I’ve noticed that within my community there is a lot of bad feelings over the whole notion of being ‘misgendered’. I talked about a similar situation a while back revolving around the word ‘tranny’ and all the hoopla it seems to cause, so I thought it might be a good time to revitalize my stance. So, let’s talk about that.
For anyone who doesn’t know, ‘misgendering’ is the act of mistakenly or deliberately identifying someone as the opposite gender to which they are clearly representing. For example, approaching someone wearing a skirt, with breasts and makeup on and saying, “Hey dude, how’s it hanging? Ready to rock out with your cock out this weekend?” is a clear case of misgendering. Often times, however, this is unintentional. I know this happens to especially butch women from time to time and the person is quickly corrected. It certainly happens to the genderqueer population almost constantly because in many cases the individual feels that either answer is wrong, leaving people confused. I’m not talking about that though; I’m talking about when it’s deliberate.
The most common form of misgendering occurs in the male population when ‘ball-busting’ is involved. The easiest way for men to tease each other and impugn their sense of masculinity is to compare them to a woman, or better yet, a little girl. I never quite understood why is so ingrained in male culture, but it is, and even if outlawed, I think they would find some way to do it in secret. While clearly offensive to women, I don’t think there is any intended harm and merely speaks to the work ahead of us in terms of continuing to advance the notion of gender equality.
It is almost as equally employed against gays and lesbians due to a persistent confusion between gender and sexual orientation. Don’t make me get out the Genderbread Person again people. It’s also a well overused means employed to get the goat of transgender people. Some elements of RadFem and like-minded organizations like to do this because it’s a very easy way to attempt annoying someone who clearly understands themselves differently than these types would like. I wandered over there and got the whole misgender treatment, and I’ve seen other trans* bloggers get swarmed with commenters who like to employ this simple name calling tactic. Nice, right?
Getting right down to the brass tacks – please do not give someone a bright shiny red button right on your forehead to press! A mistake is one thing, but when someone is doing it on purpose, they are attempting to provoke a response and nothing you say to them or accuse them of is going to make a difference. If you react and get all pissy pants about it, they got exactly what they wanted. “Hey, let’s spin up the tranny by calling her ‘him’! It’ll be a hoot.” When we give people the means to easily provoke an emotional response, they will take it. Sure it’s immature, but so is having a conscious, rationalized, and pressing opposition to a demographic recognized by the vast majority as innocuous.
My two cents is to not even bother with a response at all. With a mistake, there is opportunity to discuss and possibly educate, or at the very least correct. When it’s on purpose, not really worth our time and energy. If you know who you are, it doesn’t matter what someone’s opinion is. Besides, there is satisfaction in remaining calm in the face of attempts to provoke that generally paints them as unreasonable or mean in spirit. You came this far to understand who you are and no provocative little barb can change that.