I’ve never put much store in pronouns. Trans heresy, I know. Our pronouns are supposed to be near and dear to our hearts, defended with the same fervor as our chosen names. They can be flags, or weapons, or mirrors to reflect our deeply felt senses of self. They don’t always fit.
Maybe it was that I was due for my monthly haircut. Maybe it was that I was wearing more tailored clothes. Whatever it was, the cashier looked right at me and called me “she.” It didn’t feel malicious, there was no gender policing in [pronoun’s] tone. It simply seemed that [pronoun] saw me, and saw me as a person that could be called “she.”
It felt novel, and while it didn’t fit– it also didn’t chafe the way I thought it would, the way “she” did when I was a teenager trying to figure out what the hell I was and what words existed to describe me. I realized that now– when someone calls me “she”– they’re seeing a different part of the picture.
If someone can look at me–my body, my clothes, my haircut, my mannerisms, my swagger–and fit that into their concept of ‘she,’ well, more power to them. Ivan Coyote wrote a thoughtful and thought-provoking piece about her own reasons for choosing “she,” and parts of it resonated with me. I’m not ready to stake a personal claim in “she,” but I’m willing to answer to it.
I can’t name the precise moment that being called ‘he’ stopped feeling like a radical gender moment and started feeling like a social default. I thought of it as shorthand–not any more accurate than ‘she,’ and easy enough to go along with when people assumed. Now, it feels unusual when someone DOESN’T just call me ‘he.’ It’s been a long time since someone asked me for my preferred gender pronoun. Mostly, this doesn’t bug me. Even in our queer and gender-aware communities, people tend to call it like they see it– and really, I don’t care what someone uses for me as long as they’re respectful. I tend to stammer when someone asks my preference, before mumbling something along the lines of “well, um, I don’t really care, ‘ze’ and ‘hir’ are great but most people just call me ‘he’ and that works too.”
I learned a few days ago that a friend that I am just getting to know uses gender neutral pronouns for me, every time. This touched me, more than I (in my general pronoun ambivalence) would have ever expected. ‘Ze’ and ‘hir’ are my preference, but I rarely hear people use them. Gender neutral pronouns are a lot of work, and they’re inconvenient. I don’t bother to correct people when they don’t use them for me. I just don’t care enough, and it’s so much easier to default to the binary options that we learn in grammar school. Sometimes, I’m just tired. Still, a pronoun that even vaguely fits can feel like a gift. Learning that someone was using mine felt like I’d received one.