The easiest way to get someone to stop misgendering you involves loving that person when they do it. Especially when parents misgender you. Here’s why we advocate this approach at The Transamorous Network.
Parents stick to misgendering their trans kids because they think they’re right. Nearly all people think they’re right about what they think they know. Another reason they do it involves pain. They don’t want to be wrong. Being wrong feels painful.
Parents think they know more than their children do. They’re wrong, but remember, they think they’re right and being wrong feels painful. Besides, they don’t want to believe the person they love is not the person they thought the person was.
Changing in front of children is hard
Acknowledging your identity also confronts their social standing and that’s hard for old people. No one likes losing face and old people really don’t. Your parents not only must confront their own judgements, they must also face their peers’ judgments too.
That’s tough. Misgendering you let’s them live in la la land. There they’re right and they save face. That’s a lot keeping your mom and dad misgendering you.
Parents also find socially embarrassing and humiliating being judged when in public. They care a LOT about what other people think about them. For some, their whole identity depends on what others think about them. For others, their entire career depends on it.
So parents face tremendous pressure when a child declares themselves trans.
We’re not making excuses for your parents. We’re showing you how to get what you want from them: You want them to use proper pronouns and call you by the name matching who you are.
But it’s all about them…not you
Notice what happens when you resist when they misgender you: They double down, refuse your wishes, disown you or you them. Why? Because they’re defending themselves, their stories and their world view. For a while, these things are more important than a relationship with you.
All that means NOTHING about you. It’s all about them. Notice too the more you push against their world view, the more they resist you. In our vernacular, here is what happens when you resist what they do.
First, you reinforce many stories you have about your parents, which sets up future repeat experiences of what you’re resisting. You know this when you feel negative when they do what you don’t like.
Second, your parents resist your resistance, which creates in their world repeat experiences too. So you both cooperate in creating new experiences just like existing ones. Experiences neither you nor them enjoys.
This is why your parents misgendering you won’t stop until you stop resisting what they do. Of course, they could stop resisting who you really are. But, ironically, you’re the adult in this case. Not your parents. So you must make the first move.
A real example speaks volumes
A transgender client asked us why her parents kept misgendering her recently. I told her exactly what you’re reading. I said because she keeps resisting when they do it.
The most recent time happened in a social event. Her mom and step dad both called her by her dead name and used male pronouns. They did it in front of everyone. My client was embarrassed because she puts a lot of weight on what other people think about her.
The next day, a relative approached my client. “I can’t believe your parents did that in front of everybody!” this relative said. “It makes me so angry when they do that! They know you’re trans, why do they keep doing it?”
When my client told me what her relative said and how angry he was, I told my client “You don’t want to be listening to this person. Hearing this person’s stories and making them your own will just create more situations between you and your parents where they will misgender you.”
“Instead,” I said. “You should love your parents. Look for everything they do to support you. Find things you like about them. Focus on those things. When they misgender you, pretend it didn’t happen!”
My client laughed at first. She didn’t understand how doing this would work.
Here’s why it works
It works because whatever you look at will get bigger in your life. Whatever you look at that you feel emotional about will get bigger, faster in your life. So when you keep looking at, and get angry about ANYONE who misgenders you, you’re essentially saying “Universe, give me more of this!”
I told my client this and she said she understood.
But when she came to the next session she said he did not follow my advice. Then she told me what happened.
She had a telephone conversation with her mom. While on the phone, her relative’s complaints about her mom popped up in her head. Then she heard my voice in her head telling her not to heed her relative’s stories. But she also felt the pull of that negative story about her mom.
So instead of looking for things love-worthy in her mom she followed impulses that came from her relative’s negative stories.
“Mom,” she said. “I hope you can hear me when I say this. It really hurts me when you don’t use the correct pronouns. It also hurts me when you call me by my old name. I wish you wouldn’t do that.”
Like a match to gasoline…
Exactly as I described above, her mom got defensive instead of listening to what my client said. She didn’t hear a word my client said. Here’s what she did hear:
- You’re wrong
- You’re bad
- I know better than you
- Do what I say!
- Your values are wrong
- Your beliefs are wrong
Is it any surprise what happened next? Her mom got defensive, then angry, then went into a rage. She attacked my client (remember this is a phone call). In response, my client lost her cool and attacked back.
My client’s mom had the phone on speaker and her husband (my client’s step father) also jumped in. Of course he defended his wife. That’s natural, right?
My client said she said things to her mom she regrets saying. She also said her mom said things she’s never said to my client before. The phone call happened three days ago. My client and her mom hadn’t talked since.
Lesson learned the hard way
My client left the conversation extremely hurt. But it was all good because she realized through that very painful experience the accuracy of how this work works.
You just cannot get what you want when you focus on what you don’t want. Focusing on what you don’t want just gives you more of that.
So if you want someone to stop misgendering you, you can’t react negatively when they do it. Instead, you must find things to appreciate about the person. When someone misgenders you, you must talk yourself out of negative reactions. Then find positive things to say that cause you to feel good.
Until you do, until you learn to master your emotional responses to events, you just keep getting more practice. Practice which looks like people misgendering you!
It seems counterintuitive, doesn’t it? But try it. You’ll find in short order that those who refuse to accept who you are will change. Then you’ve mastered your happiness.
It will take longer for loved ones only because you’ve got persistent stories about them, about how they are, and you think you’re right about that. But even persistent beliefs can change.
And when your beliefs change, everything else does too.