Asking for respect is not ‘aggression’

Guest Commentary

I was asked recently why I’m so “aggressive” (about queer/trans shit), and I’m asked about that a lot. I thought it was time for me to address the question more publicly and give an in-depth answer.

People ask me why I’m “so aggressive” as if there’s a socially acceptable way to ask for my identity and pronouns to be respected or address microaggressions.

No matter how polite I am, somebody will always feel like I’m being aggressive when I assert my identity.

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Trans and queer identities are markedly subversive/disruptive, we break down patriarchal concepts simply by existing. Existing, for us, is an act of aggression towards cisheteropatriarchy. Which is why in order to not seem “aggressive,” we, as queer and trans people, have to try so hard and sacrifice so much.

We are forced to constantly and very publicly disarm ourselves to the satisfaction of those who are invested in cisheteropatriarchy — by accepting misgendering, by making our gender expression more palatable to those around us and by being sure to separate ourselves from and denounce “those” bisexuals, queers, trans people and lesbians, who are too loud, too fat and hairy and promiscuous, who demand too much, who refuse to participate in things that harm themselves.

There is no socially acceptable way for trans people to ask for their pronouns, their name and their gender identity to be respected. There is no way to ask for your pronouns to be respected that is both “polite” and effective in getting people to actually use your pronouns.

So, how about instead of asking me why I’m so aggressive, ask yourself why I have to be. And, also realize that I have a lot of conversations about this shit and I participate in a lot of educational moments. Honestly, I tend to get shit handled.

Sometimes I do make the choice to make myself and what I’m saying more palatable. I’m constantly in situations where in order to educate and make change more effectively, I do compromise my identity. But, that is my choice to make. That’s every individual activist’s choice to make for theirself and I am the only one in a position to decide for myself when it is appropriate to do that as an activist and to decide what I can handle.

So, I’m gonna need people, especially people who honestly don’t know shit about effective activism or organizing, to stop telling me how to act as a trans/queer person. : :

— Scout Rosen is a student and nonbinary trans queer activist from Charlotte. Scout is the current president of their school’s LGBTQ social and support group, CPCC Spectrum. They are currently a school outreach intern at Time Out Youth, where they are also a youth board member.

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Terms you should know

Scout’s commentary includes terms, phrases and concepts that are important to understand when working in social justice issues, particularly in among LGBT people and other sexual and gender minorities. Here’s a short list of some of those and other related terms and their definitions. If some of the terms are new to you, these short definitions can be a quick jumpstart to learning and understanding more. Don’t let this list be your exhaustive guide, though! The internet has the world and all its knowledge available at your fingertips!

cisgender — the companion to transgender, denoting a person whose gender identity is consistent with the gender they were assigned at birth.

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gender binary — a social structure which requires gender to exist at two opposite and fixed poles such as male and female, masculine and feminine. see: genderqueer

genderqueer — a person who identifies as neither male nor female or something in between; someone who “queers” gender by eschewing traditional, binary notions of gender identifications or roles entirely. also: non-binary.

heterosexist — a social, legal and/or cultural system of attitudes, prejudices and discrimination which favors of heterosexuality over non-heterosexual orientations and relationships.

heteropatriarchy — a system that privileges heterosexual men over women and men of sexual minorities; similarly, cisheteropatriarchy privileges cisgender heterosexual men.

microaggression — common, everyday verbal or nonverbal insults or slights which target persons based solely on their membership in a marginalized groups; can be intentional, unintentional or environmental; example: a person with disabilities being forced to wait for an accessible restroom stall being used by an able-bodied person because they thought the stall was “more roomy.”

misgendering — intentionally or unintentionally using the incorrect pronouns with which a person self-identifies; example: using “he” and “him” to refer to a transgender woman who uses the pronouns “she” and “her.”

privilege — a special right or advantage a group of people receives or experiences as a consequence of systems of social or legal discrimination; example: a resume with a traditionally western European name is more likely to result in an interview or job offer than those with non-western European names.

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