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What's in a name...or a pronoun?

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My cisgender friend Stacey married quickly: her husband was the man of her dreams, and she was ready to leap into the next phase of her life. So after just nine months of dating, they had a private courthouse wedding and tied the knot, fulfilling her dream of no longer being Ms. Kim and becoming Mrs. Kendall instead.

Three years later, she exited the marriage after tumultuous disagreements over finances, family, and future.

"Please don't call me by that name anymore — it reminds me too much of a life that wasn't meant to be mine," she requested. And overnight, "Mrs. Kendall" became "Ms. Kim" again. Email addresses were updated, contacts changed, legal documents reprocessed. Friends and family deftly forgot her married name and returned to her original family name. No questions asked, no fumbles. It was easy for them to make the switch, knowing the pain caused by her marriage.

Why then, is it so much harder for friends and family to remember my chosen name and pronouns?

For those unaware, "deadnaming" means referring to a Trans or Nonbinary person with the name they used prior to transition. Using the chosen name and pronouns (gendered words used to describe someone in the third person) of those in the genderqueer community is, in my experience, an act of fundamental respect and dignity.

When I came out as Transgender in 2020, it was on the heels of several years of therapy and a lifetime of figuring out how to channel my fear into a moment of conviction. And that moment has made all the difference in my life. My coming out was met with an overwhelmingly positive reception from friends and family.

"We still love and support him," many would say.

"Her," I'd gently correct them.

In the shadow of my fear of unilateral rejection, I was content with whatever support was offered and unbothered by the frequent deadnaming and misgendering. I know how rare this type of acceptance can be in any genre of Queer and was — as I still am — exceptionally grateful to have this.

And with the joy of coming out and coming into my real self, the shadow began lifting in favor of sunnier days. But nearly four years later, a handful of my family and friends still sporadically misgender me. And I'm getting tired.

Being in the closet was hard. Years were spent secretly processing gender dysphoria, feeling fraudulent in interpersonal relationships, navigating inherently transphobic legal and medical systems, contemplating housing and financial stability, researching Trans employment rates, discreetly coming out to family and friends, and incessantly feeling "off" about the person I saw in mirrors and photos. It was a decades-long journey to this side of being out and proud, and I'm so happy to be here now. [takes a deep Queer breath]

But getting misgendered, especially by friends and family, is an abrupt reminder of the hardest parts of that journey: a dysphoric flash of anxiety, fear, and rejection.

"I'm sorry, I was just talking so quickly that your old name slipped out by accident."

"I love you, but it's just going to take time."

"It's difficult for me, because I'm older."

"You know I didn't mean it. You just have to understand how hard this is for me."

I do, sincerely. And I know it's not for lack of love. But when you misgender me, especially after years of my gently correcting you, it makes spending time together harder: it's difficult to be at ease with someone whom I'm in perpetual fear will say something deeply hurtful in the most casual of manners. And what may be a "casual slip-up" on your end could be the emotional low point of my day, tossing me into a quiet interrogation of my own gender presentation or bringing into question whether you've really accepted me for the woman I am and always have been. Being misgendered feels like unexpectedly finding a shard of glass in my ear, a pain that I rarely saw my friend Stacey subjected to.

And while I haven't left a marriage, I've left behind my own image of a man, one whose life was never meant to be mine. I hope you can too.