Still trans and still waiting, Mr. President.
By Nathan Parin
In the first issue of The Cauldron, I wrote a piece centered around misgendering; specifically by Cleveland State University’s President Harlan Sands. Shortly after, the Vice Provost and Dean of Students, Shannon J. Greybar-Milliken, reached out to me. She expressed to me that Sands wanted to apologize to me and inquired what it would take for me to have a sit-down meeting with him. I was shocked and touched by this. I made it known that I did not want it to be a one-on-one, but have a few other individuals there. The conversation ended on a good note, and I practiced what I wanted to say to the president with trusted friends.
I wanted to make sure that it would be an educational moment, rather than a remorseful one. However, that moment never came.
This all happened during the beginning of the semester. I am now updating this for our seventh and last issue of the semester. I try not to beat a dead horse, but this horse is still alive. Less than a month after the ordeal, our Editor-in-Chief, Kourtney Husnick, interviewed the president, where he stated that he was going to apologize and “you can quote me on that.” I’m waiting for that to happen.
Although it is a kind gesture to want to apologize, as a transgender man, an apology is not what I am seeking, nor what I want. I didn’t write the article to embarrass anyone or call out anyone in- particular, but for the same reason I am writing this one: to educate.
As with anyone else, trans people all have different preferences on handling being misgendered. Ask and communicate with the trans people in your life on how they would prefer you address it. I personally prefer for them to correct themselves if they catch themselves doing it and move on with the sentence without an apology or dwelling too long.
If they don’t catch themselves and I correct them, an automatic response from them is usually to apologize. In all sincerity though, apologizing is also asking for validation for your mistakes from the trans person. By apologizing, there is an expectation for a validation of “it’s OK” or something along those lines. In actuality, it is not OK. An alternative and better response is simply to say “thank you.” By saying “thank you,” you are accepting the correction and owning your mistake. It doesn’t require an insincere validation from the person affected, and everyone can move on. Being misgendered means different things for everyone, and it has a different impact depending on the situation. For example, a server at a restaurant misgendering me doesn’t mean as much to me versus when a close friend does it. Accidents happen, but if they keep happening, a conversation will definitely need to be held.
Wanting to make our wrongs right is noble. I appreciate Sands wanting to apologize and anyone who does apologize when misgendering me; however, there are better responses, and education is the way to betterment. Education is important all around, but especially when concerning minority groups. In reality, showing trans people and everyone else, basic humanity costs nothing.
Intent vs. impact is contemporary with many minority groups, including the trans community. I believe Sands’ intent was very well-meaning; however, after almost the entire semester has passed, the impact seems to be an all too common theme at Cleveland State: The wrongs brought to the LGBTQ community is once again being swept under the rug. The apology really doesn’t matter to me. It is touching and thoughtful, but frankly, it was never followed through on.
I am a visible trans person with a voice. To me, this means there is a responsibility to keep advocating, not only for myself, but for the people who cannot. Recently, we observed Trans Day of Remembrance, honoring the 331 lives massacred this year. This is why spreading education and awareness is necessary.
Too many issues and injustices happen to trans people on our campus and all over the world every day, simply because their gender is different than their sex assigned at birth. You don’t need to be LGBTQ to be an ally, but you do have to be informed. This is one example of hundreds happening on campus of trans people not having their promises followed through. Showing basic humanity to trans people is not an option — it is a necesity.