I realise that this is being published right at the end of LGBTQIA+ history month but this is a personal perspective. Firstly the acronym; L= Lesbian G= Gay T= Transgender Q=Queer I=Intersex A= Asexual or All += other identities and preferences.
As someone who grew up feeling as comfortable as one can in their own identity and gender I have always wanted to understand and learn from people whose experience is different from mine. People who identify as a different gender from what they were assigned at birth, people who feel they don’t conform to what is perceived as ‘normal’ or ‘conventional’ in terms of sexuality.
I had a great opportunity recently when a good friend of mine who I have always know as a lesbian or gay woman asked me to start using the pronouns ‘them’ and ‘they’ instead of she and her. They explained that they were uncomfortable with being defined as female and that this was something they were just coming to terms with in their own life. Even as a young child they had not felt comfortable when referred to as a ‘little girl’. They explained that for many years they had been thinking about their identity and what it meant to be themselves. I was aware they had always been attracted to females and that they had had girlfriends. I was also aware this had been a difficult conversation to have with the rest or their family.
We had a good heart to heart one evening over a glass (bottle) of wine and I was able to ask what does it mean to not identify with the gender of the body you live in. The outside world still sees a female form but inside they do not feel that belongs to the experience they live day to day.
Sometime later the same friend said they had had lots of thinking time and support form relevant organisations and have decided to change their name and identify as male. I have now been asked to use the pronouns him and his. He has started changing his appearance and presenting to the outside world in a more masculine way. This is in the choice of clothing, using a binder to minimise the appearance of breasts and will in due course be getting his hair cut (when hairdressers reopen after lockdown).
As I have known him for a long time and used the she, her pronouns it is a big change and I keep making mistakes like using the previous name not the current name when referring to him. It was good to be able to ask when I mess up like that how best to handle it. The answer from my friend was, “correct yourself and carry on. Please don’t make a fuss and apologise lots. It is usual to make a mistake but just correct and move on”. When referring to my friend in any circumstance I am making an effort to use the preferred pronouns of him and his and use his new name and correct myself when I inevitably get it wrong.