We’re at a restaurant for dinner. The server approaches our table with piping hot entrees and starts placing them in front of us.
“And, here are her chicken strips,” she says as she places a basket of food in front of C.J.
That’s our reply when our son is misgendered, when someone assumes he’s a she. We ignore it.
It happens nearly once a day. It happens when he’s dressed masculine and it happens when he’s dressed feminine. It happens when his hair is a sweaty, knotty mess after two hours of gymnastics and it happens when his hair is clean and in a neat French braid. It happens when his fingernails are painted and it happens when their not.
We have a rule that we don’t correct people when they misgender C.J. It’s not our rule actually. It’s his. We just follow it.
We use the male pronouns that he prefers, but if somebody else doesn’t, he doesn’t want us to correct them or even acknowledge it.
“If people think I’m a lady, just let them,” he says.
(By the way, before he turned ten he’d say, “If people think I’m a girl, just let them.” Obviously, in C.J.’s mind, when you enter the double digits you go from girl to lady.)
“If strangers think I’m a lady it doesn’t matter because I’m never going to see them again. So who cares what they think,” he explains.
We’re cool with that. It’s his choice. And, knowing that his choice can change, we’ve checked in with him often during the last six years.
At age four, he didn’t want us to correct people because he liked being mistaken for a girl. That’s when he wanted to be a girl, so when people mistook him for one he would beam proudly knowing that he had convinced someone of something successfully. It’s like the feeling I get when people think I have my shit together and am good at adulting. We all feel proud when people see us the way in which we want to be seen.
We didn’t correct people.
In first and second grade he wanted us to correct people when they misgendered him. He no longer liked being mistaken for girl. Sure, he sometimes still wanted to be a girl, but more than anything he wanted to be his rainbow self. Why couldn’t people understand that he was a boy who was a girl at heart? It was frustrating for him.
We corrected people.
Starting last year, he asked us not to correct people when they misgendered him because of the whole “if they are strangers, I’ll never see them again anyway” reasoning and because he felt that correcting people drew more attention to the fact that he’s different.
We stopped correcting people.
It was a hard habit for Chase to break. He’s a protective older brother and wanted people to know when they had erroneously referred to his brother as his sister. Plus, if his brother wanted male pronouns, he should get them.
A server approached our table to take our drink order and referred to C.J. using female pronouns. Chase corrected the server.
“Babe, don’t do that, he doesn’t like it,” I said once the server was out of earshot.
“Well, I don’t like it when people think he’s a girl when clearly he’s a boy,” Chase argued. (Disclaimer: C.J. does not always “clearly” look like a boy.)
“But, it’s my choice and I don’t want you to make a big deal out of it! You’re embarrassing me!” C.J. said folding his arms across his chest.
“I’m not embarrassing you! I’m standing up for you!” Chase insisted while pulling his baseball hat down to block us from his view.
And, that, my friends, is how something as simple and mundane as asking for a Diet Coke, lemonade and Arnold Palmer at a restaurant can turn into an emotional debacle when a person is misgendered and it isn’t handled the way they want it to be.
It’s not about C.J. being misgendered; it’s about how we react to it. We can’t control the first, but we can control the latter – under his ever-changing direction.
NOW, I’m super obsessed! :D! omg I am so proud! Ahhhhhh!
If People Think I’m A Lady, Just Let Them, just the same as I follow. My sister and Chase do exactly the same thing with pronouns and were both in our seventies now. Thanks for these reminders that were not alone at all. CJ has a very loving family!!!! Chloe’
Love your account of how your son’s preferences have changed over the years and Chase’s protective attitude. Thanks for writing about this 🙂
We wouldn’t even flinch if TJ was a cis-female “tom boy”. I admire CJ for his desire to express in the effeminant when he wants to and to attemp, or desire to present as a cis-female. I think CJ has been tapped to teach the world it’s a good thing for boys to be themselves what ever gender they connect with. ❤️That you are an awesome mom and have an awesome family!
