On Standing Up

Every time I hear someone correct someone else on my pronouns, usually after I had decided to let it slide, I learn that my gender and comfort is important enough to interrupt people’s sentences about, and I deserve to be gendered correctly, and correcting people every single time and bringing it up again and again is not being overly pushy or unreasonable aggressive, and feel braver about correcting people myself.

My two favourite things to have happened so far this year:

1. I met a group of (cis) friends of a friend for the first time. Whenever somebody got my pronouns wrong they would sprinkle the person with water. It blew my mind that anyone would have that level of concern for my comfort.

I recently noticed that I would leave social situations early rather than put up with constant unapologetic misgendering. I don’t often correct people, and feel like I am the only person noticing and suffering from every missed pronoun. Having people who have got my back and will call out and just acknowledge every single instance of small violence goes such a long way in making me feel less alone and powerless.

2. I was handed a bell at an improvisers’ party the day after event 1. I dinged it unapologetically every time someone messed up. I definitely went overboard with it. By the end of the evening people were correcting themselves and each other. It was beautiful.

I have not talked about improv on this blog before. The improv community in Singapore is small and very important to me. It is also overwhelmingly Cishet Liberals who try their best but for most of whom I am the only transperson they know. These are people who want to be supportive, but aren’t used to they/them pronouns and mostly don’t notice when they miss one. I feel like I am doing everyone a favour by pointing it out, as in, I am helping you be better. And yet I don’t do it much.

A thing that happened last week:

Somebody made a “how dare you assume my gender” joke in an improv show.

There are a few things I need in order to feel up to standing up for myself: energy for the interaction, confidence, and trust that whoever I am correcting will not think less of me. I mean, I could, and maybe I should, just correct people all the time and forget about those who then think that I am being unreasonably pushy or aggressive. But I had been building my confidence and slowly being able to be more assertive and realising that most people do not think it unreasonable, and it is still hurting a lot.

The problem with the “how dare you assume my gender” meme is that it paints transpeople standing up to misgendering as being unreasonable and shrill. In case it is still unclear: standing up to misgendering can be scary as fuck and it is difficult to feel like we have a right to that. People finding this meme funny is my every fear validated.

The person who made the joke did not mean it that way and was surprised when I brought it up. Improv is improv, it made sense in the scene, and might actually have been pretty funny had I not had so much personal stake in the matter. I realise that many people have not had cause to think very deeply about the meme, and it is funny simply because it is a meme. I also realise that I am taking a few words in an improv show very very personally. But I don’t know.

There is not really a moral to this post. I guess I just wanted to write about it. I talked to a few people, but everyone I know in improv is cis and everyone I know who is trans is not in the community, and they did not really get it. I think that microaggressions hurt because of context that is invisible to other people, so it often looks like people are being unreasonably sensitive.

And this is the part where I write something optimistic about healing and continuing to stand up for myself and believing that I am worth respect, things which are really hard right now. But yesterday I corrected nobody, and every single time Cass caught it for me, so I am on the way there again.

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On Standing Up

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