ally

Part 2: ‘But they don’t know I know…’ – Outing a gender-neutral pronoun user?

*FOLLOW UP – ORIGINAL POST BELOW*

Anonymous asked:

hello. similarly to a previous asker on this blog, I too have found out that my sister wants to use they/them pronouns from their blog, but also a different name, and I just wanted to say I found your advice to the previous asker useful, but I don’t know what to do about the different name because she is so intensly private about everything and wouldn’t like it if I knew but I no longer know how to refer to them, could you possibly help because I feel awful about mis-naming/prounoun-ing her

Hello there Anonymous.

Firstly, to echo the affirmation I gave to the-little-white-mermaid below, you are a lovely and supportive sibling. No matter how this goes down, they are lucky to have you in their corner.

I think this hinges on whether you at all want to share with your sibling that you know about their pronoun and name preferences. The bottom line is that you don’t want to hurt them by misnaming/misgendering them anymore, but it is also true that your sibling may have their reasons for not wanting to share this information with family members, even ones who are as supportive as you (presuming your sibling knows that you are).

If you are sure that your sibling knows you are in their corner and okay with their identity and needs around that, I’d encourage you to respect their decision for a little longer because they must have a reason. I understand how hard it must be to know you are misgendering them, but they might have a reason for keeping this part of themselves away from family. Do you know what that might be? About your/their relationship in particular, do you both have a history of respecting each other and keeping each other’s secrets?

If you aren’t sure that you sibling knows you are in their corner, can you subtly use Facebook or other social media to post things that are affirming of trans people and/or gender-neutral pronoun use (like my blog)? At least you are indicating that you are interested. Little things like this might create a space for your sibling to open up to you, which can take time.

At bottom, the name issue doesn’t have to be so different from the pronoun issue in this regard; it can be a very similar kind of transition for people and our friends/families.

Hope this helps, and thanks for being awesome!

Lee

the-little-white-mermaid asked:

My sister doesn’t know that I can see her tumblr blog description that describes her as bisexual, agender, “them” pronouns. I want to refer to her as she wants but I also don’t want her to know I know since I don’t actually know who she’s told. How?

Hello the-little-white-mermaid!

Rock on – you are a sensitive and supportive sibling and I truly appreciate your question; I’m sure your sibling would too, if they knew that you are being so careful and conscientious.

Your dilemma seems to be: how do I support my sibling without violating their boundaries? The bare fact fact that you want to act from an affirming place by using their pronouns is, to my mind, an excellent reason for sitting down with your sibling and just coming clean about what you found and how. The very best energy – i.e., how you approach the conversation, with kindness and openness – and best intentions – which you have – can work wonders.

It seems, though, like you’re worried about your sibling’s reaction to you knowing. Without more information about your situation, I can’t be sure why. One reason I can guess at is that your sibling might be an intensely private person who keeps their gender and sexual identities away from family. If this is true, then part of the conversation would hopefully involve you acknowledging that there are reasons why your sibling did not tell you and validating these reasons, or, “I totally get why you wouldn’t want to share this with me and that’s cool.” Make it really clear that you understand why this choice was made, and that you are only bringing it up because you want to make them as comfortable as possible around you. The conversation will also have to address how to behave around other family members, including whether or not you should use your sibling’s chosen pronoun with others.

Another reason for your worry could be the quality and the history relationship you have together. In deciding how to move forward, your best guide will be this relationship. Do you generally support each other in other family issues? Do you ‘share the spotlight’ well in your family gatherings and conversations i.e., do you fight for control or attention of other family members? Do you have a history of trusting each other or breaking each other’s trust? Do you share friends or interests or other common ground? I ask these questions because gender stuff never happens outside of already-existing relationships. The reason why a sibling or a parent might refuse to use one’s pronouns, for example, can be about an old hurt or bad dynamic and not about pronouns at all, in my view (see this). Same thing: the reason why you might be worried or why your conversation might be challenging might be because of your history with your sibling that makes any big conversation challenging, and not because of its topic.

In either case / for either reason (apologies if I’m completely off-base and please feel free to write back), I think it might be helpful to plan the conversation in a way that makes it very different from how you usually interact and spend time with your sibling in order to make it clear that this is different and important. OR, take advance of a fun and familiar ritual that you do together or place you go. These are different tacks, but they both send the message that you are being intentional, thoughtful and caring (more tips here).

Good luck, and take courage from knowing that you are already being a really lovely ally in seeking out resources and asking questions.

Hope that helps,

Lee

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Sometimes it’s hard to be forgiving

Anonymous asked:

Coming back to university and unfamiliar with the they/ them genderqueer movement, I want to wear some kind of button that says “I am trying, but my brain sometimes short circuits my best efforts”. I got snapped at today for saying “she” instead of “they” even though I get that right most of the time. Everyone needs to be understanding and forgiving. Prying open the binary gender box will take more time. Keep being awesome

Hello Anonymous! Thank you for your message and support! I agree – everyone needs to be understanding and forgiving, and I’m sorry you got snapped at.