Sorry, NOT present
Oops not attemp or desire! (Embarrassed)
When I was growing up, I had curly red hair and was sometimes called by the wrong pronoun even though I was presenting as a typical boy (or I thought I was). It upset me then but now I think CJ is right– if they’re strangers, you’ll probably never see them again. If they’re just being jerks, you’re not going to convince them otherwise. As long as CJ gets to sparkle, it doesn’t matter what other people say.
Chase your an awesome big bro. Just follow
CJ’s lead. He knows where your coming from and that you love him. So Chase what are you doing this summer? You should start a blog Living with my Rainbow.
I only correct people when the tone of their voice says what they called me is an insult. That said, CJ is lucky to have such an understanding older brother, Cherish him CJ, very few of us have understanding family,
Hopefully we can get to a point where we can just call people, people, and get rid of using strick female and male pronouns in certain situations altogether. There really isn’t a reason any server needs to assume and call someone a lady, guy, girl, or boy. It would all be better for all of us never to assume. Thanks for sharing Lori, I will be posting for my readers as well.
I believe that no matter how much we want it to be so, our language for personal interactions most often requires gendered pronouns. Its how most of us learned to communicate growing up. Its how all human cultures use language. It can be difficult to avoid gendered pronouns in speech. People take their measure of us from our appearance.
Agreed! And as a transgender person, I’m flattered when a person uses my preferred pronoun. I simply want to see a world where it doesn’t matter if someone makes a simple mistake. we can simply giggle and move on.
I know what you’re saying. But, as a transgender feminine expressive person, I particularly enjoy being called she. It’s the gender I identify with. In looking at the world Some of us are masculine, some of us are feminine, some of us are ambiguous. And in between there are as many flavors as there are individuals in between. It can be hard sometimes to distinguish a person preference, (I see this a lot more with bio-females today). And then there is the herm shim they pronouns. What needs to happen really, is to simply allow the person to miss identify another and if it really matters, simply make the correction with out embarrassments.
If I had a big brother who got defensive over defending me, I’d be glowing with pride and love. If I had a little brother who stood up for how he wanted to be dealt with in public, I’d be glowing with pride and love. How luck your family is to be who each of you are.
I can’t be hard on Chase. I love how he’s so protective of C.J. and always supportive. He needs to be applauded for that. I would have waited to correct him in the car. C.J. too should be reminded how lucky he is to have a brother like Chase. He may not always like how he handles a situation but so many don’t have supportive family. I can sympathize with Chase’s hurt feelings. He believed he was doing a good thing.
Sounds like y’all have a great way of looking at it. CJs point is well taken, and quite frankly should be a model for all of us on any number of issues. Would certainly make life easier.
This is so familiar. Emma used to get called she/her all the time when she was Colin. She’d be in “boy clothes” and I’d still get “your daughter’s so pretty, how old is she?” from strangers. It’s definitely easier to let the misgendering lie than it is to give the long winded explanations strangers sometimes seem to need.
Thanks for this Lori! I always look forward to your posts. They make my day a lot. I know all too well about being misgendered. And I am transgender. I like how CJ looks at it. I normally do not waste my time or pay no attention to strangers who may misgender me. Why should I. I do not know them and they do not know me. CJ has gotten so mature. It is amazing. I mean I bet it can not be easy just sitting by and letting CJ get misgendered by strangers. You are his mom. Yet he is old enough to know what he wants when it cones to these decisions. He definitely has proven that from what you have shared with all of your followers. It is amazing that CJ has a protective brother. Yet CJ had a point. Chase could have defended him when they left just by offering support. Those kinds of situations can get out of hand especially with loved ones involved. But from what I read nothing got too out of hand. Sending my love to you and your family. Riley out.
You are always such a great support for CJ. Honestly, I am terrified when I am unsure of what pronouns to use, So, it can be uncomfortable on both sides. I think that dealing (or not) with it in a simple, matter of fact way is a great thing.
You should share this for blogging for lgbtq families day! http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/Mombian/~3/Z_L8ND14Cs4/
Following your kid’s lead. Seems like the smartest thing any parent can do!
And that’s simply the truth!