Month: September 2014

‘You’re being disrespectful’ – Are negative parent reactions to GNP always ‘about’ gender?

lavender–salt asked:

“Hi there ; v ; In the past couple days recently, I’ve come out to close friends and family that I am agender / non-binary and all seemed to be fine with it, except my mom. When I first told her, she seemed okay with it but then tonight when I told her that I dont feel very good with female pronouns, she got upset and said that it wasn’t my choice to decide what people could call me, and that I was being disrespectful. It made me really sad because I feel discouraged and dont know what to do. :c”

Dear lavender–salt,

My heart hurts for you and the trouble you’re having. I want to say right away that your mom is absolutely wrong in that this is absolutely your choice. Also, the bare fact of asking for a different kind of recognition is not disrespectful.

However, for reasons that might not be known to me or even to you, perhaps, your mom might feel as though your choice to make this request is disrespectful in some way. Sometimes changing pronouns requires a lot of correction of people, and this can feel disrespectful in the way that some parents would find any child’s correction of them – regardless of content – to be disrespectful (for example, ‘back talking’ them or similar). I don’t know anything about your mom’s parenting style or your relationship, but are there ways in which you could be ‘violating’ her expectations of your behaviour? In other words, is this all/only about gender? Could it be about authority too?

Your mom could also be bewildered regarding the implications of your request and of your identifying as agender. Do you have a highly gendered family dynamic? Could she be confused about the roles or events you will be involved in down the road? Do you or she or your family have traditions that are segregated by gender (even if it’s as basic or unspoken as women organically talking over here and men organically talking over there at family functions)? How do you yourself foresee these changes playing out? Do you feel comfortable giving these some thought and then communicating this to your mom, perhaps in a few days or later on? In other words, people often don’t understand how gender shapes everything until something changes. She might need some help and guidance, whether from you or…

…it sounds like you have had some degree of supportive response from other family members. I’m going to give you a suggestion that I often bring up in these situations, which is that you approach someone who is close to you and your mom – who you both trust – and who is supportive of your identity/pronouns (or who is determined to be supportive once they get the hang of it). Ask this person to talk to your mom, or better yet, to listen to her as non-judgmentally as possible. Your mom needs a place to go with her questions, concerns and fears, and it’s often best for this to be someone who is not you, if possible. You can also send her here.

Just a few last thoughts. Sometimes people ‘seem okay with it’ at the first introduction because they are hoping that it might go away, or that it’s not a big deal. Maybe when you brought it up the second time (no female pronouns, please), she had to confront that this is real and a big deal, all at once. The first reaction is not the best sign of how things will go, and I hope that since you wrote things have been at least incrementally different.

Finally, this takes time. While your mom is adjusting (I’m hopeful, for no reason other than I believe people are generally nice and often don’t understand their own bad reactions to things and often feel helpless because they can’t help but alienate others over things they don’t understand and and and) make sure you are okay. Prepare for her company, and prepare for the aftermath. Can you make a truce for the moment? That she use only your name and no pronouns? That you agree to correct her in a particular way that feels better? (I used to make a horrible honking noise like a buzzer when I got frustrated…didn’t work so well. What has worked is time and my family being immersed among my friends and partner who are seamless users of my pronouns.) But overall, prioritize your own self-care and, if you live with your mom, make sure you have somewhere you can go that is safe if you need a break. Breaks don’t have to be about crisis. They can be about fatigue.

Hope this helps, and sending you good thoughts,

Lee

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On asking someone the ‘why’ question when they change pronouns

Anonymous asked:

“Hi so one of my friends recently asked me and some other friends to use female pronouns, despite me having used male for the year I have known them. I’m tempted to ask why the change? But I feel if that’s rude and uncalled for. Should I just leave it and not ask and if not, how would I go about asking?”

Hi Anonynmous!

This is a very good question, and I’m really glad you asked. Here are some things to consider in making your choice whether to ask or not (we’ll come to ‘how’ in a moment):

Do you and this friend have the kind of relationship where you talk about deeply personal things?

Have you and this friend ever spoken about gender issues before?

Is your question motivated by a deep-seated interest in her identity and process around making this very challenging and brave decision in her life, as well as a desire to offer her support in handling its ramifications?

If the answer to any of these questions is no, chances are you should leave it alone.

If you are indeed motivated by the interest and desire I mentioned – and not at all by plain curiosity – here is a way that you can open the door for your friend without demanding that she account for herself, to you:

“Hey. I want you to know that I’m interested in your process around this shift and your feelings about how it’s going and what led you here. If you ever feel as though you’d like to talk about it with me, I am so open to that and would like to offer you whatever support I can. However, I also completely respect your choice to never talk about it at all, with me, ever.”

Finally, if you feel like the offer of support would not be genuine or would just be something you can’t follow through on (due to lack of time, energy, capacity, knowledge, desire, etc. – fair enough) then once again I would say just leave it alone and make the requested language changes.

I really appreciate the question, and come back if you have more!

Lee

Start with affirmation: Coming out as a GNP user or gender non-normative person to a friend with little or no knowledge of gender issues

xlameprincessx asked:

“Uhm hi, i just found out about this blog and i wanted advice. I’m planning on “coming out” as demi-girl to one of my best friends and tell him my pronouns but i’m afraid he won’t understand or he’ll laugh at it. I don’t really know how to explain it to him, seeing as he doesn’t know about any other type of gender besides female and male. Do you have any tips??”

Hello xlameprincessx!

First of all, I just want to send you my very best energy for what you are about to do – it is brave and also a profound gesture of care for your friend (who I will call ‘F’ for friend). This is precisely where I suggest you begin: with a heartfelt statement of how much your friendship means to you, which is why you have chosen to share this part of yourself and take a big risk. Be honest that you know it is a risk, but that it is worth taking it for you because you care about F and about your friendship.

I suggest this because people sometimes need ‘cueing’ in order to be able to respond to something important in a way that reflects how important it really is. When we are uncomfortable, our default reaction – as you wisely note in your question – is often one of humour. Joking and laughter expell nervous energy and are desperate, often mindless attempts to de-escalate the seriousness of a situation or a request. By opening with your declaration of caring and by saying that what you will share is reflects your love/esteem/care for F and for your friendship, you are ‘cueing’ F into the fact that this is no laughing matter. It is serious business.

Time and place will also be important. Do you spend unstructured time with F, like, do you go sit in a park or field for hours or something similar? Try to have the conversation in a beautiful place with lots of open space: where F feels like they have space to move around and like their reactions are at least semi-private (crowded coffee shops and confined spaces aren’t really helpful). I would suggest that phone, text or online are also out: you want to make a connection with F’s humanity and kindness, in person, given that F doesn’t have any background knowledge.

Prepare yourself for F having questions, particularly in terms of how you want F to relate to you in public and refer to you in conversations with others. Do you need F to change pronouns, etc. for you now, or is this gradual? Will you tell others? How do you understand demi-girl and what does it mean to you? Are there things you have done together with F that are now off-limits or have to change? Be ready with a few concrete examples, if you can, of what you will need from F.

Also, is there anyone in your life who you have already come out to and who has reacted well and supportively? If so, I might suggest asking that person to be a ‘point person’ for F if F has questions or needs some support around the changes you are asking for. You can also feel free to direct F to me, if no.

Finally, there is always the chance that despite your mindfulness, preparation and best efforts, things might not go well with F. As best as you can, prepare for some good self-care afterwards. Have some time planned to do something nice or with someone you feel safe around, or at least have a safe space to go to, in case. If you would like resources of any kind, I am here.

Thank you for your question, and good luck!

Lee