sie oder du: Pronouns
For people who have never met me, I am just some tall girl unless one of my friends decides to out me. This has happened at least 5 times since September. Before FFS, I would’ve been annoyed, but I pass much better now, which I guess makes it more annoying. I had Facial Feminization Sugery in September and since, I can even go in public with little or no makeup and be read as female. I am grateful for this and I wish everyone could have the same passing privilege. Please understand that by outing a trans person, you are putting them in danger. Even if you are accepting of trans people and think it’s no big deal, you could be exposing your friend to a person who could be dangerous, who may have not have read your friend as a trans person.
German grammar nerd jokes
Er is the German pronoun for he. Sie is you formal (bosses and elders) and du is you informal. sie is she and is my preferred pronoun. For a while I thought it was cute to say sie oder du 🙂 after someone referred to me as er. This is a play on You formal. It actually means She… or you informal. It was meant to gently remind people when they miss-gender me by saying he. Recently these corrections have proved not to be as effective as I had hoped. A start of my latest opera project has prompted me to address pronouns in my blog.
Preferred pronouns would be simply explained as the way you would like to be addressed. I prefer she, her, hers, as do most trans women and cis-gender women. Most cis-gender males and most trans men would use he, him, and his. The third most common pronoun would be they, them, theirs. They would be the most often preferred pronoun for a person who prefers not to have their gender identified by their pronoun. They can be used as a singular pronoun. If you want to argue over grammar with a friend about why you don’t want to use singular they and will stick with he or she, you are invalidating their identity and not a friend. Intentionally miss-gendering someone should be a quick way to lose them as a friend.
Here are a couple of my favorite articles on miss-gendering and pronouns, please check them out after:
Out at work stealth in public
I am proud of my gender as well as my trans* status. This does not mean that you can out me. Yes, I have a blog where I talk about transition and a website with my name that openly states that I am a trans woman. Yes, I will happily spend hours after work talking to curious members of our theater public. The theater and the webspace is somewhat controlled. I don’t hand out business cards to people questioning my gender, so the people who generally see my website are theater goers or industry personnel. If I am at the theater talking to the public it is most likely after a show. I generally feel safe in the theater and it’s my home turf. People on the street don’t need to know. People on the street don’t have time to talk and neither do I. Let them continue their belief that I’m some nameless girl working some job somewhere.
But you look like a Man
I know it may be blow your mind, but that cashier actually read me as a woman. It was only your slip of a pronoun that made her start to look me up and down like an experiment at the science fair. It doesn’t matter if you think your friend doesn’t pass or your friend doesn’t think they pass.
Most trans women have a point early in their transition where they are working on their makeup, their voice, their personality, and all the other things that cis women have their entire childhoods to gradually learn. If you want to be a friend, it is extremely important during this time to let them find their way and not out them to people. My makeup skills get better everyday as well as my femme voice and fashion sense. I’m not where I want to be yet, but I’d rather just be thought of as a over-painted raspy fashion clueless woman than a man. It’s not your right to out me.
Your personal game show
If you call me sir despite my dress makeup and cleavage, you have not figured out some final round of a quiz show. No one is going to jump out and give you a million dollars. You have not won a prize. No man accidentally falls into heels a dress and makeup and wants to be addressed as a man. Even if its Halloween, give them the courtesy of ma’am. If you see a man before you in a dress, say ma’am you will make her smile. She is probably having a more difficult day than you. Actually, the next person that sirs me may get a giant fanfare resulting in far more embarrassment to them than they could ever give me. “Oh my god you’re the grand prize winner on guess the trans woman! You won a spectacular Gay cruise courtesy of Al and Chuck travel!” I promise to do it in my loudest announcer voice possible. Friends and family not eligible for prizes.
But your character is a Man
It is true that I play men on stage about 99% of the time. I try to step into my character every rehearsal and performance and would not want a person to think a woman was playing this character unless they looked down at their program book. Kothner is a man. Figaro is a man. So is Leporello, Marcello, Varlaam and all the other characters I play on a regular basis.
If you want to use he when talking about my character, which I do encourage, please also use the character name. “So at this point he glances at the letter before pretending like he never has seen it.” say the director. “Wait, who do you mean?” says my concerned colleague. The correct response would be Figaro. The incorrect response would be Lucia. If we have developed a line of speaking which conforms to the genders of the characters, Figaro is he, Cherubino is he, Susanna is she etc. You definitely would not say she…. Figaro, so don’t say he….. Lucia, because that would be deliberately miss-gendering me. Especially in the case of Figaro, if you keep calling the girl playing Cherubino she, afford me the same courtesy if that is indeed your chosen line of speech.
The most realistic way to treat a gun on stage is to believe it is real and loaded. It is also most realistic to believe the genders of the characters while working. To stay in the world of the characters, personality, and gender during rehearsal are to create the most believable world. Is this all about not miss-gendering me? It’s definitely why it came up, but I believe it to be relevant for any pants role or skirt role. When women are playing boys, their fellow actors shouldn’t treat them like a lady. Hopefully for performance she would have a binder (an elastic vest to squish down boobs to pecs), but her colleagues must not be awkward around her chest area. I have seen too often an actress be awkward around a Cherubino’s chest. In performance I’ve seen a look like, “Oh sorry, didn’t mean to grab your boob…” The audience saw it too. Cherubino dosen’t have boobs. Cherubino has a chest and it’s not part of his swimsuit area.
I have personally sort of sidestepped this issue on purpose. My given first name of Lucas became my last name. Their are many reasons why I did this, but the most practical is that when someone says “Lucas,” I can say “Why so formal? Just call me Lucia.” It is not ok ever to insist on using someones birth name. If you use Lucas on me, I will use your last name on you. Please understand by using someones birthname you are miss-gendering them and not acknowledging their identity.
When in doubt, ask what pronouns a person prefers.
There are people who you may not be able to feel comfortable assigning he or she pronouns with. You can always ask what their preferred pronoun is. It is somewhat of a saying that says “I respect you and your ability to identify yourself.” Don’t ever say “are you a dude or a chick?” For those who have not been asked this in public by an incredibly loud drunk person in the middle of the main town square, it ruins your evening…..it just does.
How can I help?
If you’ve reached this point of the blog you may be curious as to how you can help. Miss-gendering someone you have known for a long time as the other gender can happen even if you are trying really hard. Even after I have spent lots of time and money revealing my true self to people and look femme, people will accidentally miss-gender me. It happened this morning without them even realizing it. First I would say that it matters to me and it should matter to you. If you do miss-gender someone and realize it, the best response is simply “sorry, she” or “sorry, he”. The conversation shouldn’t stop it shouldn’t get awkward and you will miss-gender less and less. It’s not supposed to be a big deal. Transition is hard, but the eventual outcome is a life where gender is not a big deal. I just want to be recognized as my target gender. Please don’t out me by saying he.
Again, Here are a couple of my favorite articles on miss-gendering and pronouns: