As someone who has felt “other” in many ways during my life, I have always felt comfort in anyone that I felt understood me. Understood who I was. Understood where I was coming from. Understood my value. Understood my place.
But even today, at 25 years old, I have found that there are many people who don’t understand who I am or where I am coming from. More specifically, I get misgendered quite a bit. I’d like to say that it doesn’t bother me. And most of the time I am able to brush it off, but sometimes it does bother me.
For those of you that aren’t familiar with the term misgendering, it is basically when someone assumes you identify as a gender that you don’t necessarily identify with. I am a woman by birth and I identify as a woman. I use she/her pronouns, but I am masculine of center in outward appearance. I have short hair. My sense of style is a bit more androgynous. I don’t wear a lot of jewelry. I don’t wear make up. This is all my preference.
I get called “sir” quite a bit. Probably twice a week at least. When I tell people this, they are usually astounded.
“You have huge boobs! How can they not see that?”
“You totally look like a girl, you have feminine facial features”
“Maybe they didn’t really look at you closely, or just saw you from the back.”
Maybe they did.
Sometimes people correct themselves and sometimes they don’t. If they do, it is usually extremely awkward. And honestly, I’d rather they didn’t correct themselves. It makes the whole encounter a lot less uncomfortable for everyone involved. All of this has given me much more empathy for trans people and non-binary people. If this happens to me twice a week, I can only imagine how much it happens to people who don’t identify as per our society’s gender roles.
Misgendering doesn’t have to be an issue though. Sometimes you can’t tell if someone is a man, a woman, somewhere in between, or neither. That is okay. All you have to do is just use gender neutral pronouns, or don’t use pronouns at all. Just speak to us like we are human beings. Androgyny does not have to create an uncomfortable situation.
I have a lot of friends who have told me that they sometimes don’t know how to use LGBTQ+ terminology or that they aren’t necessarily comfortable using it because they don’t want to offend anyone. Just use gender neutral language if that’s the case for you. Most people in the LGBTQ+ community do not expect everyone to know how they identify. And if you mess up, very few people are going to give you a hard time about it. It might be awkward, but it isn’t likely something that will result in anger. Just be mindful.
All I’m asking is that we all remain conscious. Conscious of those around us. If you aren’t sure, just play it safe. Treat everyone like the human being that they are. Consider the feelings of those around you. Try to be conscious of how you are treating people and what the people around you might be feeling or experiencing. Otherness is tough, but it doesn’t have to be. Let’s try harder to make those around us feel understood, in more ways than one.