Last week, a brilliant idea struck me. Okay, brilliant may not be the right adjective here, but I’m sticking with it. I thought of a way for people to pay attention to the ways they refer to me and stop misgendering. Being called girl, grrl, lady, woman or any other feminine noun just doesn’t do it for me, especially if someone knows better. Actually especially if I still need to share my preferences with someone, but let’s focus on the people who do know better.
If I share my nonbinary gender identity with someone, they should honor that by referring to me in gender neutral ways, both formally and informally.
I understand some individuals playfully address many people in their lives as “girl/gurl/grrl”, but it’s important to recognize not everyone may be comfortable being addressed in this manner. I’m not. Calling me a “grrl” after I’ve indicated I’m uncomfortable with girl nouns isn’t cute. If a person knows an AFAB individual doesn’t identify as female, they should reevaluate their wordplay. They can even ask that individual! The point is it’s not okay to ignore another person’s discomfort and pretend everything is okay and funny because “everyone” is girl.*
So what’s the idea?
If a person continues to misgender me (pronouns, nouns) after I share my preferences with them, I will playfully but firmly tell them that if they misgender me three more times they owe me ice cream, juice, or a slice of pizza. This is a somewhat fun and funny way of asking someone to pay closer attention to the way they address me. Rather than being aggressive, it says that I care about them and our relationship (enough to spend time getting ice cream, etc with them), and I care about my health. Of course, this is best used with friends and other folks you are on good, possibly fun terms with.
I first tried this with the person I went on a first date with a week and a half today. She thoughtfully asked my pronouns while we walked to a sushi restaurant; she had noticed I wrote “genderqueer” on my Tinder profile. We had a casual conversation about my gender then moved on to the next topic. After she accidentally misgendered me a couple of times (including “grrl” with that “everyone” explanation, but an apology), I told her if she did it three more times, she owed me ice cream. Four hours later, she slipped for the third time and I laughed and told her she owed me an ice cream. I already knew we’d go out again, so this wasn’t an uncomfortable request. On our third date, with me in a pizza mood, she delivered on her promise and bought me pizza.
She hasn’t misgendered me since.
Some limitations to this fun idea:
It’s not the best if you think someone will intentionally misgender you to get time with you. My date didn’t but she could have if she thought it was a way to ensure a second date. If you feel harassed by someone, don’t use this with them. Unless you feel safe/respected enough to assertively request something that doesn’t involve spending additional time with them, like a pack of gum. (“Tom, if you do that 3 more times, I’m going to have to ask you to buy me gum.”)
The point of this exercise is not to get people to buy you food or treats, but to remind them of your preferences and get them to be more conscious of their behavior.
So far it’s been great.
*Two months ago, I found myself looking down at the person I was with and thinking, “really?” when she called me “girl” during sex. I’m a pretty easygoing person and I wasn’t angry or sad, but I did feel unseen and not respected.
Alternate title for this piece:
Give Me My Gender or Give Me Pizza: How I’m Getting Folks to Honor My Identity