Question: Does it offend you?

A reader asks…

Two-part question:

ONE: how do you feel about your gender being compared to other-gendered people? It tends to offend the cis-community, but I wondered about us GQs.

TWO: do you feel there is a correct way to ask about gender identity and/or pronouns? If so, what is it?

Please post your response in the comments below.

» Ask Genderfork «

Posted by on January 16th, 2010 at 08:00 am

Category: questions 16 comments »

16 Responses to “Question: Does it offend you?”

  1. Anonymous

    1: I can’t say I’ve had much experience with the first question, I’m one of very few genderqueer people in my community, and we’re all a pretty queer bunch no matter who you look at.

    2: If I know before hand a person is genderquer, after we make introductions, I politely ask them if they have any preferred pronouns or anything else they would like me to know. Usually people are happy to tell me, and I am happy to tell them in return.


  2. raphael

    1> i too have had rather little experience in that area. i try to live as binary-gendered in public and other-gendered in private, which personally suits me, as the sheer exhaustion and confrontation from “living genderqueer” can be so tiring; in that regard, most people i work with every day don’t know my “real” gender and don’t draw comparisons from it. even so, i am frequently mistaken for a butch lesbian woman or occasionally a fem gay dude, and people compare me to their gay acquaintances and rather than trans people.

    2> politely and in private. imo it’s better to ask the bare minimum of what you need to know (i.e. what are your pronouns?) than to ask more personal questions about with what gender the person identifies, which is not really something you need to know upon first meeting.


  3. raphael

    *delete the “and” from “gay acquaintances and” in what i just said above. i am sleep-deprived, i lack the full throttle of my normally brilliant typing skills!


  4. Corbyn

    1. Yes it is very offensive whether. It is very frustrating to not be considered man enough of trans man enough because I am flamboyant but love sports or because I am not a man’s man I am not hairy I am not many things people stereotype as “manly” but because of those things my gender is compared to others.

    2. I feel like everyone has a different opinion on that. I am the kinda person where if you don’t know then just ask me I will be more than happy to tell you. I’m not offended if you as but I am offended if you ask and I tell you and you proceed to get it wrong.


  5. Avery

    1: Sadly, my own internal baggage draws those comparison rather than other people. I don’t have problems with “not genderqueer enough” but I do sometimes feel like I am being read as trans and that bugs me. It bothers me because I am being given a narrative that is not mine and a narrative that belongs to people I love dearly and have tremendous respect for. It feels like I am being given credit for a life I have not lived.

    2: I try to pick it up via context. by which I mean I have gone for days not using pronouns for someone until I get a handle on the situation. As a general rule, I don’t advocate that tact. Asking respectfully in private is best. I usually go for the simple “What pronouns do you prefer?” (Asking cisgendered people the same question is fun and can lead to some great teaching moments.)


  6. Chris

    I completely agree with Corbyn.

    The practice of comparing requires having two solid (non-fluid) items to compare, which I would argue is practically impossible to solidify ANYone’s gender. While speaking of the comparison, we must have one itemized word, or named identity to subtract markers within the label as foci of comparison.

    In other words, for those of us who are comfortable in a category like Corbyn’s ‘trans man’ than it is WRONGLY assumed by others other then ourselves that each and every feature of being a trans man is the same in every trans man, otherwise, we wouldn’t hold that title to ourselves.

    This is one of the tragedies of identity.


  7. Samson

    I’m honestly having a hard time understanding what the first question’s getting at. Somebody enlighten me please?

    As far as the second one, I’m with most everyone else–quietly asking what pronouns they prefer. I used to try to wait until I heard someone else use a pronoun for the person in question, until I realized that that person could easily be wrong.

    And I think another person’s gender identity is none of your business, unless they decide to tell you or maybe you’re discussing gender identity. Why do you need to know?


  8. Cat

    1. I’m assuming you mean being told you remind someone of someone else? Because I’ve never heard of people comparing someone’s specific gender identity to someone else, so I’m assuming it’s not that.

    Depends on who I’m compared to! If someone compared me to some crazy murderer it wouldn’t matter if they were male or female or all/none of the above.

    But in general, I don’t mind being compared to people not of my gender or biological sex. When it does happen, it tends to be people who do have characteristics of both genders as well, so it makes me feel pretty good actually. It means I’m coming across the way I feel inside.

    2. To be honest, I’ve never really been asked. While the impression I give off does present as genderqueer, my physical features, particularly my face, are very difficult to “queer up,” so to speak. :) I’ve never had someone honestly mistake me for the opposite sex, or be confused about what pronouns to use.

    But if someone were confused about what to call me, I would like if they would just ask in an open, non-judgemental way. I know that will never happen, because people assume that I would be upset that they can’t tell what gender I am, and there’s really know way for them to know that I’m genderqueer and it doesn’t bother me that they don’t know what to call me.

