Misgendering is Violence

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.

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Personal, Political, Intimate

There is something very intimate about knowing your body. There are certain things you just learn over the course of time that no one else can ever know, like how much room your body takes up (no matter your size), the feeling of others eyes on you, how you navigate the world and spaces you inhabit. There is a lot of talk about how the personal is political, but I feel, the personal is also intimately political. Whenever we talk about our bodies and our lives, we open ourselves up.

When you are trans*, and you speak of your history and your body, a peculiar thing happens. You can feel them, the eyes slowly undressing you, as if trying to verify your story. The sudden scrutiny as if looking for whatever small misstep you or your body may make to ‘give you away’. When we talk about ourselves, everything becomes deeply intimate. When we dare open our mouths, our lives become a spectacle, a display, for people to examine, to probe, to dissect.

The moment we announce our trans* status, we seem to be stripped of our privacy and our consent. Everything becomes intimate. People lose their decency and we lose ours because we are expected to have none. We are expected to allow strangers to undress us with their eyes and their words, answer questions about our genitals, probe into our most intimate histories and details, all without even a dinner and a show first. We are expected to stop whatever we are doing at a moments notice and strip ourselves bare.

How does this turn the personal is political into the personal is politically intimate?

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