One of my fears of transitioning to female was that people around me would not recognize my pronouns and name or my womanhood in general. I reside in a prison where acceptance can be a real challenge.

I knew people were going to struggle with my pronouns, after all, it can be a challenge for me with other people. I recognize that its purely neurological for most, not a personal attack. We are trained at birth to recognize gender, it is done automatically. The introduction of trans folks into someone’s life forces them to think about gender, something they previously did not have to do. So recognize that and give folks latitude and extra grace. We are asking them to change as well.

We are asking the people in our environment to develop a new habit. From that angle we can see that those who call us by our preferred pronoun or name, even if they slip up or avoid pronoun usage altogether, have literally changed how they think, for us. Assist people in this process by giving them grace and expect that this could take a long time, after all it is a habit.

People who are spitefully refusing to acknowledge your pronouns are going to exist. The good news is they will eventually be isolated. Your job is to be extraordinarily nice and patient, your environment will do the rest.

An alternative is to create middle ground. You do this by educating your environment on what is acceptable for you and then giving others room to voice, comfortably, what is acceptable for them. Then, use both ends to create a middle ground. This is especially helpful for working relationships.

Something I am doing is going to groups and holding a “judgment free Q and A” where I encourage open dialogue that is not filtered. They can ask me any question they want, in any way they want and I promise them that for this one meeting, I will not react defensively. First, it allows them to get things off their chest, some feel that they are being forced into some alternative belief system where somehow Christianity breaks if I am a woman trapped in a mans body. Point this out to them. Then, give them the option to fail. “Hey, I know its going to be challenging, but we have to exist here, I am going to respect you and I am not going to meltdown when you slip up, all I’m asking is that you don’t meltdown when I correct you.”

No need to compromise your identity, just be nice when some are insensitive because it is really challenging for others to follow someone who is clearly being rude. The nicer you are the more it contrasts someone else’s negative or malicious behavior, socially it will always catch up to them.

Will do more on this in coming months. Be nice and if you have any questions or suggestions, feel free!

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With Love
Jeff aka Ruthie Utnage