When people do that to me about something identity-related when I make a mistake (oh yes), I try to take care of myself in the situation by remembering and repeating to myself that what I am getting from them is the result of repeated, systematic refusals to use their pronouns (for example). That kind of blow-back builds up inside a person until it bursts, and usually at the wrong other (i.e., a nice person who made a mistake, as opposed to a repeat bully).

So, I hear you. And, as an ally, I want to suggest that your first response be compassion and understanding. That person just might not have it in them today to recognize that you are trying your best.

Warmly,

Lee

Why it’s hard sometimes: Resistance to pronoun change can have nothing to do with pronouns

Today I’m not responding to a gender-neutral pronoun (GNP) user or ally question but sharing something from my own recent experiences.

Usually I write this blog from the perspective of a GNP user, albeit one who is genuinely compassionate toward allies and others in GNP users’ lives who must make a tough cognitive and verbal transition. This transition, of course, is changing how we use language when talking about a friend, family member, co-worker, loved one, etc. who has requested that we use a new pronoun for them.

As I have been writing for over three years on TIMP, this takes work. Work. Work. Hard work.

The thing is, because it takes work, if someone feels like they don’t want to make the necessary effort on behalf of someone else, the change is very hard and slow, and slip-ups can be many. This is because, in my view, making the effort to change pronouns is kind of like making the effort to no longer tell that ‘funny story’ about someone or use their childhood nickname when they have asked you not to, or to stop talking about/using alcohol, tobacco, drugs, etc. around someone who has just begun their recovery from addiction. Of course these things are different in their content (what they are about). But I don’t believe they are too different in form. They all require that we devote more energy to someone.

All this is to say that I believe that often a persistent resistance to using someone’s new GNP (or new name) can have much less to do with gender/pronouns and much more to do with the relationship in which the request to use new pronouns is made. In several posts (most notably this one) I’ve talked about how there may be other reasons for refusal and resistance to changing pronouns when asked to do so.

Basically, one’s unconscious might be saying “why would I work hard at doing this for you when you never did XYZ for me / weren’t there for me / have been irritating or mean / etc. etc. etc.” at the same time as one’s mouth is she-ing or he-ing someone for whom those pronouns are unwelcome and/or painful.

So, with that preamble, today I’m writing from the perspective of someone trying to change the pronouns I use for someone else. A very dear friend of mine recently came out about a shift in their gender identity, made a pronoun switch, and put this request out to their friends.

The thing is, for many and varied reasons, we had fallen out of touch. I had a lot of sour and sad feelings about our friendship and how our friend dynamic had devolved into one where I offered listening/care and got little to nothing in return. I felt like my own pretty large struggles at the time were unimportant to my friend because they were consumed in what they were going through and unable to give me any air time in our conversations. I had been taking my distance for a year and feeling progressively more down about this strategy because, well, I love my friend I know they were going through a rough time. I wanted to be compassionate but I had run out of energy and was getting, well, just mad.

So when the pronoun request came down…for a good two weeks I did a very, very bad job and mis-pronouned them consistently (never in their presence – we live in different cities). I had mad and sad feelings about the time I had already devoted to this person’s care and well-being and this was – given how I was feeling – the cherry on the sundae. My unconscious was certainly saying “why would I work hard at doing this for you when you never did XYZ for me / weren’t there for me / have been irritating or mean / etc. etc. etc.” while my face was saying the wrong pronoun.

Then I had a birthday, which has always been a special time in our friendship. And I began to miss my friend a lot. I decided I was going to communicate my feelings as kindly and compassionately – but openly and honestly – as I could, and explain why I had drifted away.

So I did. And they were magnificent: so open to how I was feeling and so grateful for the feedback, and articulating all kinds of wonderful things like authentic regret, responsibility, love for me and our history together. It was tough but the best conversation we had had in years.

The minute I put down the phone, I went to share the good news with my partner.

And the change was seamless. I haven’t used the wrong pronoun since.

This is just my own experience, for sure. And I’m sure there are many reasons, including that it’s just plain hard or weird to talk about one person as if they’re two people (re. singular they). But so many people who struggle with a pronoun change are people who GET IT: who have a kind of worldview that is friendly to trans-ness and queerness, and who really, really want to do this right. Who have the tools. And still it doesn’t work. I mean, I write an entire blog on this and, well, I was totally screwing it up.

So this is a call to people who have the know-how or desire but still find themselves unable or unwilling to make the change. Reflect on your relationship with the asker and tend to it as best you can.

Pronouns might be the icing on the poop-cake (sorry), and something pushing you even farther away from a person who you have loved and want to have in your life for a long time to come.

