Title is a lyric from this song, Compromising Me by William Beckett.
Being back at Augustana has got me thinking and I need to get something off my chest because it’s been bothering me for a while.
Everyone asks why I worry so much about other people’s opinions, but the thing is this: I have to worry because other people hold opinions that disrespect my existence. Other people ask me to compromise my identity. Other people hold opinions about me that they don’t have a right to have.
I remember being asked once why I chose Jackson and not a male variation of my legal name – which I call my dead name. That’s a compromise I don’t want. I don’t want a name that could easily be a nickname for my dead name. Being back at school reminded me of this: everyone in my family who doesn’t oppose my gender calls me Jay. Everyone on campus calls me Jake or Jackson.
People called me Jay before I came out. Jay isn’t short for Jackson or Jake in my mind, it’s short for “I don’t want to be bothered with remembering you changed your name” or “I don’t approve but I wanna be supportive.” Jay is a compromise that I don’t want. I despise being called Jay.
And despite telling my family this, I still get called it.
I’m forced into a compromise that I don’t want.
Yesterday my professor asked if I was still using they/them pronouns because he didn’t want to mess up this year and he wasn’t sure if my pronouns had changed since he last saw me. I was touched because I only ever get asked this by my high school friends and people on campus. Not anyone else.
Anisha once told me that when she explains my gender to people, she thinks to herself “this person should use he pronouns because they’re too incompetent to use they.” I, obviously, laughed really hard at that. Yet it still kind of pissed me off because even “incompetent” people should be trying to use they pronouns.
So many people in my day to day life fall under that category of using he instead of they, including people who pride themselves on supporting me. But here’s the thing, if you’re not using they pronouns for me when you know those are the pronouns I use? You’re not being fully supportive.
I’ve heard all the excuses before, “I just forget” and “He is easier for me” and “You didn’t correct me last time, why do you care now?” And I can tell you that no matter what, those excuses are bullshit. They’re just excusing your unwillingness to put in the effort. Trust me, I’ve used all of these excuses myself.
Yeah, you heard me. I’ve used them too. I used to be transphobic until I actually looked into the term transgender and realized it applied to me. I’ve gotten past it. Maybe you should too.
The fact of the matter is this: Everyone is different. Sometimes people change their opinions. Sometimes they’re too nervous to correct people – I once got yelled at for correcting someone about my pronouns. Some trans people run the risk of violence against them if they speak up.
And as for not knowing how hard it is, do you realize that trans people have to refer to themselves by their new name and pronouns too? Like, we don’t just magically make the change one day. We grew up referring to ourselves one way, it takes time. We all have internalized transphobia and it takes a long time to shake it, trans or not. If we can make that change, so can you.
But most importantly? You cannot decide compromises for other people’s identities. If I tell you that I don’t like when you call me Jay or use he pronouns for me, why don’t you listen instead of making excuses? Because it’s not fair to me to have to constantly remind you because you don’t listen to me. If I tell you it’s not okay to use one set of pronouns, don’t try to justify it. For any reason. Especially when telling other people my name and pronouns.
I don’t care that you don’t want to confuse people. I don’t care that you’re worried you’ll mess it up. I don’t care that you aren’t fully understanding or comfortable with my gender yet. You need to try because I’m the one dealing with all the other fucked up bullshit (you know, the risk of violence against me) that comes with being trans in this day and age along with all the confusion when it comes to changing my name and pronouns.
I’m genderfluid, but I tell people I’m just a guy because I’m afraid that if I show my feminine days, people will say I was just going through a phase, or that I’m so much prettier as a girl. I’m afraid to wear clothes I like because they’re too feminine. I’m afraid of not being trans enough. And that’s bullshit. That’s compromising to protect myself from ignorant people who can’t seem to grasp that I’m neither male or female. That’s a compromise that makes me cry at night.
I know I shouldn’t worry about other people’s opinions because ultimately, I exist despite them. But that doesn’t mean I can make myself stop worrying. I’m still going to be bothered and people are still going to try to make me compromise in ways I don’t want.
This is my life, not yours. The least you can do is make an actual effort.