The Importance of Pronouns

Pronouns are funny little words. They are words we use constantly and rarely think about. But when you (or one of your friends/family/acquaintances) is trans, you suddenly realise how often you use them and how much they matter.

For those of you who weren’t paying attention in English, pronouns are words we use to replace nouns. In the case of people, we use them in the place of a person’s name when we talk about them. We use different pronouns for different genders, most commonly, he/him/his or she/her/hers. (There are also non-binary pronouns for people who don’t identify as a binary gender).

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When a person comes out as trans, they will usually make the decision to change their pronouns, often before they begin physical transition. Changing pronouns is a big deal, and one of the most supportive things you can do as the ally of a trans person is to respect their pronoun choices and gender them correctly when talking to them, or about them.

A beautiful example of how to be an awesome ally comes from my fifteen year old son. When I first came out to him, he listened to what I had to say, and afterwards I asked him whether he had any questions. The first thing he asked me was:
“So, when should I start using different pronouns for you?”

At that point I hugged him, shed a few (very manly) tears and replied honestly, “I’m not sure yet, but thank you so much for asking me that. It means a lot.”

And it really does. When you respect a trans person’s pronouns, gender them correctly and use their chosen pronouns clearly and confidently, you show them that they are accepted and valued, and that is incredibly affirming. If you try, but get it wrong sometimes, that’s okay too. Hell, I still keep misgendering myself. Mistakes happen. But don’t deliberately use the wrong pronouns for someone who you know is trans. That’s not cool.

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I changed my gender marker when I came out on Facebook earlier this year, and in my announcement, I requested that people start using he/him/his when talking to or about me. I know that this is something that can take a lot of getting used to, especially if you’ve known me for a long time. It feels weird at first, but the more you do it, the faster you’ll get used to it. I know you’ll slip up sometimes, and that’s okay too. But using my preferred pronouns—whether I’m present or not—and correcting other people when they get it wrong, is one of the simplest and most fundamental ways that you can support me.

The other day I heard my son refer to me as ‘he’ when talking to one of his mates and it made my day. He’s known me as female for nearly sixteen years of his life and is already managing to get my new pronouns right most of the time. He is an awesome human. I blame the parents 🙂 

Sometimes I’m not okay

Today is one of those days.

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“But I’m too scared to let it show
I’m too scared in case you don’t know
It’s just a passing phase…”*

I’m generally a pretty positive person who tries to see the good in a situation. Glass half full, silver linings, always look on the bright side of life etc. And some days I’m doing all right, even with everything that’s happening at the moment. But other days it all gets a bit much.

I’m not very good at talking about the really bad, horrible feelings. The sort of feelings that keep you awake at night with a sick churning sense of dread in your gut.

At the moment, I have a lot of those feelings floating around.

It feels easier to ignore them, to try and pretend they don’t exist. Don’t voice them. Don’t give them a name. If you say it out loud then it makes it real. But the problem is, Voldemort is still real whether people use his name or not. And those feelings are there no matter how much I might try and pretend that they aren’t. When I ignore them, they just keep building up inside until I can’t contain them anymore, and that’s not healthy.

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Fear
Grief
Anxiety
Isolation
Guilt
Anger
Hopelessness
Dysphoria
Bitterness
Shame

Those are the main ingredients of the toxic combination of shite floating around in my head a lot of the time. It’s not an easy thing to admit, but I’m tired of putting a brave face on and pretending that I’m okay when actually, sometimes, I’m not.

I can get through the bad days because I know they will pass, and there will be better days between the bad days, and hopefully in time there will be less of the bad days—or so I’m told by trans people who are further along the road of transition than I am. See? Glass half full, silver linings, always look on the bright side of life….

But today, I’m not okay, and that’s okay.

*Lyrics from How Are You Today by Seize the Day – click on the link, you can play it and it’s beautiful.

What’s Behind the Facade?

When I open Facebook in the morning, I’m often shown one of those Facebook Memories.

What used to be an amusing trip down memory lane for me, has now become a bit of a minefield. Most of the time I get cute photos of my kids when they were smaller, or cats doing funny things. But occasionally—like this morning—I get shown a photo of me from what I like to think of as one of my overcompensation phases, and those make me shudder.

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Spoiler: This isn’t me.

One of the things that I often feel I have to justify as a transman who came out late in life, and who appeared to live very happily as female for many years, is how it’s possible that I didn’t know sooner.

But you used to be so feminine…

To be fair, I spent 90% of my time in jeans and hoodies, but yes. There were times that I wore dresses and makeup, and that’s what people often remember about me.

I can’t share the photo that popped up this morning, because I deleted it in a kneejerk reaction. It’s not that I’m ashamed of it. You can’t transition at age forty-five and realistically expect to delete your entire female history—and I don’t want to. But that particular picture made me uncomfortable so it’s gone, which is a shame really because it’s a perfect example of how what you see on the outside often bears no relation to what was going on on the inside.

What the world saw was a smiling woman dressed for a party in a short colourful dress, jewellery, makeup and high heeled boots.

But what I remember was that I never really liked that dress because it was too ‘girly’ and felt completely wrong on me.

I remember the jewellery felt weird and tacky and ‘too much.’

I remember those boots were too high, too tight around my toes, and made a clacking sound as I walked that made me feel self conscious.

I remember that whenever I made the effort to dress in something feminine for a party, I always felt like a kid in dressing up clothes, or a man in drag.

And most of all, I remember a deep sense of shame that I was ‘crap at being female’ and wondering why that was.

Well now I know. And next time I wear heels? I really will be a man in drag 😉

TL;DR: Never assume you know what’s going on in someone’s head. There is no such thing as ‘not trans enough,’ and overcompensation is a thing that happens.

Edited to add: I do realise that plenty of cis women don’t enjoy wearing very feminine clothes and that doesn’t mean they’re all transmen in denial. I’m not casting aspersions on anyone’s femininity here, just blogging about my own personal journey.