Question: Not so pro with pronouns.

Jesse asks…

I feel like a male in a female body but have a major mental block with pronouns.

Even though I feel uncomfortable with female pronouns, the idea of asking people to switch to male feels terrifying. When someone calls me ‘he’ or ‘sir’ out of the blue I love it, but I can’t bring myself to actually ask people to switch. I just feel consumed by insecurity. It’s like the point of no return.

Why is my brain is shouting ‘yes!’ and ‘no!’ at the same time?

Please post your response in the comments below.

» Ask Genderfork «

Posted by on March 31st, 2011 at 08:00 am

Category: questions 14 comments »

14 Responses to “Question: Not so pro with pronouns.”

  1. Clare

    One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.
    Simone De Beauvoir

    If this is true, you have a lifetime of conditioning to contend with. you cannot expect people to read your mind or to know how to treat you in your new incarnation. I would think that, for some, asking will be right. Others will need to work it out for themselves. You know yourself – why not enjoy others’ uncertainties, and let them come and ask you?


  2. Leonard

    same problem here :[


  3. ryan

    i had the same complications for a looong while, so just know you’re not alone in this feeling. but like clare mentioned above, we can’t wish/hope that just because WE feel we’ve changed, that everyone around us will notice and recognize that change (as a gender shift, and therefore *switch* a pronoun for us).

    but i get the fear you’re in — trust me, i do.

    here’s a quote from a piece that really helped me when i was struggling, and maybe it will help you too: “fear isn’t something the brave never feel, it’s something they feel very strongly and they face it anyway. fear is letting go of the safety of the cover, the lie, and the shelter that is fabrication and saying, ‘this is who i am, and i want to be seen for myself.”

    (excerpt from Lies by David Husted. from the inside out: radical gender transformation, ftm and beyond)


  4. Anonymous

    Me too, I’m too scared for doing that.
    That’s sad.


  5. tigr

    Yes!!! So we’re not alone =)

    …I really really really don’t want to tell people what to call me, partly because I don’t KNOW what they ought to call me, and also because I don’t want them to call me anything just because I told them to (then I’d never know what they ACTUALLY think!)… Yet at the same time, I’m terribly uncomfortable with the pronouns I get because of my birth-assigned gender. Grrrr.

    In the last few weeks I’ve been more and more “I hate being called …” whenever someone does. It’s funny, actually. Some people are like “alright”, some people are “so it’s [the opposite]?” or simply just use the opposite, some people SEEM TO NOT EVEN NOTICE I SAID ANYTHING!?!?! DID I JUST *IMAGINE* I COMPLAINED?…

    But, yeah, that’s been generally helpful. And I can honestly say I hate being called… maybe try that? And let them come to their own conclusions :) I think next time someone asks “so what should I call you?” I’m going to say “whatever you think is right”. And if what they think is right doesn’t feel right with ME I’ll keep complaining till we get to some compromise or so, I guess. :)


    Meike replied:

    Ooh, great advice! I’ll have to start doing that with people I meet. Or maybe even my friends and family…*gulp*


  6. Nicholas

    Maybe the full, “classic” change just isn’t for you. I feel uncomfortable with both if either is used for too long a time. I have a broad gender identity, and I feel like people would forget me for who I was because I where I’m going.

    I feel best when people treat me how they feel most comfortable, most natural, because I think it’s honest and respectful. I, too, dislike the idea of forcing people to use a pronoun I decide on by using guilt, “I would prefer if you used _____ pronouns when referring to me.” It may be asking people to see what they don’t see, and to talk about you in a way that may make them feel like they have to “lie” to other people for you. It all depends on how they see you.

    Some people are ready to change the pronoun usage, because they might begin to feel like they’re “outing” you, and others aren’t ready, because your gender expression might not be to the point where you fall under the other pronoun just yet. I think it’s beneficial to carry as much of the burden yourself, so that others can accommodate when it begins to feel natural for them. (And by “burden” I mean your gender expression, you can’t expect others to easily swap pronouns for someone who’s gender expression is not clearly in line with the pronoun they want used.)

    It might sound harsh, but I think it works because it forces people to stand behind their decision about their pronoun usage, especially when it is mutually understood that Person A uses one pronoun, and Person B uses another. People more enthusiastically “embrace” their ideas of gender, before it starts to erode into “people are just people” because gender is so vague. I think that’s where we all need to be anyway, everyone doing their own thing.


