Not Trans Enough

She

Recently I have the elusive opportunity to “start over” with an entirely new group of people.

I’ve already been introduced by my not-so-temporary shortened name, which doesn’t seem to fool anyone – they always ask if it’s short for “feminine name” and then comment on how it’s a strange way of shortening it. I’ve also been introduced as, or assumed to be, “she.” But I have been wondering if now is a good chance to come out and say “actually, my preferred pronoun is they.”

Why Now?

Because I’ve come a long way from a year ago, and now I can say with certainty that “they” is my preferred pronoun. And now is before everybody gets to know me as “she” – I haven’t even met most people in the group! While that’s not necessary, it seems less awkward. Now is when I have the courage to speak out and come out. This big change is now, and now is the perfect time to start a change.

Why Not?

Because I feel I’d be making too many demands on them – I haven’t even met them and I’m already imposing strange requests. Because it’s too confusing for them, and nobody will understand. Because they’ll stumble and fumble and I’ll have to awkwardly correct them. Because they’ll completely ignore it.

I can come up with several more of these petty excuses. But if I stop lying to myself, it comes down to a simple issue of not being Trans Enough.

Not Trans Enough

I’ve been meaning to write about feeling “Not Trans Enough” for a while, yet it hadn’t come up in a way that affected me directly. Before solidfying my identity as Neutrois (or neutral-gendered, or gender queer, or what have you), I believed I was Not Trans Enough to be Transgender. Not Trans Enough to have surgery. Not Trans Enough to get a name change. Not Trans Enough to ask for a pronoun change.

Yep, the Not Trans Enough syndrome has reared its ugly head into my life once again. The worst part of the situation is that I thought I was over it! Me, a propoent of be yourself, an advocate for non-binary transgender identities, a celebrant of gender variance in all its forms, the first to affirm you are always welcome in the trans* community, a proud gender diverse individual who has struggled to find their way in a binary world. And is clearly still struggling. There are a few Not Trans Enough hurdles I’ve jumped over, and evidently others still stand strong in the distance.

They

“My preferred pronoun is they.” It’s one short, simple sentence, although one that will probably elicit questions, even if those questions remain politely unspoken. It’s something I’ve been dying to say to many people, but haven’t had the courage to.

28 responses to “Not Trans Enough

  1. Good luck with that! Unfortunately, I suspect you’ll get a lot of resistance from people who insist that it’s bad grammar or a neologism (neither is true).

    But, baby steps.

    Personally I prefer “it” but that seems to get a lot of people offended on my behalf, and “they” is an okay compromise. Hardly anybody calls me that in real life except my boyfriend and my therapist, sadly.

  2. Thanks for the encouragement! We’ll see how this develops, it’s mostly shyness from my part at this point, and looking for the right opportunity (as I said, I haven’t met anybody save one person from the group yet).

    I would have also liked more “real life” chances of trying on pronouns (they vs he, for instance) before making such a big decision/statement, but you’ve got to start somewhere. I only say this because “they” might sound good in writing / online, but once you start using it, and more importantly others start using it on me, I might find it too awkward.

  3. I was at a party full of trans folks and gender-friendly folks at my sister’s house, and I still didn’t tell them my preferred pronoun was “they.”

    Then again, I also don’t have a lot of in-person experience being called “they,” so I’m not completely sure it is my preferred pronoun. I wish people could talk about me without using pronouns at all. That would be cool.

  4. GOOD LUCK!!! I know you can do it! I’ll be crossing my fingers for you, hoping that it goes well. 🙂

  5. I’m reading this post and echoing in my head is the phrase that I’ve heard several times in the past couple of months: “Not queer enough”, which fuck if I know what that is supposed to mean. But God knows that I’m not Straight enough to be considered Straight, and not Gay enough to be Gay. Now I’m not Queer enough?!! Who thinks they own these things and can exclude people form the club? Haven’t we all been excluded from enough clubs already?

    I know what you mean about pronouns and names, I keep encountering that wall as well. I just hate to be a burden for others, and to make myself something they have to worry about. But I also don’t really know what pronoun or name I want to hear. I’m trying it out with two close friends, and see how that feels. Mostly I think I just really hate pronouns though, and I try to avoid all of them whenever possible.

