TDOV: Pronouns Matter!
Zil Goldstein, FNP-BC, AAHIVS – Associate Director of Medicine, TGNB Health
Visibility can be complicated for many trans, non-binary, and gender non-conforming (TGNB/GNC) people. Transitioning – or not transitioning – is an individual choice and may be impacted by many factors including safety and access to health care, among others. Visibility is also about being seen and respected. One way to do that is by respecting people’s pronouns. Being misgendered hurts!
When I’m explaining it to people, I like to say being misgendered is like being slapped on the cheek. If it happens once or twice, it stings for a moment, but then it fades. But if you’re getting slapped multiple times a day, from multiple people, sometimes with random people coming up to you and slapping you in the face, it’s going to get more painful and more upsetting as time goes on.
Eventually, your cheeks get sore, and even the littlest tap can cause a lot of pain. Sometimes, you’re just minding your business, and someone comes up to you and slaps you out of the blue. No one would like that, but it’s especially painful if it’s the tenth time it’s happened that day. You’re going to feel hurt. You’re going to wonder why people keep doing this to you. Eventually, you start blaming yourself for getting slapped because it’s happening so frequently, and that makes you feel bad about yourself and like you’re doing something wrong, especially if people keep telling you it’s because of the way you look or dress. Ask yourself, what would you do to avoid being slapped? It makes it really hard to go about your day if you’re constantly on guard for people who might slap you, but still have to go about your day, do your job, see your friends, and provide for yourself. Transgender and non-binary/gender non-conforming people are often doing all of this with cheeks that are red and raw from being slapped.
Respecting people’s pronouns costs nothing. It is an easy way to show people dignity and respect. You can create a comfortable environment for trans people by getting in the habit of asking “What are your pronouns? Mine are xxx.” We all deserve to feel safe and respected.