by Shane Foster
Reading time approx: 6 mins
As a crossdresser one of the issues that sometimes comes to mind is what to call yourself. And I’m not talking about giving yourself a female name. No, in this context I’m talking about how you address yourself – he, him, she, her, etc.
You see, in today’s society, it’s all to easy to become labelled, when in fact you have your own ideas about how you want (or indeed expect) to be seen.
In these circumstances its essential to be clear about your pronouns. But what exactly do we mean by this?
To most people, I am a ‘He’. To others, who upon first meeting me are perhaps nervously not sure, I am decidedly a ‘They’. And very occasionally, when I’ve got my full drag on, wig and all, I will be referred to as ‘She’.
The irony in all this is that, with very few exceptions (and those mostly coming from within the LGBTQ+ community), nobody is actually asking what I designate myself to be.
What are your pronouns?
A lot of people, for whatever reason, seem to be deathly afraid of asking this question.
Perhaps rightfully so. It could be that they expect the answer to be something along the lines of: Isn’t it obvious!? Can’t you tell…? I can’t believe you said that... That’s so rude! My pronouns? What are your pronouns!?
I can’t say I’ve ever heard any of the above given as a response, and would probably raise an eyebrow if I did. Nonetheless, I’m sympathetic, in a wry sense if nothing else.
Pronoun or identity?
Personally, I find the whole situation quite amusing. People trip over themselves sometimes fretting over what to refer to me as when, if they just asked in as polite and as nonchalant way as they would talk about the weather, they could easily discover that the answer is: Oh, I don’t mind.
In this, I am by no means attempting to make light of the issue of correct pronoun usage or undermine its importance for anyone else, especially for those within the trans community.
If I happened to identify as one signifier over another, I can only imagine how disheartened and rightfully aggrieved I would feel if I was wilfully misgendered and refused my correct pronouns by someone.
It’s just that, in my case, all three are applicable and none of them are mutually exclusive. For instance, if someone hypothetically happened to respond to my lack of attachment to one pronoun over the other with: But if you had to choose…? I suppose my response would be: Well, which leg do you prefer? Right or left?
If I were an exam question, you could just tick ‘All of the above’. The error, for me, is in making gender identity a singular choice.
Am I me, or a third person?
The freedom my gender identity and pronouns, or lack thereof, affords me is something that I’m very much growing into.
On good days, I can confidently stride into either Men’s or Women’s bathrooms, feeling that both belong to me equally. On worse days, however, I feel as if I am welcome in neither.
Nonetheless, I am still subject to a lot of the same transphobia and systemic exclusionary processes that affect so many in the trans and non-binary communities.
As far as the UK government is concerned, as a non-binary person, I do not exist. Should an official form ask me if I am a Mr, Ms or Mrs, with no option for Mx, I would sooner mark that I am a Dr than anything else. At least that gives me the cover of androgyny that I want.
Fortunately, I have friends beside me who know me mostly just by my name, and a loving partner who sees me beyond such labels and celebrates me for who I am. And when I am pushed towards the feeling that my lack of pronoun favouritism renders me somehow invalid or incomplete, these social supports are enough for me.
For anyone else referring to me in the third person, as it says in the my work email signature: No specific pronouns apply.