Sunday, January 10, 2010

Pronouns-a primer

A large struggle among friends and family of someone who is transitioning is changing the way we address the trans person. I’ve already discussed the matter of name change, but now let us talk about pronouns.

Gender has a huge role in how we speak. More so in other languages and cultures (such as those that are Hispanic) however everything from “Dude, bro, hon, and lady” on top of proper he/she, his/hers ect.

One of the most affirming things you can do when a person comes out as transgender/transsexual is use the pronouns of their true inner gender. However this can often be one of the most difficult steps for friends and family. Especially the spouse.

When Cynthia first stated the need to start transition, it was a multi step process. It is after all very very scary to admit! She first said that she only wanted to go part time, and felt herself androgynous. Which is often identified as somewhere between the two genders.

For me, when referring to someone who identified as androgynous; it didn’t feel right to use either female or male pronouns. (and a number of androgynous people prefer gender neutral pronouns) I started the process of taking gender out of my speech all together because it was quickly getting confusing! There are a large number of gender neutral pronouns. You can find most of the one’s I’ve heard of on this wiki. I like the Spivak set myself but even still it feels uncomfortable for me personally as it leaves many things out that I normally use.

I was never aware how gendered my love language was until Cynthia started transition. Around our house you can often hear “lover lady/lover man, silly man/silly woman” on and on. You get the picture. So I set about removing those from my language which left me feeling like something was missing.

The “stop” in androgyny didn’t last and Cynthia recognized herself to be transsexual. She wants/wanted to be fully respected as a woman. I found it much easier for me to pick up feminine pronouns! Almost joyous after I’d been letting so many things go unsaid because of their gender connotation.

Add on top of this that I am not out at my work about Cynthia’s transition. So at work I still talk about “my husband” and use “his” male name. If we’re out in public and Cynthia is dressed en homme (as a man) I need to use masculine pronoun set and name. If she’s out in public en femme (as a woman) then I need to use feminine pronoun set and name. It’s enough to make a person’s head spin! I do get it wrong. I am most definitely not perfect. It’s been a struggle, though the more I speak, type and think of her as female, the easier it becomes.

I think that was definitely the turning point for me. I started encouraging myself (not forcing myself.) to think feminine pronouns and name. Once it was comfortable in my own head it was much easier to flag her down across a store, “Cyndi!” convincingly and comfortably.

A number of spouses that I know report it being their biggest struggle. That they simply can not see their mate as woman (or man depending on which direction the trans spouse is going) and find creative ways to fully leave gender out of their speech. Everyone is different and comes to acceptance at different times, in different ways.

I stick to my original assertion though. The fastest way to show your true support is to use proper pronouns when talking to a trans person. I know that in this house there was a visible relaxation that took place when I started referring to Cynthia as she. The smile that followed was all I needed to know. After all, I wouldn’t want to tell someone I’m a woman, and have them insist I am a man. That would be beyond infuriating! What an insult that would be. No?