When I was fifteen, had cut my hair short, wearing an oversized black hoodie and was out to breakfast with my dad, the waitress greeted us with “Hello, Gentleman!”
I’ve been thinking about this a lot as I reflect on this moment in my upcoming memoir, both with excitement at that time that I had been read as male and with fear, as I hadn’t told my dad my developing feelings. My dad lowered his head, not ashamed, but clearly bothered. This waitress had just assumed my dad’s relationship – father and son. I was still questioning my identity, but currently, I was a sister to my brother, a daughter to my father, and a girl when it came to which bathroom I used at my high school.
It is okay to be bothered when someone assumes your gender, whether it is right or it is wrong or it is confusing. The reason being that it is assumptive. A lot of assumptions bother many people.
Growing up, I used to hear “girls can’t play baseball.” They assumed girls weren’t good enough to play baseball. I heard “boy’s can’t play with make up because then they are gay.” Which assumes that a boy wearing make up is gay. Eventually, I heard “transgender people are mentally ill.” That was what my ex girlfriend in high school told me as she broke up with me, ten months after we began a relationship, knowing I was transgender from the moment we had begun dating.
At the same time, I went into a bathroom at a Tegan and Sara concert when I was sixteen, binding my chest, half out of the closet, but not on hormones. I felt safer in there since I knew there were stalls. As I came out of my stall with my best friend (THANKFULLY) by my side, a giant woman with a very masculine appearance accosted me, forcing me out of the bathroom and asking why I was in there. She had assumed I was a man, and although I had come out to some people as a transgender man, she had assumed I was a man and I was a predator and I was making other people uncomfortable.
I cried myself to sleep that night. I was learning to love myself, but was being shown that this world may not love me.
Assuming a persons gender pronoun, whether it is greeting a group of appearingly feminine folks as “ladies” or not asking someone’s pronouns upon meeting them, does bother many people. When I was misgendered, I did not yell in anyone’s faces. I silently went home and internalized a feeling of being disrespected. Of being invisible. I was fourteen, fifteen, sixteen years old.
I am twenty five, almost twenty six, now. I have words to confront these situations, but I did not have that language then.
Yes, I have overreacted to situations. I have yelled a few times. But the majority of the time, I kept quiet and reaffirmed myself to myself or crawled into my supportive friend’s arms to remind me that it just simply doesn’t matter. But not everyone has that support.
Now a days, I am less bothered by being misgendered but only because I am a grown adult who is respected when I explain gender identity and pronouns to others. When I was fifteen, no one listened. They simply oppressed me more, by saying “You’re too young, you don’t know anything.”
Being bothered by being misgendered doesn’t mean we are insecure. It doesn’t mean we aren’t confident in who we are.
Perhaps it means that we are bothered by assumptions. Assumptions that have long plagued and oppressed many communities, especially for LGBT folks and other minorities.
And that is okay. One of the best side effects of being bothered is that it can lead to action. So trans youth – trans adults – anyone who is bothered by how you are being treated – wage on in whatever form you feel is best.