Violence. The act of intentionally causing harm to someone. Violence exists in all kinds of forms, not just physical violence. Violence can be enacted against a person with words. It can be enacted against the very psyche and being of someone without ever laying a hand on them. This is the type of violence that happens when someone intentionally misgenders a trans* person. The act of intentionally misgendering a trans* person is enacting violence upon them. Misgendering is an act of malice when done intentionally. It is meant to attack the very being of a person, their very identity and soul.
What is the first thing someone does when they intend to harm a trans* person? They usually do not quietly pick up arms and physically attack. No, they first deconstruct the very person they are attacking. They misgender, ungender, and dehumanize the victim. They use slurs. What happens when people cannot physically assault a person? They yell slurs and misgender/ungender. When people wish to attack trans* people, even on the most basic level, the first thing these people resort to is intentional misgendering. This is violence. This is an attack onto a person because this is one of the worst things they can do, deconstruct and erase their identity. Even the media jumps on this bandwagon of violence. Since they cannot get to us, they attack us with words.
It is not uncommon in media to degender and misgender openly trans* people, especially when attempting to portray them in a negative light. This intentional misgendering serves to show trans* people in the light of liars and deceivers; as mentally ill people who are not to be trusted. It is meant to attack the person on a fundamental level that is still very acceptable in today’s society. Take Chelsea Manning for example and all the misgendering she faced at the hands of news outlets because they did not agree with the things she did. Many of these people will correctly gender trans* people they agree with, yet will resort to misgendering violence to those they do not.
Intentionally misgendering someone is an attack. Our genders and identities are constantly up for debate and misgendering a trans* person is a reminder of that. Misgendering us is a reminder that our identities are considered fragile, something to be bent and broken to the will of the cis people who wish to abuse us. When someone cannot get to us, they go in through our hearts and our minds. They dig deep. Sticks and stones may break our bones, but words can leave just as permanent scars. This includes something such as perpetual misgendering and denial of one’s self.
When our bodies cannot be reached, our minds, hearts, and souls are attacked. Words can be used in violence. This intentional act is meant to strip us down from our identities. We are removed from our autonomy of self and placed into the hands and care of our abusers. They control our identities and will not let us forget it. Their use of incorrect pronouns is meant to bite and sting. It is meant to break us down, wittle away all that we’ve worked to achieve and accomplish.
Calling intentional misgendering violence does not diminish the very real physical violence people face in their lives. Violence can take on many forms, such as fists and knives or words and phrases. Verbal assault is a very real thing. Words leave damage to soul and psyche. It is foolish to call intentional misgendering anything less than the violence it is. Violence seeks to hurt and harm, to leave lasting pain. Intentional misgendering does just this. It seeks to make trans* people feel delegitimized, hurt, angry, and violated. It is meant to assert that someone else knows us not only better than we do, but knows the ‘real’ us.
This is why when someone corrects pronouns, no excuse should be made. The change and the challenge should be accepted and understood. This includes pronouns that are not conventional. Your discomfort should not mean the mental anguish of another person. This also means do not intentionally misgender others as a joke. This was recently an issue with Justin Beiber and his recent slew of criminal activities. Even the person who runs the Orange Is The New Black Twitter jumped on this trans*phobic (and in this case, transmisogynistic) bandwagon. This type of intentional misgendering makes the trans* identities of people the butt of the joke, but also perpetuates the cissexist notion that men and women need to present and act in certain ways otherwise they are not adequate enough.
Misgendering is violence. Misgendering perpetuates violence. It is a deliberate act to cause harm, pain, and suffering. Intentionally misgendering someone is what people do when they cannot enact violence upon a person psychically. They result to words and phrases they know cause anguish and turmoil. That is the very core of intentional violence, to cause harm. Intentional misgendering is nothing less than violence.
(We will not be accepting anymore comments on how we are “redefining violence”. Please read the previous comments that include definitions and explainations on the definition provided. This is also not a sentiment only we share and is shared by other larger named trans advocates like Laverne Cox and Janet Mock. Thank you.)
12 thoughts on “Misgendering is Violence”
Good Evening, Lucian
It turns out the type of intentional language change some are proposing, ie new pronouns, is rare but not unprecedented, and I am looking forward to observing the progress of this initiative.
There is an interesting article on slate about how language affects perception of reality.
Done reading the article, a very difficult read. The misery and suffering you evoke are repugnant to me, as an (autistic) person. I cringe in the presence of such vehemence, such violent emotions. I understand one feels aggressed in the case of misgenderization.
No one can legitimately argue with that.
Oh, and please don’t think I am spamming, I think that is not the word. I have an interest in your experience and will try to understand you and your views, as I have offspring who identifies in a non binary way, and is especially interested in the question of the pronouns.
I myself am an amateur linguist, and I specialise, as it happens, in pronouns, amoung other parts of speech. I’m not kidding.
Anyway, I have a lot to think in this passionate and eloquent piece of persuasion.
This is an interesting article, and one which I intend to read through start to finish.
But I must pause here a moment to note that the author seems to be proposing a change in the definition of the word ‘violence’. Can any here elucidate?
Incorrect. This is a definition of violence as violence does not have to be physical. It is usually physical, but does not have to be. Please see below links.
http://www.who.int/violence_injury_prevention/violence/world_report/en/ “the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, which either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment, or deprivation”
http://www.apa.org/topics/violence/ “Violence is an extreme form of aggression”
Thank you for your kind reply, Lucian.
I read the WHO report with much interest, thank you for the link. This is a serious problem not getting the attention and funding and research it deserves. I also looked over the page at the APA. I found this quote near the top of the page: “Violence is an extreme form of aggression, such as assault, rape or murder.”
While I found both links interesting, neither of them appear to define violence without a physical component. Indeed, the WHO definition seems quite right to me, and includes it.
If I missed something, please indicate, but if not, can anyone else here offer evidence that the word “violence” has been redefined as lacking a physical component?
I eagerly await your reply
Would you consider abuse to be violence? The answer will be yes. If abuse is violence (all abuse), that means that emotional abuse is also violence. This is a non-physical form of violence. Intentionally inflicting mental harm is violence. Page one of the WHO report here lists violence as physical, sexual, psychological and deprivation/neglect (http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/43014/1/9241592079.pdf). Thus, violence is not always physical but it always inflicts harm.
What if youve been misgendered before (many times) but arent trans?
Basically still trans*phobia as it implies being trans* is a negative and bad thing.
To add on to what this other person said… It is misdirected transphobia. You may not be trans but transphobia is being misdirected at you. It’s still harmful though and I’m sure it hurts, so I’m sorry.
It can still greatly hurt you. I’m a cisgender female and people used to AAAAAAAALWAYS say “he” when talking about me, so I just gave up and said “you know what? Call me whatever. I don’t care anymore.”