How to deal with misgendering and casual transphobia or [intentional] transphobia disguised as casual, especially when coming from queer people, allies and feminists would be appreciated too. You mentioned in your blog that you have built up psychological defenses against casual misgendering and cissexism, I’m curious to know what they are because that’s something I have struggled with in the past. 🙂
The way I deal with transphobia primarily depends on:
– where am I at with myself?
– who is the person (what power dynamic is there between us) being a jerk?
– who else is around (if anyone)?
Now that I’m confident in my gender and sex, it’s way easier to not be affected, and instead file away the misgendering as “indication that this person isn’t safe for me/other trans people.”
Sometimes, when I fail to respond overt misgendering e.g. “Ms *name*”, “you may identify as male but ‘really/biologically’ you are female” etc the person will follow it up with “aren’t you upset?” or “aren’t you going to defend yourself?” In those cases I explain “I’m secure in knowing who I am, I don’t depend on you to confirm it.” If they continue to try to get under my skin, I’ll add something along the lines of “I’ve noted what you’ve expressed, and I’ll inform the powers that be (e.g. your/our/my manager), and let other people know to avoid you/your business/services.” If they insist on they’re right to say/do what they’re doing, I add that it’s incredible they have higher standards than the government and WPATH, they are demonstrably wrong according to both those authorities, and they definitely don’t know better than those two.
For those concerned that we may change our mind:
I point out that death (be it by suicide or any other method) is truly irreversible. Is that a risk they are willing to assume while the conversation goes on given the suicide rate within trans communities? Trans people are at their highest risk for suicide once they’ve decided to transition (whatever that may entail for them) until they are able to start it. It drops once they start but remains important until they finish (again, whatever transition may mean for them) at which point is is closer to that of the general population. Regret statistically, is quite unlikely. And the few I know IRL have complex histories and it’s not straight forward regret in the vast majority of cases.
For those concerned that it’s medically unsafe:
Compared to chemo and other treatments, transition is quite safe. All bodies have a bit of the 3 hormones, it’s not introducing a new substance to a body, and we are monitored to take it within certain levels. Any medication not taken within prescribed levels can be life threatening, starting with acetaminophen (aka Tylenol). There are much bigger fish to fry if this is someone’s genuine concern.
If there are other people around when I’m being intentionally misgendered, looking confused/unimpressed, I visually convey that I too don’t follow the misreading. I might inquire if I’m being called a woman as a way to put me down, and if so, would they like to make a broader, louder statement about their feeling that women are inferior. You can be pretty sure women will give cut eye and support you if you draw out that sexism is at the root of transphobia.
If it’s a cishet guy who’s tearing into my body, I explain that he’s clearly very invested in my body, and I’m flattered, but I’m not interested. Their homophobia takes care of the rest.
If I’m given a specific body/quality that is “universal to all men” such as:
– prostate, testicles, sperm production
– height, size
I inquire if they say as much to post-cancer treatment guys or war veterans that they’re less of men because they are now without prostates, balls, dicks (after stepping on a mine, organ removal.) Are they saying that young boys who don’t yet produce sperm, whose balls haven’t dropped, nor are taller than girls their age aren’t male? What are they then? Essentially, I put it on the person to frame how much of the transphobia is specifically applied to trans people and demonstrate to them that they already are well capable of having more expansive understanding of what is maleness/masculinity and that it doesn’t depend on body parts.
If I’m at work, I point out that being invested in/discussing the contents of my underwear is considered sexual harassment so I’m not going to continue the conversation.
If I’m not at work, I might throw in a joke that I need them to buy me dinner with a nice glass of wine before I might be tempted to respond.
If it’s coming from feminists, I ask them to clarify if they’re saying that cis women are incubators, whose principal responsibility is reproduction, how does their pro-choice politics stop short of supporting my right to choose what I did with my reproductive system.
If it’s someone who’s going on about “the need to dismantle the binary” I tell them that as a feminist, I fully support their right to choose to alter their body to make this statement, to show that they don’t depend on their body parts to know they are male/female.
If it’s coming from cis gays, they’re probably cishomonormative, in which case, they aren’t allies. I deal with them as I would with any cishet.
If they’re cis pansexual women, I assure them that any reason anyone gives me with the goal of deterring or shaming someone’s right to choose what they do with their reproductive system is as transphobic as anyone else who shares their goals, regardless of how far apart their respective motivations might be. That I’m indifferent to their dating history or attraction, I don’t want to date transphobes. if they argue they aren’t transphobes because their partner is trans/non-binary, I point out that spouse beaters are married to the people they harm; romantic attraction and love isn’t mutually exclusive to holding shit politics. And deal with them as I would with any cishet.
It often shocks transphobic alphabet soup people that I wouldn’t be attracted to them. I assure them the repulsion is mutual, and it’s one more reason to leave each other alone.
If they are spiritual based, I explain I’m not of the person’s faith, and I don’t debate Holy scriptures.
I hope that’s helpful. Let me know if there are specific examples not covered here.