I’m not one to ask for favors if I can avoid it. And this one really isn’t. It’s not a favor as in, please oh please, just this once, just for me. I’m asking this as a simple request to you from me:
Try harder. Try to get my name right. Try to use the correct pronouns. Try not to call me she, girl, or lady, or whatever. Don’t be afraid of mistakes, but please understand that these things are not easy for me to hear. And that I may laugh it off in the moment and say it’s okay, but it really isn’t, for me. It actually cuts pretty deep.
Practice if you have to. Say to yourself “that’s Lex, I met him a long time ago. He was my classmate/colleague/roommate/friend of a friend’s friend.”
I haven’t wanted to confront this even though it’s come up a lot lately. I don’t want to make anyone feel bad. And it’s not offensive to me if you get it wrong in a superficial, “now I’m angry at you because you didn’t do this silly thing for me” kind of way. It’s a reminder to me that this isn’t entirely real to you yet. You are still on the fence, or stuck in a memory, or just have more going on in your life than this whole thing with me.
As I’m writing this I am feeling like it may sound whiny, or passive aggressive, or something like this. So let me explain further what this is like, and why I felt I needed to put all this out there, get it off my chest. I get up in the morning and I get ready and do my best to represent myself to the world as I want to be seen. I know there are things about my appearance, my mannerisms, my voice, that might not be exactly what I’d like them to be, but I do try my damnedest. Some days I think I am at least sort of close to how I’d like to present to the world, and I go out and a stranger in a store calls me ma’am, or, like what happened to me this weekend, comments on my “boobs.” And I feel like, well fuck. I guess today I do not appear to others as I truly am. But I can cut these strangers a little slack because they don’t know me, and they might not know from how I look exactly how I identify (which is not to say that someone’s gender expression is equivalent to their gender identity—in other words, how someone presents may not always line up with how they feel about themselves. The issue with me is that I was indifferent to people reading me as female for a long time, but now it bothers me more. But it was just as incorrect then as it is now.). So although it’s not easy to take and generally depresses me at least a little, I can let it go more easily.
Now. That is when a stranger does it. I get self-conscious, I get dysphoric, I get over it eventually. When someone who actually knows me does this, it’s a whole different ballgame. The thing is that it’s not just about remembering what to call me. It is a matter of understanding something fundamental about who I am. I have tried to be as open and candid as possible about everything, and I don’t know how else to say this.
So I am asking you to really look, and to see me for who I am. I am asking you to try harder to understand that I need you to say Lennox, him, his, he. I need you to do this like you need me to call you your given name or the name you prefer, and use the pronouns that you feel comfortable with, whether they be masculine or feminine or neither or both.
I really do need you to try harder.
On the other side of all of that, when you do say the right things to me, it’s kind of the opposite of everything I mentioned before. It’s affirming, it’s empowering, it lets me know that you understand me, and I can’t express how grateful I am every time it happens. It still feels a little bit like a dream come true, that I am actually living this life, and out in the open.
So again, I ask you, I implore you, try try try as hard as you can to get it right.