On the Guardian ’s language blog , Roz Kaveney—I dare not attempt any further description—complains of the linguistic difficulties in naming transgendered people:

As a trans man or woman, you soon notice how many people have what Daffy Duck called ‘pronoun trouble’.

No matter how supportive of your transition they claim to be, and how much well-intentioned advice they give you about your new hairstyle, or the name you always used in your head but only just told them about, they misgender you every other time they open their mouths, and get quite upset if you call them on it.

You’re being too sensitive, they say, or it’s too soon. Families, in particular, think it’s too soon even after years. Getting your name right is a minimum requirement of respect— referring to you in the third person by the wrong pronoun means that respect is only superficial politeness.

I used to think that straight men particularly tended to misgender me if they were losing an argument; now I’ve seen them do it to trans men too. Misgendering is sometimes cluelessness, but more often it’s quiet, hostile aggression, especially if we aren’t gratefully deferential for whatever crumbs of acceptance we are thrown—if we speak up as freely as if we were actual, you know, human beings.

Oh, and a word to far too many columnists and pub philosophers: the only time ‘it’ is acceptable is with neutrois-identified people, some of whom regard it as mandatory. And if that’s one rule too many to keep in your social vocabulary, well, tough.


Emily Post is certainly right that addressing someone by their proper title is one of the most basic and easiest ways to show respect, but the etiquette of gender identity can be truly exhausting.

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