Misgendering tears down trans identities

Hannah Kloninger-Stever, Staff Reporter

Everybody has that one insecurity that makes them scared of being laughed at or ridiculed by their peers. Imagine the object of these insults was your entire gender identity. Imagine being told you were confused and seeking attention just for trying to be who you are. For many transgender students, this is not a hypothetical scenario, but an everyday struggle.

Misgendering someone and transphobia in general can have a colossal affect on anyone questioning their own identity, and it needs to stop. Our society is continually adapting to allow more and more ways for people to label themselves apart from either male or female, but there is still a culture of joking about how others identify. The seemingly trivial jokes such as “I identify as an attack helicopter” cause people who are actually transgender to feel like their identity are a joke.

“To be closeted or to be questioning and hear those things [makes them] think they don’t deserve to be acknowledged for who they are,” said non-binary Carter, whose name has been changed to protect their anonymity. “It opens the door for people who don’t know about it to look at it as a joke. It’s harmful because when they’re introduced like that, it’s hard to unlearn those kind of things.”

In high school, everyone is extremely conscious of how they are perceived by their peers. As a result, it’s an especially difficult time for trans teens to feel comfortable not just coming out to others, but being able to accept themselves as well. Sophomore Luezi Endamne-Wamba has always known they didn’t fit into either binary genders, and has since come out to their friends as non-binary.

“Identity obviously takes a long time to figure out, [and] in high school everyone’s trying to figure out their identity at the same time,” Endamne-Wamba said. “Some people are going to be bad influences on you, which might throw you off.”

Much of this ignorance comes simply from a lack of education. Although nonbinary and various other gender identities are covered briefly during sex-ed units, so much more can be done to destigmatize them.

“I don’t want my identity to be highlighted or the center of attention, because I’m a different person besides this small part of me,” Carter said. “If they can teach it in a way that doesn’t separate it from other things or doesn’t shove is into a spotlight, that would be best.”

Taking the time to ask someone what their pronouns are and making sure to refer to them correctly is the first step in being supportive. For how little effort it requires, it has a huge impact on someone who has come out to you or is questioning their gender.

Using someone’s correct pronouns and labels isn’t about how much you like that person; it’s a matter of basic human decency. Disregarding this not only harms that person and their feeling of self-worth, it also perpetuates the stigma around invalidating the trans community as a whole. Misgendering someone should never be a way to attack someone because it jeopardizes their ability to feel secure in their own identity.