The conversation on December 11 was so lovely. It felt good to be in community, speaking about how we try to take care of trans and non-binary people in our lives (for many of us, that includes our own selves).
One participant wrote afterward and said, “it was the most generative convo I have had in such a while and felt so good to be apart of <3!!”
I received the transcript back from Shara (they are always such an important part of this work!) and have started pulling out themes and quotes to get started on the collective document.
The thing I’ve been thinking about most often since is how important relationships are in this work:
- Our relationships with ourselves (our own experience of gender, our own learning and unlearning of gender expectations and the gender binary, our own safety as we decide whether to speak up or not in various contexts)
- Our relationships with trans and non-binary community (our families, our partners, our friends, our communities, the people we don’t know but with whom we still want to be in solidarity, the safety of those people as we decide whether to speak up or not in various contexts and how we choose to speak when we do, the legacy of trans and non-binary advocacy we join when we act in solidarity)
- Our relationships with people who may be acting in alignment with gender essentialism, cisnormativity, or even transphobia (these may also be our families, our partners, our friends and communities!)
- And even our relationships with ideas and ideals, values and hopes, curiosities and possibilities.
The original topic was “how we avoid misgendering others”, and I had imagined a conversation about how we’ve unlearned our own cisnormative habits and the skills and strategies we’ve developed for our own internal relationship with gender and gendering. I’d like to talk more about that, still, but in the conversation on the 11th we ended up speaking more about how we respond when we witness misgendering, which is a related (but also very different) thing.
We talked quite a bit about the barriers that get in the way of acting in solidarity, and part of this conversation was bringing some nuance to the idea of what ‘acting in solidarity’ can mean. It is not a binary or a single correct answer – there are always a variety of actions available, and when we determine which action we take, there are many relevant factors. We are always responding based on our position in the specific context, which means thinking about things like – are we the person being misgendered, or are we witnessing someone else being misgendered? what is our relationship with the person engaged in misgendering? what do we know of their values and hopes – if they are someone who cares about not misgendering, then correcting them is almost always the right call, but if they are someone who will become angry, we have to consider what the fall-out or backlash will be, and whether that will compromise our or someone else’s safety. In those instances, other actions, like texting to check in with someone, or finding something affirming to do later, might be the better option. These can be uncomfortable calculations, because it can feel like failure, and I hope that one generative outcome of this work is that we find ways to speak about our desires to be in solidarity and to avoid misgendering and to respond to misgendering with compassion and rigor.
I’m going to get started on the collective document soon, and will be sharing the draft here.
If you would like to contribute, there are many ways you can do this!
I’ve created a little google form for people to contribute asynchronously. You can find that here.
We’re also going to have a follow-up conversation in January, and I’ll share that date once it’s set.
You can also email your thoughts to me, or comment here.
The questions in the form are:
- Is there a particular person you are making this effort on behalf of?
- What’s important about getting people’s pronouns, names, and gender right?
- How did you learn to care about avoiding misgendering?
- Who knows that you care about this? (Sometimes we can feel isolated in our efforts, and one goal of this project is to make visible the community around us and the legacy of solidarity that we are part of when we take care in this way.)
- How do you practice getting people’s pronouns, names, and gender right? (This can include practices you use for yourself, too! When we avoid misgendering, that includes our own precious trans and non-binary selves.)
- What practices do you have for when you get it wrong?
- What difference have these acts of care (both for getting it right and responding when you get it wrong) made in your life or the lives of others?
- What would you want others to know about avoiding misgendering?
You can respond by email or in the form.