On misgendering: an analogy
[ Originally posted in a different space, 2023-05-26; lightly edited. ]
Say you want people to address you as ‘Sandy’, because it represents something important to you. Maybe it's your way of honouring a deceased family member who was very important to you. Maybe it's related to a part of yourself that others have regularly mocked / criticised / harrassed / attacked you for over the years. Maybe it's a name that simply 'feels right' to you. But people insist on calling you, i don't know, ‘Sue’: “You look like a Sue.” You say, “Okay, I understand, but please address me as ‘Sandy’." And some people will do that, but others just simply refuse to do so, even if ‘Sandy’ is your actual legal name. And over time, the fact that the latter is a regular occurrence becomes increasingly annoying and upsetting to you, because this is such a deeply personal issue for you, so you respond increasingly strongly to being ‘mis-named’. And then people perceive you as overreacting, because what's the big deal? “It's just a word”, “It's just a name”, “It's just something arbitrary, it doesn't matter”.
But it does matter to you, and others don't have the right to determine what ‘does’ and ‘doesn't’ matter to you, just as it's inappropriate for people, including health professionals, to determine what our autistic boundaries ‘should’ be. It's not that it should matter to everyone - if someone doesn't care what name or word they're addressed by, that's their business. But if someone said “Hey, don't call me ‘bitch’”, because they find it problematic, and people kept saying “Well, but I think ‘bitch’ is the right word for you”, how might it feel to continually be on the receiving end of being addressed that way, and have to constantly make decisions about whether to challenge that on each occasion it happens?☙