April 18th, 2009

"I prefer feminine pronouns: she and her."

I originally wrote this a few months back, but in light of recent discussions in this community, I thought I'd repost it here.

I've decided that I really don't like PGP (Preferred Gender Pronoun) Checks during presentations. For those who haven't experienced them, this is when the facilitator of a group discussion asks everyone in the group to, when introducing themselves, include the pronouns they prefer to be called. It's an attempt to make group discussions more trans inclusive, by ensuring up front that misgenderings will be kept to a minimum.

In theory, I think it's a great idea. And there are times when it's been extremely helpful, such as in groups with closeted or newly out trans folk, or groups with really butch women.

But more often what seems to happen is that the PGP Check will happen, and myself and the likely one or two other trans folks in the room will state what pronouns we prefer, and a few of the other people will state what pronouns they prefer. And then, without fail, about half of the cis people in the room say, "Oh, well, I prefer male/female pronouns, but really you can call me whatever you want."

And so, time after time after time, what started as an attempt to make the space more trans friendly becomes another display of the cis privilege I will never have. We go around that circle and I am given my opportunity to beg the people around me not to misgender me, and in return they are given the opportunity to remind me that they don't have to care about that silly gender stuff, that they have never had their identity called into question (or worse, denied outright) with those tiny little words, that this most basic piece of our language has never been wielded as a weapon against them. No, really, you can call them whatever you want, cuz unlike this tranny, they have the confidence to know that nothing bad was meant of it. Just don't call them late for dinner! (Yes, someone makes this joke every single time.)

I seriously wonder if I could call them whatever I want. If I could spend an entire meeting calling that oh-so-confident woman across the room from me "he," and she really wouldn't care. And maybe she wouldn't. Cuz seriously, it's just me doing it. It's not the entire room, it's not the woman at the grocery check-out, it's not the guy who delivers your mail, it's not your boss and co-workers, it's not the cops, it's not your government identification; it's just little old me, so of course you don't care.

I'm not really sure where to go from here, cuz the PGP Check is a good thing, but it gets used to flaunt this privileged cis bullshit so often that I can't stand doing it anymore.