As a cisgender woman with long hair and a closet full of dresses, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been misgendered by being called “he” or “sir.” Cisgender means I was assigned female at birth and identified as a woman. For people who are transgender and/or nonbinary (TNB), with different gender identity than their assigned sex at birth, being misgendered may be a daily occurrence.
Why does misgendering matter?
Imagine a scenario in which you are called the wrong pronoun or honorific — for example Mr., Ms., or Mrs. — multiple times a day. It might happen in person, over the phone, or via email. Each time it happens, you must decide whether it is worth it to correct that person or easier to let it go.
How to use gender-neutral language and normalize pronouns
Imagine that you are repeatedly confronted with this experience and the decision of whether or not to correct it throughout the day — every day. As we know from research, and as I’ve also heard from the TNB people I know, this is both exhausting and demoralizing. When people are misgendered, they feel invalidated and unseen.
- Instead of “boys and girls” or “ladies and gentlemen,” say “everyone.”
- Instead of “fireman” or “policeman,” say “firefighter” or “police officer.”
- Instead of “hey guys,” say “hey everyone” or “hey all.”
If you are a cisgender person, you can lighten this burden for TNB people by using the right names, pronouns, and honorifics to refer to them, apologizing when you misgender someone, and correcting other people when they misgender someone.