Pronouns by Autumn Trafficante


I really want to talk about PRONOUNS, because it is one of the more challenging aspects of my transition, and I know that I am not alone in feeling this way in the trans community. Since transitioning I have had countless people ask me, “What pronouns do you prefer?” which is so incredibly frustrating. I understand that it seems like this is a really considerate thing to ask, but the truth is, it is the exact opposite of that.

The vast majority of trans people identify strongly with the gender that they present as – for me, that is a woman – and trust me when I say that we spend more time, effort, money, blood, sweat, and tears to do so than anyone else on this planet. There are people in this world who identify as non-binary – if you are not familiar with this term, it refers to a person who does not identify as any one gender – and these people sometimes, not always, prefer gender neutral pronouns like, “they” and “them.” Most trans people, however, are not non-binary; most of us want to be identified as the gender that we strive so hard to present as, and when you ask us, “What pronouns do you prefer?” thinking that it is a polite, politically correct thing to do, it actually hurts us in a profound way. In that moment, you have undermined the identity that we have sacrificed so much to communicate to the world. It snaps us out of our lives and leads us to doubt our own ability to appear appropriately feminine – or masculine for trans men – with questions like, “Did I not do my makeup well enough? Does this dress make my shoulders look too broad? Was the surgery and the hormones all for nothing? Is it my voice? Is it my hair? Is it my height? Is it the way I walk in heels? Is there any point to any of this?” Yet we smile through the anguish, and thank you for asking.

I’m done smiling, and I am finished saying, “Thank you,” and this is my attempt to help my community voice its concerns. Firstly, we so very much appreciate your support – there are still people in this worlders, and in this country, and in this state, and even in this city, who believe that our lives are not valid – but please, I implore you, try your best to gender us correctly. Most of us are doing as much as we possibly can – sometimes to our own physical, emotional, and financial detriment – to communicate who we are. We cannot all afford surgery to appear the way we wish we had been born – the health insurance companies have seen to that; we cannot all affect our voice to belie the effect that the presence or lack of hormones had on our voices – again, the healthcare industry has seen to this; we cannot do everything, all the time, perfectly, but we can do what we can. We can control our clothes; we can control our hair; we can control our shoes and our accessories; we can control our names and our mannerisms, and so many other things as we attempt to express who we fundamentally are as people.

So please, trust your gut, and if you are unsure, make a best guess based on the cues that we can control. I guarantee you, you will light a fire of euphoria within a trans person’s heart if you gender us correctly, and if you get it wrong, we will politely let you know. Asking us what pronouns we prefer, however, destroys the very fabric on which we exist. I absolutely respect people who are non-binary, but that is not me, and they do not represent all of us, and frankly, it is on them to express their preference for gender neutral pronouns – or those that do not fit with their outward appearance – just as it is on me to communicate mine. So, if you slip up in conversation, instead of glossing over it in hopes that we did not hear it – that is simply insulting to our intelligence – acknowledge that it was an honest mistake, and I guarantee you we will be understanding.

So, look at this photo of me, and ask yourself, “What pronouns does this person prefer?” At this point, I think it is pretty fucking obvious.