I presented my thesis today at a gathering that the Gender Studies program put on. In the short biography I wrote to precede my presentation, I specifically switched between “ze” and “they” as my pronouns. Everything in my bio was about gender, including the title of my thesis and that I founded the trans support group at my college. Nevertheless, the woman who planned the event still managed to introduce me using feminine pronouns, even as she read my bio. She was reading from the paper in front of her–a paper on which I was referred to with gender-neutral pronouns–and she still called me “she” and referred to my thesis as “her thesis.”
It’s really disheartening. Part of that comes from the fact that I was being introduced with feminine pronouns, even after I’d deliberately used gender-neutral pronouns (I’d actually debated for some time over which pronouns to use). Another part of it, though, was that this was a woman who was part of–if not the head of–the Gender Studies program. One would think that she would know more about gender than the average person. And if even she can’t get my pronouns right–even when just reading from a piece of paper, what hope do I have for getting anyone else to refer to me using the pronouns I prefer?
I know that, ultimately, it’s not a big deal. She was just one person, after all. But I can’t seem to get anyone to remember to not call me she, and it just . . . over time, it adds up. I recently read someone refer to being called by the wrong pronoun as feeling like a sharp prick –each individual barb may not hurt that much, but as they wear away at my defenses, it begins to hurt, the pain increasing as time goes on. The continual “she” and “her,” “Miss” and “ma’am,” “lady” and “girl” –it’s like they stack up to create a wall that hides who I am from everyone else. And sometimes, I just get so tired of being invisible.