to remain quiet and unobtrusive. We learn that, in order to stay safe, we should stay invisible, refuse to rock the boat. We have been taught that nothing less than perfect is acceptable, and if we are less we need to remain hidden.
How many of you have said these words:
I'll do "the thing" when I'm thin/happy/more energised/have money/have time?
How many of you have never got round to doing "the thing"?
I tell myself I will correct people's gendering of me when I pass better. I'll correct them when I have more confidence, when people aren't listening in, when I'm not with friends or at work, when I've had my hair cut/had surgery/come out to more people...I put it off and put up with being misgendered because I'm scared of the reactions and, ultimately because I do not dare intrude on someone's comfort zone.
In her TED talk Brene Brown discusses vulnerability and courage and the fact that, in order to understand vulnerability we must talk about shame. We cannot talk about the vulnerability of being "out" if we do not talk about the shame we are made to feel about being trans*.
That shame may look different to everyone but in my experiences it usually includes things like:
- shame at having to hide
- shame at lying about your identity
- shame at not being "trans* enough"
- shame about our bodies
- shame about being a burden
- shame at making other uncomfortable
And that is where the pronouns thing comes in. I feel anxious about correcting a person's misgendering of me because, at the heart of it, I feel ashamed that my existence makes them uncomfortable.
Coming out makes us vulnerable. Vulnerable to rejection, hostility, threats and violence. Being out puts us on a stage where we are scrutinized for every action and reaction.
So why come out? Why correct someone who says "the lady over there" and points at me? Why become vulnerable? Because, if I don't who will. Being vulnerable is also about being courageous. It is about being daring, being brave, standing up and standing out.
If things are to change we need to change them and we need to not be afraid to fail in the process. Edison made 1,000 failed attempts at the light bulb before he succeeded, Henry Ford went bust 7 times before he had success. The courage is in the trying, in knowing your worth beyond your ability or appearance. Courage comes from being knocked back and standing up again.
So I will make this promise...the next time a stranger calls me miss or lady I will gently correct them. I might do it so quietly they don't hear, they might laugh it off, they might ignore me, but the next time I will be bolder. As Theodore Roosevelt once said:
"It is not the critic who counts. It is not the man who sits and points out how the doer of deeds could have done things better and how he falls and stumbles. The credit goes to the man in the arena whose face is marred with dust and blood and sweat. But when he's in the arena, at best, he wins, and at worst, he loses, but when he fails, when he loses, he does so daring greatly."
So let's be daring. Let's be BOLD.
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