not in Primary anymore

words do hurt.

I recently started working at a school. As part of my job, I see the names of various students pop up on my computer screen, all day. I love my job, and feel as though I have acclimated well to the tasks expected of me.

However, an insidious part of myself has come to light–a part of myself that would have gone unnoticed, if it weren’t for my new job. I noticed, while reading in my mind the names of various schoolkids that pop up on my screen, that I have a tendency to gender the names on my screen.

I’ve spent the past few weeks making a conscious effort to break the habit of gendering names. I am constantly misgendered by people I meet in person. It is inexcusable for me to impose my interpretations of gender on to another person, even if all I know of that person is just their name. I should know better.

When we think of bullying and committing violent acts toward other people, we oftentimes think of acts of overt violence. However, covert violence exists. Misgendering is an act of violence and is unacceptable.

Don’t misgender people. If you have a habit of assuming a certain name or outfit or hairstyle or body denotes a specific gender, break that habit now. Names do not have a gender. Clothes do not have a gender.

Do what is within your power to stop bullying. But remember that covert violence needs to be ended as well as overt violence. Misgendering is just one form of covert violence. Don’t make assumptions about someone’s gender, and challenge that behavior in others whenever you are able.

Don’t make assumptions about someone’s gender.

14 Responses to “words do hurt.”

  1. Teresa

    “Misgendering” is not an act of violence. It might not be nice or fair,(although if you believe in evolution, it is a part of a latent survival instinct–can’t bash it too much) But when people exaggerate on issues like this, to try to make a point, I feel like it discredits the entire article.

    • Bri

      Misgendering someone does lead directly to violence, though. I understand that it’s hard to conceptualize unless you’ve had to stare straight ahead and pray other people show up while a man tells you to walk with him and threatens to hurt you if you don’t because you’re “a fucking man,” but don’t say that something is not violence just because you have not experienced it.

  2. beena

    I get misgendred a fair amount. The way I have viewed it is that I should not be offended if someone mistaken my gender because there is no shame in being viewed as any one. Also, I would argue that the focus on identifying as a gender reinforces the binary and makes society more inflexible to gender fluidity.

    • curtispenfold

      I think that some people’s gender is more soft, that they aren’t super attached to it. They might be comfortable on some level belonging to a certain gender or to no gender at all, but they don’t mind being misgendered.

      Others seem to have a “hard” gender where being misgendered causes dysphoria, a serious medical condition.

      Considering that there are transgender people that are willing to go through dangerous surgeries and hormone treatment, be rejected by family and friends, put their employment and housing status in jeopardy, and potentially experience violent hate crimes against them just so that they can live out their gender authentically and be read as the gender they identify as–

      When we consider all of that, it seems rather insensitive, privileged and honestly trans antagonistic to say that people just shouldn’t be hurt when they’re misgendered, or that their gender that they’ve fought to reflect in their lives shouldn’t be as big of a deal to them as it is.

      Just because getting misgendered doesn’t bother you doesn’t mean that it doesn’t hurt somebody else.

      • beena

        I see your points and I understand that my experience does not stand for everyone else’s. My question is transgender individuals go through operations that change their sex while the gender they perform changes. Would it be the same to connect surgeries to gender here? Legit curious what you think.

        Also, if gender is a social construct aren’t people with ‘hard’ genders simply clinging to a system of society which is fundamentally flawed and oppressive? Can you try to strictly adhere to a gender norms and claim to fight against the system that produced it?

      • Bri

        Beena, it’s incorrect to equate gender with surgery. It’s classist to assume that everyone who identifies a certain way can afford surgery.

        Also, while gender roles are a social construct, I’m of the opinion that gender is not a social construct. It’s not binary, but it’s certainly not a construct. It’s honestly disheartening to be told I’m “simply clinging to a system of society which is fundamentally flawed and oppressive” just because I identify completely as female instead of somewhere in the genderqueer range.

      • beena

        I wasn’t trying to equate gender with surgery, sorry if that is how it came across. I was trying to say that gender and sex are very different therefore surgery shouldn’t be an involved factor.

        Can you tell me more about how you see gender as not being a social construct? How do you define gender because the way I have been taught is simply that it is a performance and socially taught?

      • curtispenfold

        Except that the whole concept of sex is that we’re gendering the body, so HRT or SRS is essentially an individual’s way to help their body better match the way they interpret their body’s gender.

        I have a lot of theories on what gender is and why it develops, but I don’t think any of them are superior to the experiences real people have with gender, and if you’re arguing that an already oppressed group of individuals (transgender people) are clinging to an oppressive system just by existing and being true to themselves, you may want to reconsider the way you talk about gender unless you intend on supporting trans antagonistic paradigms.

        One can belong completely and fully in the binary and redefine and reinterpret their role in that binary for themselves. Maleness and femaleness are communities, and a person can be part of those communities, identifying fully as a member of those communities, while still being an individual who expresses themselves however they want. (Which is why there are butch women who are fully women and femme men who are fully men).

      • beena

        Wait how does sex gender the body? I think the way you define gender is very different than mine so I am getting lost. Help me out?

        Your point about people’s real experiences with gender being what matters is astute. I respect people’s right to live in the existing binary however they please. That is what fundamentally matters.

        I am interested in the theoretical/hypothetical implications too because oppressed groups cling to flawed systems all the time. Why would transgender individuals be immune to this universal pattern?

        Self-reflection and criticism is essential for growth and deeper understanding. That is why I am trying to reconsider how I view gender so I can grow and understand.

      • curtispenfold

        Some trans folks will work with a paradigm where they’re sex is distinct from their gender.

        But others are actually very much against the sex and gender dichotomy. Many times, somebody talks about a trans person’s “sex” as a way to say they’re “real gender.”

        Not to say there aren’t physical differences that tend to manifest themselves in people with higher testosterone counts or higher estrogen counts or between those who have penises or vulvas or other genitalia.

        It’s just, when we associate maleness with penises or femaleness with vulvas, we’re essentially GENDERING bodies. Each individual has their own interpretation of the nebulous cultural construct called gender that they find themselves in, and that includes the way that they gender their own bodies.

        For example. some trans men say that because they are men, their bodies are MALE bodies, maybe even saying that their vulvas are male vulvas. That’s the way they interpret their gender and the relationship that gender has with their bodies.

        At the same time, other trans men look down at their vulvas and other aspects of their body and say that their bodies are female, but that they themselves are male. Therefore, to help their bodies better match their interpretation of their own maleness, they may decide to participate in HRT or SRS.

        If our bodies are part of the performance we call gender and part of how we express the way we interpret our gender, I think that adapting one’s body to one’s gender may be but another manifestation of adapting one’s mannerisms, fashion, voice, and roles to one’s interpretation of their gender.

  3. Red

    FGM is violence. Determining someone’s likely gender by their name is a logical assumption.


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