Pesky Pronouns


A question I get asked a lot is if Dana gets upset if someone slips and makes a mistake when addressing her. Does she get upset if someone accidentally calls her Rick rather than Dana or uses he or him instead of she or her?

I can answer this question by breaking it down into three categories....

Dana does not get upset if someone slips and uses the wrong pronoun or name when it's an innocent mistake. That happens all the time. In our community we have been known as Rick and Mary for so long, that mistakes are going to happen. When anyone has known somebody as one way, it's hard to have the brain be retrained. It's similar to a woman getting married, and we all have to get used to a new last name. It takes a while for the new married name to roll easily off the tongue.

In the beginning our close friends really struggled. They got the pronouns wrong constantly... but they were trying and that's what mattered to us. They cared enough to make the effort. They were open enough and willing to change how to address Dana.

Today if someone does accidentally slip, it's very obvious to us that it was unintentional. Dana blends in completely as a female, if someone slips today it is because they are aware that she is a trans person. They know her previous history. We see the embarrassed looks pass over them, the look of wishing they could just take back the "he" or "him" that fell out of their mouth. Dana and I don't make it a big deal by correcting them, or pointing out to them what they just did. It's not necessary. It was simply an accident.

Admittedly some of us do get a free pass to make a mistake. I get a free pass. I still slip at times. Especially if I'm talking about an event that happened in the past. When I'm recalling a memory, my brain is revisiting an image that involves Rick as a man. My brain can't compute the change fast enough at times, and I will slip.

Dana's parents get a free pass as well. They have been wonderful and very accepting. They send her birthday cards as Dana, they address her as Dana. But they slip a lot. Of course they do. They named her Rick, raised a boy and had a son for almost 50 years. They get a free pass. We would have extended one to her brothers as well, but ironically, they rarely slip.

The last category is those who refuse to use the correct pronouns. Luckily we don't have too many of those people in our lives. Not anymore. We have had those that have told us they will not use she or her. One person told me that he will not use her name Dana and will continue to use him and Rick. His reasoning was that it didn't co-exist with his religious beliefs. We had another so-called friend who took great pleasure in saying he or him around Dana. She would constantly say "I'll have what he's going to have" when we would go to dinner with this woman. We no longer associate with these people. Their actions made it clear to us that they don't want to associate with us. We simply parted ways.

Three years later and now I rarely hear anyone slip. If you are in a position where you are struggling with using the wrong pronouns, or you are feeling the sting of others using the wrong pronouns when addressing yourself, all I can say is be patient and kind. It does take time. And for those who refuse, do yourself a favor and cut them out of your life. You'll know who those people are.