You Could Never Misgender Me

Hunter Ashleigh Shackelford
5 min readDec 16, 2019

When You Use the Wrong Pronoun, You’ve Crossed My Boundary But You Could Never Misgender Me

Note: Do not use my essay to disrespect or violate other trans people because we do not all navigate gender, gender identity, pronoun affirmation, or survival the same. Don’t you dare harm or invalidate other trans people, you demon.

One time this nigga introduced me to a room by saying, “They are nonbinary. Their pronouns are they/them.” I giggled because I never said anything about my pronouns, but my transgender identity was something the organizers knew before I got there. I interjected and said, “Actually, my pronouns are she/her, babe.” They looked at me seemingly betrayed, but never ended up naming what they felt to me afterwards.

Another time, I told someone that I was nonbinary randomly in a conversation and they felt it necessary to share with me that they didn’t believe in using ‘they’ in the singular. I honestly gag at this argument every time because I actually hated English and antiblack grammar growing up so I have no attachment to language in that way. But I laughed and let them know that my pronouns are actually ‘she/her.’ They said, “Well, doesn’t that mean you’re a girl? How do people know if you’re nonbinary?”

What gender is ‘she’? What gender is ‘nigga’? How can you misgender me without knowing my gender? How can I give you a power that only comes with a shared intimacy? I don’t know y’all niggas. And you don’t know me.

Calling me ‘she/her’ isn’t actually misgendering me. Calling me ‘he/ him’ isn’t misgendering me either. Because my gender isn’t translated through my pronouns, only affirmed by them. I don’t look like pronouns, and pronouns don’t look like me. I don’t perform like pronouns, and pronouns don’t perform like me. My pronouns are a boundary. My pronouns are personal. My pronouns are not gendered.

Antiblack systems of oppression create a culture of gendered violence that make us believe pronouns are our gender. If you are a she, you are a girl. If you are a he, you are a boy. And as we make more culture shifts towards incorporating nonbinary and beyond-the-binary genders, these same cages of assumption are being applied to our gender identities without our consent…