Misgendering: What Does it Mean?

By tedeytan (https://www.flickr.com/photos/taedc/26574995414/) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

Hey again, Arthur readers. I’m back, with another piece about what it means to be trans. Conservatives, that’s your cue to run away and cry whilst holding your framed picture of Corey LeBlanc. You are of course free to stay and maybe learn a bit, but seriously, stop whining in the comments.

So, today we’re going to talk about misgendering. For those not in the know, misgendering means to use incorrect pronouns for someone or to refer to them as a different gender than they are. I’m absolutely certain you’ve seen or heard this happen, whether you’re aware or not. After all, who hasn’t been in grade school and heard a boy referred to as a “sissy little girl” for crying or doing anything coded as “girly”? While that’s an entire conversation about toxic masculinity and sexism, this article is not about that. Misgendering, it seems, is an intrinsic part of what it means to be trans. I’d be absolutely shocked to learn of a trans person who has never been misgendered.

Now, misgendering isn’t always necessarily intentional, but the issue is that it’s hurtful anyways. A study of trans participants from 2014 stated that 32.8% of participants said that they felt “very stigmatized” when they were misgendered and one participant stated that they felt a “shock of painful tension” each time they were misgendered. Since I know there will be people in the comments, saying something along the lines of “WELL, HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO KNOW WHAT THEIR GENDER IS?!?!!?!?” I have a simple solution. Ask.

If you’re unsure of someone’s gender or pronouns, just ask, or use they/them pronouns: “Their name is so-and-so, they are a good person” (Singular they is grammatically correct). Friendly reminder that someone’s pronouns may not coincide with their gender presentation: e.g. a person who expresses themselves in a masculine fashion can still use she/her pronouns, etc.

If you are still intent on misgendering people, or you can’t be bothered to try to do better, just keep in mind that it’s harmful. Try not to be an ass. If anybody genuinely wants to learn how to be a better ally, you can find me in the comments section.