    Good blog btw! Read your rainbow tacos post, and it appears we are very close neighbors! It’s nice to read more from people who aren’t so clearly defined.. Its amazing how not having a category makes it harder to be visible…

    • Yes, I am very much against “exclusive” clubs – labels are good for establishing definitions, but it doesn’t mean anyone has the right to police membership, especially when those labels are ambiguous, contested, and still being molded.

      I also have an interesting story from this weekend about names – or my name – which I’ll write up soon.

      Thanks for stopping by neighbor!

  6. i totally know where you’re coming from; i don’t want to impose on anyone by requesting special treatment. i prefer “they”, “ze”, “it” or the simple avoidance of pronouns. really, i just don’t want to gendered.

    we ARE trans enough, though. i think you should take this opportunity to discuss pronouns with this new group of people. huzzah!

  7. I know too well the feeling of “not being trans enough”. I sit in my group of women and I’m the only one with a mustache. I’m told I have to shave it for all kinds of reasons. None of those has any bearing on my feeling female. Then I shave it off and try and bring out a slightly more femme/androgynous look and get hit with the so when are you starting hormones? I am contantlt asked before our meetings which name I prefer. I usually use my boy name since it is gender neutral. That tends to be safer so as not to confuse any newcomers.
    Now here’s where things get weird. When I dress fully for a meeting and ask to be called Rachel; it is assumed by those who don’t know me that I have already transitioned. I’m asked, how long have I been on hormones? When was my SRS/FSS surgery done and by whom? Even some of the regulars look at me with a tinge of jealousy since I can look totally female without those things. At this point I am beyond trans to them. I can’t win.

    • Good point, sometimes are also not trans anymore when you pass too well.

      This reminds me of a similar phenomenon. If you are non-binary / genderqueer and you start passing as the “opposite” binary option, you are now “non-binary trans enough.” The dilemma here is that at some point, society forces us to choose, and if you choose the opposite of what you were given (going the full trans* route) then in a way you have forsaken your non-binary status. This is of course yet another mental straight jacket we must rid ourselves of.

  8. For what it’s worth, when we met at Gender Spectrum, I would have assumed “he” rather than “she” (until I heard your pronoun preference, of course).

  9. When applying to law schools, I spoke with consultants about my being trans. They said it would help me in diversity If and ONLY if I LOOKED trans. I always thought that was kinda interesting. As far as I can tell, a lot of trans-people would benefit from exiting the world of gender typing and entering a fluid world, but the community in general (at least the MtF community I was familiar with) seems geared towards an almost absurdly stereotyped gender norm set…. Something I never liked or understood. Who wants to trade one straightjacket for another one, even if number two is slightly more comfortable?

  10. Urgh, I’ve been in this boat most of my life, just not with gender issues. It breeds so many insecurities that I’m scared to even start asking people to try new pronouns, or talk about this with any of my friends. Fortunately my spouse is one of the most supportive people I’ve ever met, and now that I’ve started opening up with him I know I have at least 1 ally. Best of luck!!!

  11. I prefer “they”, too, for most uses.

    It was only after I actively thought about pronouns did I notice how often I use it in the impersonal (presumed) singular – when it’s not because I think I would misgender the person, but because gender is so irrelevant to the situation that it feels almost weirder to point it out, like when you’re referring to someone far enough away that they wouldn’t overhear you and be offended that you didn’t refer to them more personally, and you don’t need to use a physical marker to differentiate them from someone else or just didn’t find gender the most convenient one for the situation.

    It’s so much more natural than anything artificially constructed.

    I do like it when people “he” or “sir” me, though. I wouldn’t currently ask them to use male pronouns for me, if it was in person, though. And I wouldn’t like it if I was in a dress. And even if I do think of myself as an “it” when I’m feeling particularly singular, I don’t want others to call me that, unless they’d call themselves that and I know it, because it’s been flung my way as an insult far too much in my life.

  12. So, yesterday I had the chance to hang out with this new group. They kept calling me “she” and I never corrected them. 😦

    The thing is, I never found a good opportunity to bring this up. We’re in a bar having drinks and people are talking in a group, one of them refers to me “She did this and this and that” and by the time I can interject a) they’ve already said two more sentences, b) someone else is already talking about something else, c) it’s just not relevant, and it seems rude to interrupt.

    But that got me thinking. If my pronoun was he… heck if I wasn’t trans, and I just happened to be a boy who kinda looked like a girl, and everyone started calling me “she” – would I correct them?

