How does it feel when someone gets your pronouns wrong?
For me, it varies. Context is very important. Perceived intent is very important.
If I am on a phone call with someone with whom I’ve never spoken and they misgender me, the context is that they cannot see me to be able to pick up on other signals of my gender, and are therefore basing their assessment of my gender solely on the sound of my voice. The perceived intent is that they are trying to be polite. I will generally not be bothered much by such a situation, though I will often correct them, so that I don’t have to worry about additional instances of being misgendered by them.
If I am face-to-face with someone I’ve never met, then I again consider context: is what I’m wearing distinctly feminine, or might it be androgynous or even masculine? Am I wearing my hair in a feminine style? Am I wearing earrings and/or makeup? Are we in a gendered space? If the answers are that I’m largely presenting androgynously or masculinely, I’ll again tend to not be too bothered, but will almost certainly correct them. If I’m presenting decidedly femininely, I will more likely be a bit frustrated and put-off by their use of the wrong gendered language.
With people who I know (and who know me), the use of incorrect pronouns or other gendered language hurts. I am out to everyone, so when I get misgendered by someone who knows me, I have to consider the possibility that they are doing so intentionally, and if so, I wonder why. There’s no longer any need to use my old (wrong) pronouns to avoid outing me, as I’m completely out, and I’ve been living as my true self for many years now. For people who see regularly, I have to balance our history with our interactions — if the person has known me for a really long time, I can defuse some of my emotions by reminding myself that they have a long-standing habit to change. But there does come a time when enough is enough, and even with people I’ve known my whole life, there is a time when I feel it’s reasonable for them to have reached a high level of success, and if they haven’t, I have to consider that there is some resistance or even refusal to see me for who I really am. And that hurts. A lot. And it’s enough that, for some people, I’ve minimized their time in my life so I don’t continue to be hurt.
When someone meets my dog and misgenders her, I point out their error – typically the person apologizes, uses the correct pronouns/gendered-language, and continues on. That’s all I’m asking for – just fix it and move on.
It still feels bad for me
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No doubt! It feels bad for me, too. I can just sometimes dampen some of that pain by reminding myself of where the other person is coming from. But it never goes completely away.
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