Shifting pronouns and disclosure
When I came out to myself and others last fall, it wasn’t as a trans woman — it was as genderqueer. At the time my strongest relationship to gender was aversive, in that I didn’t want to be seen as male or referred to by male pronouns. Anything else was fine, but in practice I went by “they” with most folks and stuck with “he” in those situations where I didn’t feel comfortable raising the subject. I was inching towards a more femme presentation, but was unambiguously read as male most of the time.
Things have changed since then. I’ve been deliberately building connections with trans women and especially other nonbinary transfemale folks like me over the past year, and a few weeks ago I decided that I want to be referred to as both “they” and “she.” I’m more and more comfortable calling myself a trans lady (which to me is the equivalent of “trans guy”) and am getting really excited by the bodily changes already brought on by the last five months of HRT, some of which I was unsure about when I started. I’ve also been less afraid to do my version of femme in public: sometimes a dress and cardigan, sometimes denim cutoffs, lace tights and black sneakers.
I feel like I’m moving towards a place that I can comfortably exist from day to day, and that’s been truly wonderful. But it’s also meant that I’ve become less and less okay with being read as a cis boy.
Because of the identity I came out into, I didn’t feel a need at the time to disclose publicly at work. A few people have approached me over the past year to ask about my preferred pronouns, and I’ve been thankful for that. But most folks have likely continued to assume that I’m male, and I’ve decided to leave that belief unchallenged up until now. My desire to avoid confrontation overpowered my desire to be validated in my identity — I didn’t want to have to explain nonbinary identifications or pronouns to people who might not have a lot of experience with the topic.
But now that I’m also comfortable going by “she”, I’m having to reevaluate the situation. Do I want to send out a work-wide email? Should I just let the people closest to me know? These are still questions I’m very much concerned about, because while I expect that most people there are aware of trans people’s existence, I doubt I fit their mental image of a trans woman.
I imagine the worst possible reactions to my request: that people refuse to change or else do so only grudgingly, treating me as demanding for wanting to be called something other than what might be easiest for them. I wonder how much my appearance will factor into their responses — I look different than I did even a year ago, but I lack the markers they’ll probably be looking for, especially long hair.
I catch myself doing this a lot lately: dreaming up worst-case scenarios, hedging, weighing the costs of my potential comfort. I try to remind myself that what I’m asking for isn’t much — just a small shift in language. But even this feels like a lot to ask sometimes.