My name is Michelle Dee and I use female pronouns. I attend a networking event most months, it is for the most part, a pleasant diversion, a chance to see a few familiar faces, meet new people, have a few laughs, talk shop, engage in a little knowledge exchange.
I am never happier than when I can aid a project, by putting two people together or facilitating in some other way. It makes you feel good knowing you’ve helped someone out.
The monthly meet up is informal with a loose structure of speakers a Q & A and time to mingle. I’ve been going to this particular one for two or more years, but I’ve been attending different incarnations of these business/creative industries events, since at least 05. I would describe myself as being a familiar face at these things, a lively character who likes to join in and engage with people.
You will sense there is a ‘but’ coming… and it is this.
Almost every month at this network event I hear people misgendering me, using male pronouns when they know my identity full well. Once might be forgiven, twice may be tolerated but month in, month out, certainly cannot go unchallenged. Even when I was the speaker at the event the same thing happened.
These are not strangers meeting me for the first time, maybe experiencing unease meeting a transwoman for the first time. No, these are people who know me, who have spoken to me on numerous occasions, but who continuously refuse to use female pronouns.
When you misgender someone it hurts deeply. Knowingly and deliberately misgendering is extremely offensive. When it happens when I am in company it is absolutely mortifying. When friends have asked me about it, I either find myself making excuses for the person who has wounded me… oh it’s probably laziness they don’t mean it out of malice it’s just thoughtlessness… or it weighs heavily on my mind… you replay the interaction over and over like a film.
I would probably have done nothing more, than continue to correct people and not written anything, if it hadn’t been for what took place most recently. The last thing I want is to be a victim. However the last time it happened, I turned to the person corrected them, saying your name is going to the top of my misgendering list. They looked shocked because I’d dared to correct them by saying ‘she’ so pointedly. Rather than apoligising they began telling me I had no right to correct them. I had no right to decide how I wished to be addressed. Unbelievable! The idea that I should have just put up and shut up appalled me.
My name is Michelle Dee and I use female pronouns. If you can’t address me in this way, then please don’t address me at all. It is not a game, the actions I have taken were in response to a medical diagnosis, not a choice. It is my life. When you continue to insult me you are making my life that little bit harder than it is already.
I can imagine the comments from the sidelines, if you don’t like it Michelle, don’t go there. If I made a point never to go some place where I have been hurt in this way, I would never leave the house.
If you want to attack my work, fine. If you want to say I have no talent, also fine. Please, for the love of all things we hold dear, such as freedom, individuality and the right to self-determination, stop misgendering me.