A commenter on my latest video asked:
So I’m just confused… What is the difference between being a man and being a woman? Gender stereotypes are just myths aren’t they? So why do you care about being called a woman? I’m not saying I don’t want to call you what you want to be called, I’m just honestly confused. It’s fine with me for you to dress, groom, and be labeled however you chose, but if you don’t have preconceptions about gender roles, then why believe you’re really a woman? Pardon my ignorance, I really want to learn.
First off, I should point out that I’m currently not as insistent on this point as others may be. I’ve spent a great deal of time keeping my gender intentionally ambiguous and telling people I’m fine with either set of pronouns, and I don’t think I can be all that taken aback when they continue to act accordingly. I understand that most people who refer to me as male probably don’t intend it in a derogatory sense. And the few who obviously do mean to insult me via intentional misgendering have laughably overestimated how much I actually care. So you angrily called me a man? Whoa, watch out guys, we’ve got a badass over here…
But while this may not be so important to me right now, it can still be important to other trans people, and understandably so. Unlike cis people, we’ve had to fight for our gender – for who we are, and for how we’re viewed. The process of finding and becoming who we are, mentally as well as physically, is far from easy, and even after we’ve accomplished that, being accepted as who we are by the rest of the world is a whole other challenge. Cis people have their gender served to them on a silver platter from the moment they’re born: they know who they are, and so does everyone else. Their gender is above questioning, and they aren’t required to put any amount of effort into recognizing that they are their gender, accepting themselves as that gender, and being fully accepted as their gender by all of society. But trans people are, and it shouldn’t be surprising that many of us want our struggles to be recognized in the most basic and unimposing way: by simply acknowledging who we are. We didn’t spend six years in evil medical school to be called “mister”, thank you very much.
And even without taking the challenges faced by trans people into account, recognizing and respecting someone’s gender is a basic and well-established article of courtesy. When you ask us “why do you care about being called a woman?”, you could just as well ask a cis man “why do you care that people call you a man rather than a woman?” But it’s notable that nobody really does bother to ask such questions of cis people. When cis people expect that their gender will be acknowledged by others, no one balks at this. It’s so utterly normal that no one even notices it. They only make an issue of it when trans people expect the same.
I’m sure that some people might respond, “well, no one should care about being addressed by their gender, whether they’re cis or trans”. While the validity of this sentiment can certainly be discussed, it simply doesn’t reflect reality at this time. The fact is that people largely do care about having their gender respected and not being continually and intentionally misgendered. It should not be any more questionable when, like most others, trans people care about this as well.
If it were normal for no one to be bothered when they’re addressed as a gender other than the one they identify as, and such careless and carefree misgendering was commonplace and accepted, and we were the anomalous ones for making an issue out of it, then yes, it would be quite legitimate for you to ask us why we care. But this is not the case. And as long as the expectation of being treated as one’s identified gender remains a norm, suggesting to trans people that we shouldn’t care about this essentially means asking us to expect less than cis people, who probably aren’t going to stop caring about having their gender respected any time soon.
Why do we care about this? Go ahead and ask yourself: Why does anyone? The answers aren’t all that different.