Pronouns

I was talking with a friend about pronouns.  Not just any ole pronouns.  Gendered pronouns and the genderqueer experience.  My friend is transgendered and prefers male pronouns.  He is a butch and experiences regularly the application of female pronouns, not just by the ignorant average joes and janes, but by fellow queers and friends who either slip or who sometimes with what appears to be malicious intent, decide to she him for shits and giggles.  And we were talking about the reverse as well: butches who identify with female pronouns who get he-d by friends and lovers despite objections.  And the use of male pronouns by femmes to keep from outing themselves.

That just blows my mind.  I struggle with pronouns for very different reasons.  I struggle with dating a “him” and with having a “boifriend” (when I have one).  I struggle because as much as I have wanted on occasion to use female pronouns to avoid perpetuating my being read as hetero, I can’t do that.  If someone identifies with masculine pronouns, for me to suddenly pop a “she” to make myself comfortable feels like a deep betrayal, not just of them, but of myself.

I remember once I had to deal with some financial bullshit for a transgendered boy I was dating.  I had to make some calls and I had to fill out some forms and I had to use his given name, use female pronouns and swallow the Ms. silently.  I kept hanging up before getting connected to the customer service people because I couldn’t bring myself to do it.  He intensely disliked using his given name.  And it felt so awful for me to have to do it, it was necessary but it felt so, well, wrong.

Other bois/boys have different positions on that and I take my cues from them.  One boi I knew used his given name for very public professional purposes and didn’t mind being referred to by his very feminine given name.  I didn’t mind identifying him by it, although it always confused people when I continued to refer to him as him despite the obvious “girl” name.

I dated a butch who was woman identified and used female pronouns.  That was cool too.  I then found that I had to correct friends who are used to my dating trannies and would regularly refer to her by male pronouns.

To think that some people consciously apply the wrong pronoun to cover up their queerness just blows my mind.  And to hear that it’s acceptable because someone is butch really really blows my mind.  So, would a butch refer to me by male pronouns to cover?  Would they try to apply male pronouns to me when subterfuge was not necessary in order to be more comfortable with their sexuality?  Would it be okay if I, high fucking femme, was a he?  Not to say a femme can’t go by male pronouns, don’t get me wrong, but this high femme does not, unless you count Daddy as a pronoun, I like my shes and hers just fine thank you.

So, when I’m dating a he, I still have moments of discomfort, not with his gender identity, but with my invisibility.  And most often it’s complicated by the fact that if you see us out in public, in most cases, the queerness becomes obvious.  They don’t pass, have nothing to pass as being genderqueer butches, that’s exactly what they present as.  But, when in casual conversation it comes up by someone who hasn’t met the him in question there’s often the question mark look.  Has Thea turned straight?  Or the complacency, Of course Thea’s straight, she looks straight doesn’t she?  So I have many ways to add qualifiers.  Either I throw the word butch around (always fun anyway) or at some point clarify that he is a female.  Or, if the person I’m seeing pronoun shifts, that makes it easier for me, and more confusing for the listener (which can be great fun!).

I guess it just doesn’t even occur to me that some people are still so stuck in their own homophobia that they feel the need to modify their partner’s gender across contexts to be more acceptable.  How much more heteronormative can we get?

Me, I’m a big ole queer.  I may be dating a he but not only am I not defined by who I date, I also take great care to ensure that I don’t feel like my own words and actions contribute to my being perceived as straight.  That matters to me.  I need that balance, the place where I can honor the other person’s gender identity as well as my own queerness.  Hence, I don’t date transguys who are stealth.  Hence I don’t date people who are not fully comfortable with their own queerness.  That’s not to say that we all have to be out all the time about everything, but if in my need to be out I end up outing them, that needs to be okay.

My first girlfriend, back in my lesbian days was not okay being out.  We were young, it was her first relationship with a woman, it was all so new.  I was out and proud and militant.  She was tentatively out.  We went to pride together and I vividly remember parking the car a block or so from the park where the festival was being held and her not wanting to hold my hand to cross the street over into pride.  Since that time I’ve never again dated anyone who wasn’t comfortable being out because I inevitably burst out into queerness. Contextual appropriateness is one thing, I won’t sit on their lap at their office, I won’t push pda in front of parents unless they’re that kind of parents, but for the most part, I walk through the world as a queer femme and if someone is with me, they have to deal with my sparkly self shining through!  And I’ll be damned if I for a minute consider in any way getting them to modify their speech, dress, pronouns, name, behavior to ‘tone it down.’  That would be like asking a butch to put on a dress so you can pass as decidedly unqueer ‘friends’.  I say fuck that.  And I pity the people who are so self hating they need to resort to such ridiculous strategies and disrespect their lovers and themselves.

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2 Comments »

  1. whatilike Said:

    “Hence, I don’t date transguys who are stealth. Hence I don’t date people who are not fully comfortable with their own queerness.”

    I’m confused, you mean transguys that don’t “look” queer but still ID as queer, or do you mean transguys that regardless of appearance do not want to acknowledge their trans-ness to the outside world?

    At any rate, I know it can get complicated.

  2. thealeticia Said:

    Stealth meaning transguys who chose to not disclose their trans identity and who prefer to interact in heterosexual contexts (if that’s their orientation obviously, I don’t know any gay transguys but I”m sure they’re around too).
    It has nothing to do with appearance and everything to do with intention, politics and identity.
    Many transguys I know are adamant about maintaining their queer identity even though they pass and are read as heterosexual males. Other guys prefer to inhabit straight spaces and don’t participate in queer community.


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