Imagine a scenario: you’re talking to your friend, when suddenly, you use the wrong pronoun. It makes things awkward and you have no idea how to proceed. The question is: What do you do when you misgender a trans person?
Your first reaction may to be to freak out and apologize repeatedly. Don’t! This could manipulate your friend into feeling guilty, something they shouldn’t have to feel. In order not to overreact, you might feel inclined to ignore the mistake and move on. This could also be problematic and lead to your friend thinking that you don’t care.
But you do care about your friend. You didn’t mean to misgender them, and you want them to know that. The response is simple: apologize once, correct yourself by using the right pronoun (most important—this reaffirms their identity!), and continue with the conversation. This approach lets them know that you realize that you made a mistake, without making them feel like they’re an inconvenience to you.
Pronoun slip-ups happen to everyone. The most important thing is that you let your trans friend know that you support them 100%. Practice their pronouns so you get them right next time!
This is a guest post by Adam, one of Maine Family Planning’s student interns. Adam is pursuing a degree in creative writing. When he’s not writing for class or for Maine Family Planning’s blog, he’s petting cats.