Does She Hate Me For The Day I Misgendered Her?
I feel awful about this.
It’s still Pride month. I’ve been thinking about sharing this bit for a while. Now, as the month draws to a close — I decided to get this off my chest and move on. I don’t have many LGBTQ friends in real life, but I’ve been engaging with the community online. I’ve been keeping their pronouns and respecting their relationships and mostly enjoyed them very much.
It might be obvious to people who speak English natively, but for me, whose mother language is Hebrew, it’s not so obvious. Did you know Hebrew is a gender-oriented language? For example, the word “think” in Hebrew is not genderless as it is in English. The only way to say ‘think’ in Hebrew is to orient it to the gender of the related person: she-thinks or ‘Hoshevet’ he-thinks or ‘Hoshev’.
I have yet to meet a Hebrew-speaking nonbinary person, and I’m curious to understand how pronouns work for them.
And unfortunately, I made life very miserable for one transgender woman.
It was a wintery day last year. I’ve come with my parents to a building in which we own an apartment and a storeroom to take some stuff we needed from it. Because we have someone renting the apartment, we need to ask for permission to access the underground parking lot where the storeroom is located.
My parents waited in the car while I went to the building’s lobby to ask the guard to open up the gate for us. My mom asked me to put her on-speaker as she wanted to ask some other questions.
I distractedly came into the lobby, being very quick about it, and annoyed with my parents for dragging me here. I was still thinking about the girlfriend I just broke up with not two days ago and if I would ever find love again and… then I saw the guard.
“Hi, my parents are waiting in the car, we own apartment 47, can you open the gate for us please?” I asked her which for me was him at that moment.
“Sure, what’s the apartment owner’s name?” she asked in a voice that was low enough for me to keep being confused.
I told her my dad’s name and put my mom on speaker. My mom asked something about the water payments, and the guard said that the bills would be ready on Tuesday.
“Mom, he says it will be-”
“Oh shit. I’m so SO sorry.”
I died a bit inside. She didn’t say anything else, but she had that look of you’re not the only one who made that mistake and that just made me feel even worse.
At that timeless moment when I realized the horror of what I had done, I noticed the pink fingernails hidden low under the guard clothes, the perfume on the table, the pink phone cover, the tiny earrings.
I apologized again and left immediately, my face red with embarrassment. Just before I exit through the door, I glanced back at her again, and she covered her face with both hands. Was she crying? The knife twisted in me.
I held this experience inside for a while. Pride month seems like the perfect opportunity to finally share this and maybe, through my mistake, understand the LGBTQ community better.
I think that if that guard remembers me, she probably hates me. But I’m willing to accept it if fewer people will make the same mistake in the future and stop for a second to really see the person in front of them.
Sometimes, people are not as obvious as we might think.