He, Him, His: Stop the assumptions

A transgender man’s thoughts on misgendering

By Nathan Parin

Whenever I walk my dog, we are often stopped on the street by people saying, “Oh what a good boy!” I then inform them that she is a girl, and they apologize profusely for having misgendered my dog. However, when I, a transgender man, walk down the same street, I am often not treated with the same courtesy as my dog. 

Most recently, I explained to a professor, who continuously misgendered me, that it was not “miss” but rather “mister,” when referring to me in class. Afterwards, I was faced with a lot of questions from them, such as when I could legally change my name. I then went on to explain that although their intentions were good, it was a rather invasive question to ask. 

Unfortunately, I, as well as many other transgender people, face this frequently at Cleveland State University. I don’t wish to get into rude and violent remarks, but I encourage everyone to do research on the trans community or stop by the LGBTQ+ center to learn more. Although there are plenty of supportive and respectful people on campus, from peers to faculty alike, this is not always the case. Even worse, the most surprising transgressions I’ve experienced have been from the president’s office.

I don’t owe an explanation as to why I use he/him pronouns, other than the fact that those are my pronouns — not my preferred pronouns — just my pronouns. I think President Harlan Sands is a great president for the university, but like anyone, he has flaws. The flaw that has impacted me the most as a student here has been his continuous misgendering of me. 

Cleveland State is a 17,000+ student campus. Now, I do not know 17,000+ individuals’ pronouns. However, when we converse, I’m usually wearing a nametag that says “Nathan,” yet I am still misgendered. 

Sands is not the call-out here, but rather the university itself. We are not only a diverse, urban, engaging campus, but we are a campus with a large transgender and LGBTQ+ community. So, why is it that employees and students at Cleveland State misgender people? 

I believe it boils down to a lack of respect and regard for our fellow humans. It is not hard to ask someone their pronouns, and if you do accidentally misgender someone, ask them how they would prefer you to address it. I think the best thing to do in that situation is correct yourself without apologizing or drawing attention to it, but, as stated above, ask the person you misgendered. 

As a university, we need to do better in treating trans people, and all people, with at least the same courtesy that a dog receives. If you don’t know, ask. If you forget, ask. But please stop assuming the pronouns people use. 

I believe in Cleveland State’s ability to be an ally to the LGBTQ+ and transgender community, but we all have to make a conscious effort to do so.

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