Please Don’t Call Me Girlfriend: Treat Your GNC Pals With Care

Please Don’t Call Me Girlfriend: Treat Your GNC Pals With Care

photo of a person's calves down to their feet; they're wearing jeans, white socks, and red converse sneakers while standing in the grass with blue sky behind them; a white overlay with black text: "Please Don't Call Me Girlfriend_ Treat Your GNC Pals With Care" and "Chronic Sex"

Whenever someone calls me a ‘sister’ or ‘girlfriend,’ I die a little more inside.

In late 2016, I came out as genderfluid. Since then, I’ve struggled a lot with my identity. One of the most difficult things is dealing with how others see and address me.

Most people I knew before coming out still see me as a woman, regardless of coming out to them. People who say they support my decision to come out or praise me for being ‘brave’ still use gendered terms towards me. I don’t correct people because I know that it’s an adjustment. It hurts, though.

It’s even a part of why I haven’t switched to pronouns other than she/her. I know too many people won’t get it – even other sex educators – and I’ll have to deal with stroking people’s egos while ignoring my own open wounds.

The oddest experiences are the ones where people will address me and a group of cisgender gals. The person might backtrack but, when they do, it’s always with a humorous tone like: “Oh wait, does that not apply to you now?” This hurts even worse.

If you’re serious about asking those questions, you don’t do it with humor in your voice. You apologize once, ask seriously, and keep it in mind for the future. You don’t give ten minute long explanations that require the misgendered person to soothe your feelings, centering yourself instead of them.

There are people that can use gendered terms towards me without it being as uncomfortable. Generally, though, that’s my family – T, my sister, my niblings, my closest friends, etc. It’s funny, though, because my closest friends are mostly gender-nonconforming, too. My sister and I have always used male and female terms towards each other. Since we were little, we called each other dude, bitch, and more. Plus, she’s asked if those things bother me. She cares if they do.

It doesn’t seem like many others do. And that’s why this hurts so much.

This article from The Body Is Not An Apology says it best:

“When you misgender me, you tell me many things. You tell me that you know who I am better than I know myself. You tell me you are not safe or trustworthy. You tell me you have scrutinized my physical appearance, made invasive extrapolations, and sorted me without my consent into a category based on your conclusions.”

(I highly suggest reading that full article. It talks about the fear about correcting misgendering comments and more.)

Please don’t call me sister or girlfriend or whatnot. If you’re not sure about using a phrase towards me, ask me. If you mess up, apologize and make a note of it for the future.

Further reading on misgendering