"So, I got into a fight with my sister about her misgendering a trans* woman. I spoke up because I think it’s important to do so and because I know misgendering is a form of violence. When I expressed this, she responded with extreme hostility, told me I shouldn’t push my views on her, and continued to misgender the woman. I find it extremely frustrating and don’t really know how to deal. We haven’t spoken for a while now, but I am not backing down. Any advice? Thanks."
- Question submitted by alittlebitoftenderness
First, I want to say your feelings of frustration are completely valid. I also want to say that the point your sister is making is based on only knowing her perspective. She feels one way about one thing and doesn’t want anyone “forcing her” to feel something different. On top of that, it isn’t just a general explanation of a different point of view, it’s making her feel as if she is being violent toward a group of people that she quite frankly doesn’t understand. So, since she already has little to no information about this community, she probably feels a little dumb, which makes her defensive / angry. We’ve all felt those feelings before. It’s the worst.
I would suggest tying to compare it to something she might be able to understand a little more. For example, I have a friend who is Saudi Arabian, but because her skin is white and she is hella pale, her identity is erased by those around her ALL THE TIME. She has a tattoo in Arabic and has run into folks who immediately yell at her or judge her for having a tattoo that they assume she cannot really understand or that she has the tattoo as some sort of ironic gesture or WHO KNOWS. The point is, before even having a conversation with her, they completely erase her identity, make assumptions about who she is, and then use words to describe her that don’t fit who she is, IN THE LEAST. Maybe they made a snap judgement, yea, but why make her feel like shit before you’ve even tried to understand or talk to her about it? You don’t know her or her experience at all!
My point is, there is a difference between thinking something and considering those around you. You don’t have to get your sister to completely change her point of view overnight, but maybe she can at least be aware that there are people around her who struggle with the words that match their identity vs. the words that people place on them. It isn’t cool or fair or right, but it’s real and ANYTHING we can do to make this world a little bit better for those around us is a step in the right direction.
Perhaps if you explain it to your sister that way, she’ll slowly come around?
Yes. I agree — if you are going to re-enter this conversation, come armed with examples of others who feel similarly when incorrect words or assumptions are used in relation to how they identify. I have made a lot of headway with friends and family — in regard to sexuality, race, religion, gender identity, and more — by trying to find parallels for whomever my audience is at that moment.
Should we have to find something personal to make other people care? Well, no. Should we have to find something personal to make other people understand better? Well, although we don’t have to do anything, people certainly have a firmer grasp on things when they have a context to understand them within.
That all said, I would like to add something to Dannielle’s above point. I don’t know that it will help you, but I find it to be something of an epidemic in our society at present. I am talking about what I will call ‘The Litterbug Syndrome.’ You know that person who tosses their bag of chips on the ground when they are done eating? Just like, right on the fucking ground, because they figure ‘ah fuck it, what’s a goddamn bag of chips gonna do to hurt anyone?’ I often wish that, at that moment, every bag of chips in the universe that had ever been eaten would shower down from the sky. That person, who thought, ‘ah fuck it, what’s a goddamn bag of chips gonna do to hurt anyone?’ would see, instantly, what would happen if every single person thought like that — with themselves at the center of the universe’s orbit, and without caring about the well being of those around them.
Your sister, in my opinion, is infected with The Litterbug Syndrome. She doesn’t care to hear what you have to say about pronouns because it doesn’t affect her personally, and she’s just ‘one person’ so how would her words REALLY do that much? How could they be THAT horrific? Well, I will tell you how, dear sister. Each and every person on this planet who think like that contributes (directly!) to the system of violence that causes trans* people to be discriminated against, disregarded, beaten, and killed. If, instead of being showered with potato chip bags, you were showered, instead, with all the words spoken in ignorance, in hate, or in judgement against trans* people… you’d immediately see why your own words do, in fact, matter.
Always, on this earth, think to yourself, “If every person made this choice, what would the planet look like?”
It’s a good rule to live by.
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