You just have to respect me.
14th November 2018
This week we have a guest blogger, Eli. Eli is a Level 6 Illustration student currently working as an intern within the team. This is a very timely post as we mark Transgender Awareness Week
When you call me by my old name, my birth name, it may not mean a lot to you, but to me it is a reminder that I haven’t always been who I am today. It reminds me of the past which was full of anxiety and depression and hopelessness as I felt trapped and unsure why I felt so lost within myself. When you call me by my old name or pronouns it tells me that you don’t accept or respect me.
Of course everyone makes mistakes, and people call me by my birth-name by mistake, and I won’t be angry at you if it was an accident. Just quickly correct yourself and we can move on. Don’t make a big fuss and draw attention to it, just say my correct name or pronouns so I, and everyone around me, knows the correct way to address me.
Terminology is so important. You may use words which seem harmless to you, but could cause offense. Calling my birth-name my “real name” is a common thing said to me, it is never meant in a negative way. However “real name” says to me that my new name, is a fake name or that I am lying to you, when I’m actually, finally, living my true authentic self.
Equally, never ask me about my birth-name or old pronouns or ask to see old pictures of me. Most trans people are uncomfortable with this and we will tell you or show you if we want to.
I’m not here for your entertainment, my trans-ness is not a party trick. If you don’t know my birth-name it eliminates the chance that you may accidentally call me it. If I don’t show you old photos I know you are seeing me as I am now and not as the “little girl” I was many years ago.
It’s always best to say ‘assigned female at birth’ instead of “when you were a girl” as it gets rid of the implication that I have changed gender, when, in fact, I have just changed the gender I identify as. I was always male, it just took me a while to work it out.
If you don’t know my correct name or pronouns, just ask. It’s always better to ask the person themselves than assuming, with anything. If you don’t understand something that you feel you need to know, ask, but also respect that some trans people do not like to answer questions, especially personal ones.
When I started at this university we were all asked for our preferred name and if anyone didn’t know, they asked what my pronouns are. It wasn’t purely aimed at trans people, it was also to see if anyone has a nickname they prefer, but it meant that I could cross out my old name and not have to worry. I think this should be common practice, to ask someone’s name and maybe even pronouns instead of assuming it is the same as on a form you may have read. It’s these small acts that make a big difference.
This is especially important if the trans person wants to live stealth, this means they live as the gender they are, the gender they have transitioned to, without anyone knowing that they are transgender. Using an old name for this person would be ‘outing’ them and letting others know they are trans. Never out someone, even if you think they are open about being trans, it’s up to us who knows, and when.
We often feel powerless in our transition as we have little control over our bodies and how we are seen, but we have power over what are names and pronouns are and we have power over who knows our stories and journeys.
I have chosen to share these points to help educate people, especially as this week is trans awareness week and soon it is transgender day of remembrance.
We are just people, trying to go about our everyday lives, just like you.
Below are links to more information.
Resources for trans people
Support for trans masculine people
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