    But really, just ask. :)


  9. jean c.

    re. #1: it’s frustrating to talk to somebody about my own gender identity & questioning, and have their response be, “oh, my friend So&so went through a transition from X to Y in the past couple of years, he (or she) had blah de blah & this & that experience, and we all reacted to him (or her) in this or that way…”

    I know that they are just trying to draw parallels from what they know of, and let me know that they are trans allies and empathetic to me — but really it just feels like they are pushing their friend’s experiences onto me, overlaying their vicarious assumptions onto my own lived-in knowledge (and lived-in confusion, that is what it tends to be more then lived-in sureness, most of the time!)…

    I’d so much rather hear some thoughtful questions, or your *own* experiences with your body & identity. When I came out to one of my friends (who is cis-male), he told me about his body dysphoria and obsessively exercising as a teenager, and we got to talk about that kind of stuff a bunch… another friend (cis-female & super femme) talked about how she always felt like she should have been taller. their experiences, though maybe seemingly “ordinary”, to me showed more understanding of and sympathy for what I am thinking about than someone telling me about their other trans friends.

    but then again, the friend who responded to me coming out to her by saying, “wait, does that mean you’re gonna start using male pronouns? oh no! that’s gonna be so hard for me!” turned out to be the girl who’s now my sweetheart, eight months later! it helped that she immediately realized what she had said and couldn’t stop apologizing. but it just goes to show that no foot-in-the-mouth gaffe (as long as it’s innocent) is gonna ruin things forever… and it might even be the material for a good joke further down the line.

    #2. I have no idea. I wish people would ask me before they use any pronouns for me. that would be perfect. but it’s really easy to make assumptions & follow habits I guess…


  10. XylophoneGender

    #2. One distinction I’ve found can make a big difference is not asking *what* pronouns are preferred, but *if* there are preferred pronouns. Especially when the askee is grappling with figuring it out, doesn’t currently or ever want to just go by one set, or has never before been given the chance to decide what pronouns get used. Or if the person just wants pronouns avoided the “Are there pronouns you prefer?” or “Do you have pronouns?” can leave the question a bit more open-ended.


  11. nick

    I believe there is no such thing as a bad question. People can ask me anything and if I want them to drop the subject, I’ll tell them nicely.

    1: Being compared to other people can at times be annoying but if that happens I simply tell people “I don’t want to be ‘like other people’, I’m just trying to be me. I’ve spend so long trying to fit the gender-label I was born with, why would I now fit myself into a new cage by trying to perfectly fit the gender-label I’ve adopted?”

    2: I’ve never heared of a wrong way to ask this. If someone asks me what pronouns I prefer: yay! great! very considerate of them.


  12. Lilybean

    Oh hey.

    The first question was meant to mean, for example, somebody saying, for example, “hey Mike, you look like Angela” (complete with gender-assumptions about such names).

    The other “misunderstood” answers have been good to read too though :)


  13. Nicholas

    1. It doesn’t bother me, but I usually correct it by telling them that I’m “not that” and that I currently do not exist on the wikipedia :) As a google/wikipedia fanatic, being something “else” that can only be loosely described by what exists on the vastness of the internet makes me feel good! I’m have no expectation that people will ever “get it right” because, I feel, that it just asks too much. The language of non-binary gendered folks is a foreign language, and like a foreign language, I don’t expect people to know how to communicate, or even know how to start. Besides, I’ve come out from nowhere, and can only describe myself loosely, because there isn’t a word for the gray area I’m (finally) happily situated in. (I need to rename “commonly-accepted” intersexuality to primary intersexuality, so I can build the concept of secondary intersexuality. I could have my own designation for the “sex box” on a form! M/F/T/PI/SI!)

    2. I think the only way to ask these kinds of personal questions is to do it honestly. I had someone pose the question nicely the other day:
    “Would it be okay if I asked you a question?”
    “Would it be still be okay if it was a personal question?”
    It gave me the time to figure out what he was asking (usually you know instantly anyways!) and to dodge the question if I wasn’t comfortable answering.


  14. Emile

    In response to the above commenter,
    I would not preface the pronoun question with “Can I ask you a personal question?” or any variation thereof. People that ask me to ask a question make me feel really nervous. Especially when they say it’s a personal question! “Dear God, how awful is this going to be?!” is usually what I’m thinking after that. Maybe that’s just me being weird, though.


  15. Emile

    “People that ask me *permission* to ask…”


  16. Ansley

    ONE: I’m pretty laid back when it comes to that. If it’ll make it easier to explain to people, then I don’t mind being compared to other gendered folks.
    TWO: I don’t usually talk to people, so I’ve not been given the chance to ask about pronouns. But I’d imagine I would just ask “What are your prefered pronouns?” or something along those lines, then it’d be up to them what they’d like to tell me.


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