Hey Emma, thanks for taking the time to share. I don’t think I had encountered the idea that the phrase “preferred pronouns” was micro-aggressive much less that it feels to some like a minimization of the misgendering experience of someone using the wrong ones for them. I think I’ll edit my piece to put that phrase in quotes because I’m critical of the phrase as a concept myself. I used the phrase twice in this essay. Once for name badge or merry-go-rounds, as you put it, because that’s the language used by others. My workplace recently got a new manager, a trans woman, and she began the meeting she held to introduce herself to us by asking us to go around and give our name, “preferred pronouns,” and how long we’d worked for the company. Two of us in that twelve person meeting have similar feelings about our confusing gender identities and not exactly “having preferred pronouns,” so it was pretty uncomfortable. Point being, I don’t like the phrase either.

The first time I used it in the essay, I did so intentionally with the repetition of the word “prefer” - “I prefer not to be asked for my preferred pronouns” - to highlight that we can’t actually cater to everyone’s preferences all at once in every situation with universal rules. Again I think you make a good point that’s leading me to go back and add quotes around the phrase, because I am indeed criticizing other people’s use of this terminology. There are people with pronoun preferences, as we know because there’s been a proliferation of options to the extent of complete customizability. It’s absolutely a preference to be referred to as “fae” or “xie” or “ve” or “a strawberry emoji,” whereas I can see how it feels dismissive to refer to it as a “preference” to not be mischaracterized as a “he” when you’re a “she” because we’ve loaded the social construct of pronouns with so much gender weight.

Really, for me it is a preference to not be referred to as “they,” and with all this being said, I’d argue it’s still a preference for you not to be mispronouned, but a visceral, gut-wrenching preference to not be mischaracterized. A few days ago, our presumptive new supreme court justice referred to my sexuality as a preference. I suppose it is a preference for me to date/sleep with/enjoin my life with women and not men, but it’s a visceral, gut-wrenching preference. So, yes, referring to these things as “preferences” indeed doesn’t capture their importance and the fact that for many, the next best thing on our “preference” list would be totally unacceptable and not at all like vanilla versus chocolate cookie dough peanut butter cup brownie batter.

Comedian and podcaster (Gender Fluids & Wrong Questions Only)

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