Whether I like it or not (to be clear, I don't), most of the forms I fill out in this world require that I declare whether I'm male or female. For most of the population, this is a thoughtless, one-second exercise. Some of us, though, spend minutes-that-feel-like-days agonizing over that section, trying to figure out how best to respond and what impact our decision may have.
There is only a need to know my sex (not to be confused with gender) if:
- It's for something medical when the box I choose will determine the care I receive.
- We're going to have sex.
It's really not necessary to know for anything else, including which bathroom I use, but that's another story for another day. Regardless of the actual need to know, there are better ways of asking than our current practices.
Just using the word "Gender" on the question is troubling enough. When it becomes legal in Massachusetts to change the marker on my license to X, I will be the first person in line. Or, we'll move to Oregon (more on that in a future post).
Once we move past the sex question, there's also the question of gender identity and which pronouns a person prefers to go by.
Many (but not all) who identify as transgender, as I do, have preferred pronouns.
Many (but not all) who identify as non-binary or genderqueer, as I do, prefer the pronouns they/them/their.
I currently use female pronouns, not because they feel right, but because I haven't found an alternative that does. There are several to choose from:
They/them/their has gained the most traction in recent years and is the one I gravitate to most. It has been added to the Associated Press Stylebook and was chosen as the American Dialect Society's word of the year in 2016. It is grammatically correct and has been for quite a long time, but society can't seem to wrap it's head around using it in the singular form. For my entire life, I learned that those words are meant to indicate that something is plural. So, in my experience, right now, being referred to as they/them/their makes me feel like I have multiple personalities. It feels, to me, condescending. I'm one person with one identity that is very clear to me, it just happens to fall outside of our current social construct and into a space we don't know how to eloquently describe just yet. I'm a person. I'm human. It really should be that simple.
I don't identify as male or female, which makes it difficult to explain myself when people ask if I prefer other pronouns. When I try to explain, I end up feeling completely inadequate as a human and that can be destructive in so many ways, to myself and to my trans community. I feel guilty when people ask if I'd prefer other pronouns and I say, "No. None of them feel right, to me." I don't want to undo all of the hard work that has been done and is being done. I don't want to dismiss the struggle others have endured and are enduring. I don't want to reduce the impact it can have when a person uses words that make you feel whole and validated.
When I tell stories about interactions, I often leave out pronouns. I'll say, "The person behind the counter at Dunkin' was super friendly today," or, "The human next to me on the subway had an awesome accent." I'll leave it up to you to decide if you want to throw that person into a gender box or not. I do this for many reasons, but mostly because I don't want to make assumptions about a person's gender identity. While a person may have appeared one way to my eyes, I don't know how they identify, so I use gender neutral words: person, human, peeps.
For the most part, you can call me whatever you'd like. My heart smiles when people use they/them/their, but I'll respond to anything and am not offended by almost anything (I cringe when people lump me into a group by using the words, "ladies" or "guys"). But I don't correct people. Perhaps I should.