    This is not the end of it though! I think it’s a matter of strategy – simply correcting someone in mid-conversation is probably not a viable option. Maybe I just need to send one guy a short fyi email or something.

    Any ideas??

    • In my experience, when you get a (presumed) cis-person’s gender wrong, be it because you don’t have a good view of them, trip over your words, or actually couldn’t tell even if you did have a good look, they’re *very* quick to correct you, it’s pretty instinctive on their part. Between heavy winter clothes, a bit of face-blindness, and verbal dyslexia, I do it more than you might think. The shocked look usually comes first. Just jump right in there with your “Hey! I’m a dude, you tool!” or whatever tailored to whoever said it and then let the conversation continue.

      Telling them later might sort of make it seem like you’re not sure yourself at the time what you’d like to be called. Or maybe that you thought they had a speech impediment and wanted to check with their other friends before telling you off for something you couldn’t help – they might feel patronized and get offended. And they’ll be even more embarassed about having continued to call you the wrong pronoun the rest of the night.

      • That’s a very valid point- cis type folks in life seem to be very defensive of their gender and many get seriously offended when someone misgenders them. So why is it so difficult for the rest of us? I’d never actually thought of it that way before, as I’m usually exactly that- shy and unsure of myself to speak up and correct people for my gender.

        • Cis perspective here. I personally don’t have to correct (I don’t tend to get misgendered)… But for those of us who get misgendered somewhat frequently, it’s not so much offense as “oh dear, here we go again…”. I wouldn’t bother correcting in a casual setting (e.g., being called “sir” by a supermarket teller). I’ve noticed that in general trans folk react more to being misgendered than cis folk – but that’s just my experience.

          When I correct on behalf of others, it goes something like this:
          Person: “Hey, so I spoke with him about that assignment we have due tomorrow –”
          Me: “Her.”
          and if they don’t get it, I say something like, “Her pronoun is female. Please use the correct pronouns.” And if they don’t get it, I shun them.

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  15. In my life, I refer to gender neutral people by their name and either avoid pronouns altogether or use them all interchangeably, unless the person in question has a preference. But I think everyone should be treated as they want to be treated so I support whatever pronoun you want to be called. But “they” wouldn’t automatically come to me or most people I imagine, so that puts you in the difficult position of having to correct/inform most people that you meet. It’s not fair, especially if you’re shy. I’d say take your time and get comfortable not only with “they” but having the conversation. If you’re not comfortable then that undermines the whole reason for the pronoun change. Do it however works for you. Ask/Demand/Joke about it if you want. And remember you don’t have to live up to anyone’s definition (gender/trans/otherwise) except your own! You being you is enough.

    • Thanks for such an encouraging comment!

      I’d say take your time and get comfortable not only with “they” but having the conversation. If you’re not comfortable then that undermines the whole reason for the pronoun change.

      I guess you’re right. Sometimes I just force myself to correct someone, and then berate myself when I don’t, but it’s not a race. I’m not yet comfortable enough having the conversation with pretty much anyone, which is probably why I haven’t. Like most everything else, it’ll happen when I’m ready, on my own time.

  16. I’m very new to transgender expression. I am probably old enough to be your ….father?, but only really began to come to terms with my gender identity about this time last year. Thus, I am pretty well established as a female person at work and among my friends. I doubt my place in the trans community quite often, but then I consider my place in the female community and go “Oh NO not for me!” and the cycle just keeps repeating itself.

    And a huge hangup for me seems to be the pronouns. I am not yet out to any of my friends, and I feel like I could easily explain my place on the gender spectrum to most of them because I rarely have ever gone out of my way to behave particularly feminine. But still I feel like I would be imposing to ask them to call me He or Him. At times I don’t really even feel like a He or a Him, but nor do I feel like a She or Her. The latter just seems less awkward to me because of 40 years of conditioning.

    I like They. To hell with grammatical correctness. It ain’t never stopped me before.

    Good luck with your own particular situation.

    • This resonates a lot with my experience as well. Even though I don’t have 40 years of baggage, forced change upon others is a particularly scary concept for me.

      This post was curiously written a year ago, and I might be faced with the exact same situation in a few weeks. This time I am wholly prepared and ready to make the correction to male pronouns. So I guess the lesson is – it takes time.

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