‘There are bigger problems we face… we need to be addressed the way we want to be’: Transgender community on preferred pronouns

Riled up over being misgendered by fellow contestants on the reality show Lock Up, fashion designer Saisha Shinde raised the need for the usage of her preferred pronouns to address her during an episode, while also highlighting how the members of the transgender community continue to be misgendered even as conversations over preferred pronouns have been going on for long.

Shinde pointed out during the episode that the contestants did not make an effort to ask her about her preferred pronouns. “It’s just that you guys need to understand I get annoyed when I have to correct someone four times, six times, ten times,” she said.

“A transwoman will go through so much pain just for something as simple as he and she. Imagine, KV I called you she, her,” the fashion designer said, addressing a co-contestant.

In another episode, comedian Munawar Faruqui claimed that actor Payal Rohtagi referred to Shinde as a man, to which Rohtagi said that while she does not remember the exact words used but she meant Shinde is strong like a man.

During a conversation with indianexpress.commany members of the community echoed Shinde’s emotion. They agreed people do not ask for one’s preferred pronouns — something that “really hurts, especially during the transition period”.

‘There is a lack of sensitivity and confusion on the matter’: Kalki Subramaniam

Kalki Subramaniam, transgender activist from Tamil Nadu said, “Preferred pronoun is actually something we speak about only in a corporate circle. In ordinary lives, it poses a problem and a large part of the society addresses people, especially transgenders, as per their wish, without asking for permission. People judge a person based on one’s dress and appearance.”

“There is a lack of sensitivity and confusion on the matter,” added the author of ‘We are not others‘. “It is difficult and very hurtful. It is important that we need to be addressed in the way we want to be addressed,” she continued.

“Sometimes, people within the family also use wrong pronouns. They use the pronouns of the gender we are born into and even if you tell them, they call you ‘he’,” the founder of Sahodari foundation said.

Subramaniam also mentioned about the struggle during the transition period. “We need to be given our due respect. We have been struggling through our transition period, coming out as transgender and we need to be acknowledged.”

Sharing her experience, Subramaniam, a poet, said, “A few of my friends did not use my preferred pronoun and it really annoyed me. I told them that they need to respect me. After that, some of them changed their behavior while some continued it with. It is very hurtful and I find their reason stupid. They are simply adamant that they can only consider me based on my old gender. If someone loves you for who you are, then they will address you the way you want. When someone calls me by my old name, it hurts even more.”

“Every day we raise the issue. It is a lifelong thing and it does not change in a couple of days. It is important for the Well-being of transgenders in the longer run,” added the corporate trainer.

‘It took time for society to accept me’: Adam Harry

Meanwhile, the scenario is a bit different for Adam Harry who rose to fame as the first Indian transman to have a private pilot license.

“At international level conferences and public programs, people have been asking me for my preferred pronoun. Everyone should practise the polite behavior of asking for one’s preferred pronoun,” said Harry, a transgender activist.

“As I have gained media attention and recognition, people use my preferred pronoun during public meetings and do not misgender me. It took time for society to accept me,” Harry told indianexpress.com.

“But, it is quite common for queer, non-binary people to get misgendered even during programs organized by the government. Transmen face it frequently,” he said.

Recounting his transition period, Harry said, “During my transition period, my friends used to call me by my old name. They could not accept my gender and used to block me on social media platforms.”

Suggesting the need for education on the same, Harry said: “Gender sensitization in every sector is the need of the hour. Comprehensive sexuality education needs to be provided and teachers should also be trained. Non-discriminatory policies need to be adopted and government hospitals and police officers need to follow a respectful approach.”

‘The need of explaining everything to people every day is distressing’: Sanjana Chandran

Sanjana Chandran, a college student and Miss Trans Global India runner-up 2021 told indianexpress.com that educational institutions also lack awareness. She finds the need of explaining everything to people on a daily basis distressing.

“Of course, you have to ask everybody, including cis genders, what their preferred pronouns are. In this society, nobody asks for preferred pronouns. People assume and use pronouns based on their instincts,” said Chandran, Kerala’s first transgender National award winner.

“The need of explaining everything to people every day is distressing and it results in mental trauma,” she said.

Chandran agreed that there are bigger problems transgender community faces and raising the need for preferred pronoun usage comes with certain privileges. “We are deprived of our basic rights and our society has not yet developed enough to fathom that people prefer pronoun of their choice,” she said.

“Among people who are aware and sensitized, there have been instances of people asking for preferred pronouns and not being misgendered,” she said.

“The usage of our old pronouns is rampant among family members. They come up with the argument that they are used to it and cannot change,” she added.

Chandran recounted an ordeal during her transition period. “I had an excruciating experience during my transition period. Even though my parents were supportive, people had issues with my identity. While I was attending a marriage, children came up and asked if I am a man or woman. At that time, I wished no one should approach me and ask questions,” added the BA Functional English student.

‘Offensive comments flood social media posts’: Sisily George

Sisily George, founder of the Punarjani Cultural Society in Kerala, that works for transgender welfare, is perled with social media users’ sexist comments. George told this outlet that offensive comments asking if one is a man or woman flood in the comments section while we share posts on Facebook. Kozhikode district justice board member also said that there is a section of society which is still unversed of the transgender community.

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