    Christen replied:

    Well said! I totally agree. I had kind of the same revelation when I was experimenting with pronouns – and I don’t even plan to transistion! I’m just very genderqueer. My gender expression tends to fall more on the girly side though, so most people use feminine pronouns, but that’s all they see them as. They’d probably switch if I told them to, but I don’t, because we all treat pronouns as they are – meaningless grammar devices we use based on subconcious cues and habits. I do admit that there are people out there who do put stock and meaning into what pronouns are used, but they are very few in my life, and they tend to change that notion once they get to know me, so I don’t really care.

    I really don’t have anything to add advice-wise – Nicholas said it pretty well for me! :)


  7. Jordyn

    OMGGGG ! i feel exactly the same way! when somebody calls me she, i feel so good, but it feels so strange to call myself “she” even though thats what i want. :(


  8. Lane

    I felt the same way for a long time. When I finally felt ready to transition for real, I was able to start asking for “he.” It was hard for me to ask for the male pronoun before I was ready to claim a male identity in its entirety. That said, getting over the fear was worth it. I felt much more comfortable afterwards, and most of my friends have been really good about making the switch. So know that when you do feel ready to ask for the male pronouns, doing it will be worth it.


  9. Courage

    It’s like the moment before you walk on stage… you’re nervous and although you want to perform what you’ve been practicing for weeks with all your heart, you suddenly get that pit in your stomach that says it’s a bad idea and you shouldn’t do it at all and should feign illness, walk away… etc. Once you get on stage, though, it’s completely dissipated and you’re beaming with pride and acting natural. But, if you do not perform, the next day you are angry with yourself for chickening out becuase you KNOW you’d have had a wonderful time.

    Thankfully, the first time someone consistently began referring to me as male, they were older and more experienced and transitioned from female to male usage very easily and without me saying anything. They had known enough transexuals or genderqueers to just start doing it naturally when I began presenting as masculine. That made it very easy for me to ask others. It gets easier the more times you do it.

    One day a person called Logan had their profile on display here at genderfork. Logan wrote,”No single word could encompass an entire being, and while I appreciate the respect garnered through pronouns, nothing could compare to the sound of my chosen name.” I thought that was a beauiful way to phrase it and I use that speech to people who refuse to call me something other than what I prefer.


  10. Jessica

    I used to get all happy when people used the “right” pronouns, sometimes. It still feels like a soft caress, instead of the mute rebuke of the “wrong” pronouns. But lately I have gotten to feeling like they’re both wrong. Sometimes I’m more one than another, other times not so much, but I can’t really expect other people to keep track.

    “Can I help you sir, er madam?” is one of the phrases I get and I just continue on and let them decide what makes them feel most comfortable. Either way, I’m still just me.


  11. Theo

    If you want people to consistently use male pronouns then tell them. Their selection of female pronouns does invalidate your gender identity and you should not let them. Most people live in a binary world and often misgender people, whether cis or trans. Without medical transition I’ve taken to just having my pronoun use be the first thing I point out when I meet someone, i.e. “Hey, my name’s Theo and I use male pronouns.” If they take it in stride, they are someone you want to be around. If they have a huge problem with it, do you really want to continue creating some type of relationship with them?

    Another solution is to have someone introduce you, like, “This is Fitzy and I know him from blah blah”. Seeing someone else respect your identity usually tells people to follow suit.

    Finally, generally speaking… even if they feel good new pronouns are hard to get used to because they feel and sound foreign. Don’t think it’s a huge red flag if you don’t like them or feel totally okay with them at first. As a genderqueer person in a binary world who also doesn’t really like either set of pronouns, I reconciled myself to knowing I don’t like female pronouns, binary-raised people who are ignorant of gender-variance only know two sets of pronouns, and male ones feel okay so I’ll just go with those I guess. Overtime, I’ve gotten used to them and like the way people treat me with them. You’ll work out what you want as soon as you realize pronouns are your choice and people need to respect that to be an important part of your life.


    Jessica replied:

    New people isn’t usually my problem. They don’t care what pronoun they use. It’s people who have known you forever – especially relatives. When your sister introduces you as her sister, you’re kind of stuck and if she introduces you as her sister-errrr-brother, that’s even worse.


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