‘But they don’t know I know…’ – Outing a gender-neutral pronoun user?

the-little-white-mermaid asked:

My sister doesn’t know that I can see her tumblr blog description that describes her as bisexual, agender, “them” pronouns. I want to refer to her as she wants but I also don’t want her to know I know since I don’t actually know who she’s told. How?

Hello the-little-white-mermaid!

Rock on – you are a sensitive and supportive sibling and I truly appreciate your question; I’m sure your sibling would too, if they knew that you are being so careful and conscientious.

Your dilemma seems to be: how do I support my sibling without violating their boundaries? The bare fact fact that you want to act from an affirming place by using their pronouns is, to my mind, an excellent reason for sitting down with your sibling and just coming clean about what you found and how. The very best energy – i.e., how you approach the conversation, with kindness and openness – and best intentions – which you have – can work wonders.

It seems, though, like you’re worried about your sibling’s reaction to you knowing. Without more information about your situation, I can’t be sure why. One reason I can guess at is that your sibling might be an intensely private person who keeps their gender and sexual identities away from family. If this is true, then part of the conversation would hopefully involve you acknowledging that there are reasons why your sibling did not tell you and validating these reasons, or, “I totally get why you wouldn’t want to share this with me and that’s cool.” Make it really clear that you understand why this choice was made, and that you are only bringing it up because you want to make them as comfortable as possible around you. The conversation will also have to address how to behave around other family members, including whether or not you should use your sibling’s chosen pronoun with others.

Another reason for your worry could be the quality and the history of relationship you have together. In deciding how to move forward, your best guide will be this relationship. Do you generally support each other in other family issues? Do you ‘share the spotlight’ well in your family gatherings and conversations i.e., do you fight for control or attention of other family members? Do you have a history of trusting each other or breaking each other’s trust? Do you share friends or interests or other common ground? I ask these questions because gender stuff never happens outside of already-existing relationships. The reason why a sibling or a parent might refuse to use one’s pronouns, for example, can be about an old hurt or bad dynamic and not about pronouns at all, in my view (see this). Same thing: the reason why you might be worried or why your conversation might be challenging might be because of your history with your sibling that makes any big conversation challenging, and not because of its topic.

In either case / for either reason (apologies if I’m completely off-base and please feel free to write back), I think it might be helpful to plan the conversation in a way that makes it very different from how you usually interact and spend time with your sibling in order to make it clear that this is different and important. OR, take advance of a fun and familiar ritual that you do together or place you go. These are different tacks, but they both send the message that you are being intentional, thoughtful and caring (more tips here).

Good luck, and take courage from knowing that you are already being a really lovely ally in seeking out resources and asking questions.

Hope that helps,

Lee

‘What about IT?’ When someone uses ‘it’ as a gender-neutral pronoun

Anonymous asked:

“Hey, a friend of mine ( who is in GSA with me ) wants me to use it/it’s for their pronoun. I’ve always been told to never use that pronoun, as it dehumanizes people, but my friend claims that they identify as an object. I’m not really sure what to do, as I can’t find any resources on it :/”

Hello Anonymous!

So glad you asked. This is a tough one. Yes, most of the time, it/it’s is considered to be dehumanizing. In fact, I don’t know anyone who uses this pronoun in an affirming way. I think it’s very risky because it invites people with no knowledge of gender diversity to associate someone with a pronoun that has a horrible history as an instrument not only of homophobia and transphobia, but racism and ableism, too.

That said…if this is what your friend wants, and this makes your friend feel comfortable, this is what is required from you as a friend and ally. (Nerd moment: there is a whole school of social theory on neo-materialism and post-humanism where scholars think about ‘inanimate’ objects as far more than that. This school informs my own academic work, and if you or your friend want more on this write back some time.)

THAT said…I have a comparison to offer. When I was 17 and newly out as queer my much older brother (a straight masculine dude) asked me how he should describe me to friends. I wildly preferred queer or (at the time) dyke to gay or lesbian. However, I knew that my brother – this was about 15 years ago – would probably be looked on as possibly homophobic for using the terms queer and dyke in largely heterosexual contexts. And so, because I wouldn’t be there to hear it and because it didn’t feel like the biggest deal to me, I said “ok brother, call me gay if you have to.”

What I mean with this comparison is that someone who hears you using ‘it’ for your friend could possibly have a negative reaction that catches you up in the crossfire. You will likely have to do a lot of explaining to almost everyone with whom you ever discuss your friend. This could be another reason why it feels uncomfortable to use it, for you. While this is not a reason to disrespect your friend’s choice, it IS a very valid reason to have a conversation together about these kind of situations and your feelings/need for more guidance.

I hope that helps, and thank you for writing!

Lee

VIDEO RESOURCE – What are pronouns?

