This weekend, I learned that Rush is the name of a band. I have since been told that not knowing of a band named Rush is like not knowing of a musical named “Cats.” So there is my confession of the day. Another time, I may recount my amazement upon learning several years ago that Maroon 5 is not a Thai band. Moving on…
While I am not overly concerned about my lifelong ignorance of Rush, I am increasingly concerned about my frequent misgendering of people in my life.
My misgendering needs to change, and so I am enlisting the help of two succulent plants.
Like many people I know, I grew up steeped in the dominance of a strong gender binary. When we learn that someone is pregnant, one of the first questions we generally ask is whether the baby is a boy or a girl; we generally have strong emotional responses to the answer. Gender assignation is a big deal from birth, and we have created strong pathways of assumptions based on the born sex of a person.
It frustrates me that I perpetuate this pre-conception. Growing up, I sometimes wanted to be a boy so I could do “boy” things (”Why can he play soccer without his shirt on, but I have to keep mine on? It’s hot! It’s not fair!). I was the only girl on my wrestling team during elementary school. I didn’t love the things the world told me I should love—dolls, the color pink, princesses, boys, the inevitability of choosing a wedding dress—and dreamed of “passing” for a boy just so I could live adventurously. I often felt that being defined as she/her limited my options in this world.
It therefore frustrates and shames me that I can’t always remember to refer to someone in my life using they/them pronouns when they have identified that as their strong preference. I feel I can practice in my head; register it when I see them; and then totally misgender them in conversation. It is so far from okay, I can’t even see okay from here. And then a friend suggested I get a plant and practice with that. Brilliant!
So please meet “They” and “They,” my two friendly plants. One They will live at work, and the other They will live at home. I will introduce them to my coworkers and them to my house guests. And hopefully I will learn.
What I learned at life today: Rush is a band, and the gender binary is a tough thing to kick.