This comes as a direct follow-up to A Neutrois Introduction to Society. I suggest you read that first to get on comfortable bearings. Here’s a quick recap:
Pronouns are just the tip of the iceberg – it’s what people can see, even though most of that chunk of ice is underwater. Why am I so concerned about pronouns, when the real issue is that of social identity?
The question then becomes, would I really, truly be comfortable socially identifying as male?
What this means is that the question of choosing a pronoun is just a cover for choosing an outward gender. I say “choosing” and “outward” because my gender is agender, regardless of what pronoun I choose. However, most people do not know and/or care what neutrois or agender is, and while I might take time to explain it to those closest to me, there are situations in which it is difficult, or actually impossible, to explain anything. Gender is perceived in an instantaneous decision taken with little cues and without permission by the other person. While inception remains a truly wondrous phenomenon, there are things I can do to enhance my perceived gender in one direction or another. Thus, the social gender, the gender that everyone sees, is important, and it is a choice. At least in my case.
There aren’t many pronouns availble – two if you want to get real precise. Currently some people go for the new “neutral” pronouns, like zhe/hir. I’m a realist, and realistically speaking it’s hard enough changing your pronoun, let alone introducing a third totally novel option. That and they’re weird and probably nobody will remember them or call me by that, plus I’m not sure how to even pronounce them. So my options are: remain female, or change pronouns to male.
Behind Door #1
By keeping the female pronouns, nothing changes. This means, no telling anyone, no awkward conversations with friends, family, coworkers; no continuous corrections of friends, family, coworkers, baristas who ask for your name, waiters who call you ma’am, or hand you the women’s bathroom key.
But, the dysphoria is still there. The fact that I don’t have to correct people or have awkward conversations with them does not relieve me of my uncomfortableness with being called this. This is a key point. Each day I grow increasingly frustrated at the use of the female pronouns directed at me, and this is more annoying because it’s something that I can change, and only I can change. So…
Behind Door #2
By changing my pronouns to male, it gets more complicated. It’s a change. I have to tell people, come out to them, oficially (not just by dropping random hints everywhere and making them confused). It’s probable I would have to correct people sometimes, but the bigger issue is having to tell them in the first place. I’m quite shy when it comes to awkward conversations, and this would be one of them. I’d also want to get a new name and have everyone call me this, which is a whole other rabbit hole.
However, I’d probably still get ma’ams from waiters and have the women’s bathroom key handed to me, so there would be that discrepancy I’d have to deal with. And everytime I’d see my full name, or in a million other situations, the bells would go off again, but now they would fill the space left behind by the evasion of the majority of dysphoric situations, resulting in a more resounding echo.
But, the real question is, would this make me more comfortable, overall? Presently, I get a small thrill whenever someone makes a boy reference at me, whether inadvertently or confusingly. But is it only because it means I have achieved my first goal of escaping the female label? Would I just get tired of being called ‘he’ all the time, when I’m not really a ‘he’? Would it become more awkward overall if everything else doesn’t match outwardly?
Behind Bonus Door #3
The third option I have considered is adopting a third neutral option. As I said, I don’t really believe in the “zhe/hir” pronouns, but I would not mind at all (would like even) using “they/them/it” as my preferred pronoun. A little weird, sure, but it’s a nice option to have. Moreover, the fact that are “they” is in plural form does not bother me. I take it as a reference to my inner complexity; an homage to all the components that comprise this one little person. Also, “it” is derrogatory only when used in an insulting context, otherwise it sounds very neutral to me.
But (and there’s always a but) similar (or worse) complications than those described above would surely ensue. How do you tell people, in their instantaneous gender-decision-labeling moment, that you are a “they”? You cannot. In all my most glorious ambiguity moments of causing confusing in others have I never, not once, been referred to as anything other than he or she. It’s also much more complex to simply transition or come out to, say, coworkers. Just compare: “I’m a boy, call me he. Cool.” vs “Don’t call me she, I’m not a girl. Call me they. Why, you ask? Let me explain…” In short, it’s a transition, and transition is change, and change does not come without effort.
The International Version
Now, adding some spice to the situation, English is not my native language. Español is one of those gendered languages, where when you talk about yourself you have to talk in a certain gender. Thus, I would also have to change my speech patterns. BUT (and this is a capital BUT) it’s NOT an option to speak neutrally; you either have to be extremely eloquent, or sometimes sacrifice some coherence, to approximate gender neutral speech. You cannot even refer to yourself in third person without gendering yourself. Frankly I don’t even know if it’s possible, though trust me I’ve tried.
Thus, officially changing my pronoun to “they” would still not result in a complete transition. In Spanish, I will always be forced to choose – male or female. Not both, not neither. It’s inevitable, unavoidable.
In reality, (and I do live in reality) it’s impossible to rid myself of gender. If you still don’t understand my hesitation towards remaining undecided (as is my eternal state), go back read this all again. Hence my decision to make a choice.
For now, YOU can call me they or it, or that really awesome person over there. It’s a start.