This is a wonderful video created by the youth at Minus18 – Australia’s largest youth led organisation for gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans* youth. They have a beautiful online and social media presence, including a pronoun app! An app! Check them out and give them any support you can.

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

Tips on training yourself to change pronouns for someone you care about (or anyone really)

microsuedemouse asked:

“Somebody I love very, very much has made the change to ‘they’ pronouns in the last few months and I can’t seem to learn it fast enough. I’m finally learning to get it right when I write it down, but in casual conversation when I’m not thinking about it the wrong pronouns slip out constantly. I know it’s hurting them a lot and I desperately want to stop. Do you have any tips on learning to train oneself into using the right pronouns?”

Hi microsuedemouse!

Thank you for your brave question! First of all, I just want to say that your loved one is lucky to have someone who is willing to reach out to a stranger for advice, even if sometimes pronouns are hard.

I want to start off by sharing my wise friend’s observation the other day about how pronoun changes affect communities, friends and family members. Basically, we don’t spend much time talking about ourselves in the third person whereas others talk about us all the time. So a new pronoun may actually be more of a shift in practice for others than for a particular gender-neutral pronoun user. Of course, when we are public about our pronoun preference people might regard us differently or prejudicially (at best) but the basic everyday life changes might be felt more by others struggling with language. After all, to me I’m still Lee but I’m now ‘them’ to everyone else. All this is to say that I hear you, and that is one of the reasons why I started this blog.

Your situation is unique, so take what I say with a grain of salt. My tips are in the realm of practice and being mindful i.e., not getting caught up in the flow of a conversation when we can become automatic. This is where trouble lurks in the pronoun change department, and not only there. This is where innate or familiar assumptions unintentionally rule our speech and actions. Witty repartee? Uh oh. Careful one-on-one chat? Probably a better chance of not messing up. Here is what I suggest:

1) Meet up with a friend you share in common with your loved one and practice. Reminisce about times spent together and otherwise talk about them. Exposure makes things much easier.

2) It would also be helpful to practice pausing before you respond to someone else, in any conversation, regardless of why.

3) When you are around people who aren’t your loved one, practice. Use they to refer to a single person, or try to refer to people with names only, etc. You can strike up conversations at the bus stop or at a tea party or wherever you feel comfortable and make this a little project. How long can you go in a conversation without using or needing to use a gendered pronoun? Can you notice when other people use gendered pronouns? How do people react to singular they?

4) Once you have some conscious practice and experimentation under your belt, do a self-audit. When do you make mistakes, or what kinds of structures (questions, off-the-cuff remarks, descriptions) catch you up? How can you remind yourself to be mindful? What are some situations in your life where you need to refer consistently to your loved one in the third person when they’re around? Can you prepare for these in advance, or get ready to use the pausing or conscious listening you’ve practiced?

MOST IMPORTANTLY, try not to worry about seeming fake, preoccupied or overly self-conscious while you are still working on the pronoun change. I feel like your loved one, if they know and feel your support, can probably understand that you need to be a bit stilted or weird as you learn. I personally don’t believe we can expect people to be perfect overnight. That takes a particular set of skills, which we need to develop. Chances are you might have these already but haven’t thought about migrating them over to the gender side of things.

I hope that helps, and keep asking questions!

Lee

Can anyone use ‘they’ as a pronoun, regardless of identity?

turtlesnapp asked:

“Hello!! I am a cis girl and have always felt like a girl 100% of the time. I’ve never questioned my gender, but they pronouns seems very comforting and I was thinking about using them in addition to she. I identify very strongly with she.. but I also am thinking I find comfort in they, and I was wondering. Am I stepping over certain bounds? Am I abusing something by doing this? And if it turns out I don’t feel comfy with they anymore? Think you could help me out? :((“

Hi there turtlesnapp! Thank you so much for asking!

My personal opinion (all I’ve got) is that people choose to use gender-neutral pronouns for the very reason that you articulate with regard to your own situation: comfort. I know people of many different stripes, who use a variety of identity terms and understand their genders in many different ways, who would prefer that others use a gender-neutral mode of address when referring to them.

There is so much diversity among trans* and gender non-conforming folks that there cannot be a stable boundary to step over. I’m sure that many people would suggest keeping in mind the different barriers faced by people who are not cis-gendered and use gender-neutral pronouns. One example could be the (potentially) greater ease of people who can be choosey about when to request their chosen pronoun and when to go with whatever people are using for them, in the interest of safety or just getting by. To the extent that you feel safe and able, I would suggest using your evolving experiences as a ‘they’ user to be a vocal ally to other (and particularly trans*) users and educate those around you. Many of us don’t feel safe doing this work, and if you find that your identifying as cis-gendered gives you more opportunities to do so – which it very well may not depending on your circumstances – please carry it forward as best you can.

I’m confident that requesting gender-neutral pronouns will change how you are received, questioned and engaged by others – keep in touch!

Hope this helps,

Lee