By Lisa P.
Pronoun use is a big hot button political issue these days. On one side, there are those who think that requiring a person to use the pronouns another person prefers is “woke”; persons on that side of the fence can’t understand why they shouldn’t be able to use whatever pronoun seems most obvious to them and the person being referred to should live with the consequences. I sometimes think of this argument as “if you want to be referred to as a woman you better damn well sure make you look like one to me!” On the other side are those who believe that refusing to take into account a person’s preference is a microaggression that should be avoided, if at all possible. The way I hear that last point described in corporate speak is that using the proper pronouns is a way to be more inclusive.
Personally, I will admit to some mixed feelings on the subject, and some of you may feel the same. As Lisa, I want to be referred to as “she” and “her”; definitely, not “he” or “him”. For me, the way I present is the way I want to be referenced. Frankly, that is easier for a “hybrid” model like me; that is, someone living squarely inside each of the two gender categories of male and female. If I were genderqueer, I might feel differently. But, I am faced with a conundrum now in the workplace setting. I have been asked to identify the pronouns I prefer on my Outlook email replies. Thankfully, so far I haven’t been forced to specify, because I would prefer not to have to say. To use “she/her” would be to out myself, and I cannot risk being outed right now. To use “he/him” feels wrong, even if I present as a male at work. It feels like a denial of whom I am. Admittedly, the male me wouldn’t know what to do if someone referred to him as “she/her” — but that doesn’t mean it sits well with me to be forced to actively tell people that they should use “he/him” when it just isn’t true all the time. In other words, even if I only put the pronoun choice under my male name, it would feel like I am dishonoring my femininity if I do that. What a pronoun paradox!
Interestingly, because of that paradox, pronouns may be able to function as a gauge of whether you are a crossdresser who doesn’t identify as female or a transgender person who identifies as female (note that in this respect that is the distinction I hear being made by participants on this website). The concept I am articulating here is that pronouns reflect your identity in a tangible way. If it bothers you to be referred to as “he” or “him” while you are presenting as a woman, then it probably means you identify as a woman, even if you haven’t accepted that in yourself. I suppose a crossdresser who views themselves as a femulation artist would be annoyed if their artistry is not appreciated, but it should not bother them all that much to be misgendered in person or in writing, as they see themselves as males anyway.
A transgender person may accept the fact they are misgendered given the “tells” they can’t cover up, but it bothers them nevertheless whenever it happens because it denies how they identify. For myself, I can say that Lisa feels strongly that SHE should be referred to as “she” or “her”, both verbally and in writing. But, then again, as I have said here before, I accept that I am a transgender woman now, regardless of whether I ever decide to live full time as a woman. I should add that I am not advocating telling anyone off if they fail to use the proper pronouns with you. As Kandi reminds us, we are all ambassadors for the crossdressing/transgender cause, and we should seek peace not war. It is perfectly fine, of course, to expect others to engage with us in the same spirit of live and let live.
So — how do you feel about pronouns? Much ado about nothing or the very essence of your identity?