How to get others to respect and use your pronouns?

Happenstance Happenstance
I'm genderqueer and use the pronouns ze/hir. I know it's not very common, so I have to sometimes educate people on gender neutral pronouns and trans* issues... but as someone who isn't really comfortable talking to people in the first place, what do I do if someone turns around and gets mad or dismisses me when I ask them to use my pronouns? What do I do when a therapist, whom I trusted, asks me "Well, how would you know I wasn't using them? The only time I'd talk to my colleagues about you was when you weren't here." It seemed like she was telling me I was ridiculous to my face and she didn't want to embarrass herself in front of... you know. People who matter.

Basically, how does a person terrified of conflict very simply and clearly explain gender neutral pronouns, why it's important to use them when talking about me, and avoid hostility? And how in the world do I explain being genderqueer and my pronouns to my employer and coworkers without getting fired?
09/11/2012
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Mwar Mwar
Hmm... I love your question because it has me thinking.

I am familiar with some gender queer stuff, but I have never heard of these pronouns before (or I may have saw them once at most). They sound (phonetically) like "he" and "her" but with a twist. Am I right? If not, could you write out how to pronounce them? (sorry if I sound dumb, but I'd like to get it right if I'm screwing up the pronunciation).

I can't speak for others, but if you corrected me and wanted me to called you ze or hir, I'd be cool with it. I would ask you to be patient with me if I mess up the first couple of times unti I wire my brain for it, but I would do my best to respect your request. And when I screw up, you'd see my face scrunch up and probably say an expletive, so you know I know I messed up.

However, be prepared for questions about it. I would probably say, "Umm, sure. Hey, do you know how those terms came about?" or other things since I'm a generally curious person. I guess, whenever you're in an situation different from "the norm" (handicapped, odd experience, gender queer, minority religion, etc.) you'll have to deal with questions. It's the territory, I suppose.

And maybe my (tentative) faith in humanity makes me think the jackasses you encounter will be the minority. So long as your understanding that the other party is trying to be understanding (be prepared for some odd, non malicious, phrasing), I think you'll be fine.

In reference to your therapist, I don't know the nuances of how she delivered what she said (like body language and tone), but perhaps she said that as a way to see how you would feel and react.

While I understand people should be respectful to what pronouns you wish used, maybe in their head they assign you a different pronoun than you wish to be called. It may not be malicious, and it's just how their brains remember you. And maybe that's what they used to refer to you when discussing others.

At that point, there is no way for you to directly control that situation, and it can cause you stress/pain/anxiety, etc. with no way to relieve it. I guess I'm saying that you can only have a hand in what you see and hear mostly, and worrying about what people do beyond your senses will drive you bonkers. In a way, potentially letting go of some things you have no control over may help.

In terms of employers, they can't discriminate because it's the law (in the vase majority of places). So to hell with them if their jackasses.

Oh, and if you come across a blatant asshole, excuse my French: fuck em.

Dunno... hope I helped in some way or form! Thanks for posting
09/11/2012
Supervixen Supervixen
Like it or not, you're asking people to do something for you that the vast majority of people know nothing about, let alone understand. We live in a gendered society, and in general, a gendered world--asking to add in a third gender is a lot to ask--not because you don't deserve the respect to be addressed the way you feel you should be addressed, and not because there's anything necessarily wrong with it; it's simply not the way our language is constructed, not the way our culture is constructed, and it might feel awkward or forced for others even to try to refer to you with the pronouns you prefer, because that's just not the way we are used to talking or thinking. If you insist upon going against something that is so ingrained in our world, you have to have a tough skin. Some people will be confused, some people will be offended, some people will roll their eyes--don't let it get to you, and don't get too offended. People will have questions. They will be certainly be personal question. Your best bet, if you don't want to come off as some nitpicky PC militant with an agenda to deconstruct male and female identity, is to be positive, be informative, and be happy about other people's inquisitiveness. And if someone gets offended and blows you off? Shrug it off and walk away; you don't have to deal with them, and you should pick your battles wisely.

If it is someone you have to deal with in your life, and you can't just shrug their hostility off, that's trickier, and would depend on the circumstances. As for your therapist, I think that perhaps you aren't getting the point--I think she was asking you how you might feel about people referring to you in one way when interacting with you, because it's what you would like, and people referring to you as "he" or "she" when you're not around, because that's just the way our minds work. Perhaps she was asking, why does a generic, made-up gender label mean so much to you, linguistically? Does it bother you, or matter to you that people are probably not thinking of you in this third gender category in their perception of you, but will refer to you differently when you're not around in order to prevent offense? Why do the labels matter to you? I think she was challenging you to see your reaction and to get your insight into why it matters to you, not because she think you're ridiculous. She's a therapist; she's going to challenge your thoughts, emotions, perceptions and behavior--we would never get any insight into ourselves without the challenges that other people approaches us with when it comes to explaining ourselves. It's how she gets to know you, understand you, understand your thinking, and ultimately, how best to help and aid you.

I assume that you know why it matters to you, and you've thought about, dealt with many painful emotional trials that most of us don't have to worry about when it comes to our identity, and you've come to understand yourself in a way that you want to be conveyed to other people. So, tell it to your therapist, and see what she says. In the meantime, be thickskinned with other people (you just have to be--it will take practice, but don't let other people drag you down), and be armed with information and a good attitude. If you want people to warm up to what you ask of them, you need to know your stuff and be prepared to explain it, and you need to be nice about it--I can't tell you how many people I've met in the LGBT community who regularly miss their chance to do something positive for their cause, and take advantage of the opportunity to educate someone, because they were too busy being offended by their ignorance. A sanctimonious, self-righteous attitude is appealing to no one. A knowledgeable, friendly person who will take the time to answer your questions or explain themselves will usually get respect, at least for that.

Good luck!
09/11/2012
eroticmutt eroticmutt
Quote:
Originally posted by Happenstance
I'm genderqueer and use the pronouns ze/hir. I know it's not very common, so I have to sometimes educate people on gender neutral pronouns and trans* issues... but as someone who isn't really comfortable talking to people in the first ... More
I think that the easiest way to have people respect you and use your pronouns is to tell them you do not want to be called 'Him, Her, It, Etc' and that they may ONLY address you by:

1. Your Name
2. You (if speaking to you)
3. They/Them (if speaking about you to someone else)

As in, "Did you see what Happenstance posted? They're really cool, and I want to help Them with what They're going through."


Unfortunately, when you add in words people haven't heard before AND which will draw a raised eyebrow AND rhyme with words which are gender specific, they will have a hard enough time even remembering what the correct word is!

Using they/them/their instead of he/she/his/her/hers is a LOT easier and I dare say would probably get you a lot more success. I believe that if you continue explaining why you don't want gender labels used on you BUT use words people already understand and are familiar with, you will have a lot better results.


Personally I have found my family to be the absolute WORST in this regard and I only asked them to use male pronouns, not words they are unfamiliar with. It's easier to cut off contact from people who have known you an excessively long time and give them time to wrap their heads around it, but some people won't want to do that. Gender neutral on the other hand will be met with troubles from everyone simply because people are trained in the terrible habit of applying male or female labels to everyone at all times.
09/12/2012
Total posts: 4
Unique posters: 4