Misgendering can affect the health of people from the trans community

This is the flag for the transgender community, waved at the San Diego pride parade

The San Diego Union-Tribune

This is the flag for the transgender community, waved at the San Diego pride parade

Misgendering is when someone deliberately or unintentionally refers to a person using pronouns the incorrect form. This doesn’t usually echo the gender they would identify as, and many people who oppose the LGBTQ+ community would use this to their advantage of incorrectly labeling the person as an intended form of harassment.

Pronouns are referring to the labels that a person would prefer to be called. These are titles such as “he/him,” “she/her,” or non-binary pronouns such as  “they/them.” If you’re unsure about a person’s pronouns, you can ask about their preference, or if you’re online, check their bio as they usually would specify. 

Besides the fact that being polite by referring to pronoun preferences correctly can build up positive morale, it’s also a beneficial factor that is heavily influenced by society, social, and cultural environmental factors that can impact health based on position in the community. Morrow Macomb, from the McDonough County Voice states, “Using a trans person’s correct pronouns, or correcting yourself to the right ones, reinforces the idea that we are welcome in the community.” 

Using a trans person’s correct pronouns, or correcting yourself to the right ones, reinforces the idea that we are welcome in the community.

— Morrow Macomb

According to a study in 2014, transgender people feel 32.8% more denounced when they’re misgendered (McLemore, Self and Identity). This can be a result of misclassification or unfortunately even ignorance. Misgendering has been a struggle for some that other people in the transgender community have found offensive and destructive. It can lead to the decline of health and mentality for affected people.

A study performed by the American Academy of Pediatrics has proven that socially transitioned transgender children who are supported in their gender identity have minimal elevations in anxiety along with notably lower rates of psychopathology (“Mental Health of Transgender Children”). The levels of stress, depression, and internal trauma can increasingly rise when these children misgendered. Those falling under the same category similarly experienced lower self-esteem. “The effects of misgendering can include, but are not limited to, feelings of anxiety and sadness, low self-esteem, negative body image and isolation from family and friends,” explained wellness counselor Jill Ma. 

Dr. Kristina Olsen of AAP had a recent study showing a form of affirmation and support by a prepubescent child’s parents could be associated with good mental health outcomes in transgender children (Sika KM 6-23). While revealing that support connects with improved mental health, this is the opposite for the latter. When someone undermines another person’s pride, it can greatly destroy any sense of assurance they held. 

“In Australia, 29% of trans young people avoided medical services due to gender nonconformity. Fear of stigma can delay initial presentation and affect the likelihood of attending for follow-up,” said Dr. Irene Dolan. The reasoning of many who have similar thoughts is caused by fear and condemnation. It takes time to build up courage and confidence to live in the life you designed but only mere seconds for someone to destroy it with an action such as misgendering. 

Gender identity transfers to who people simply are. While most people identify with the gender matching their sex at birth, some gender identities can be different than their biological composition. This can lead to gender dysphoria—the desire to change primary or secondary characteristics which can be done by changing the way they look, behave, or think.  

Being misidentified can happen regardless of looks and appearances. Gender doesn’t equate to people’s pronouns even if someone’s wearing an outfit that another person thinks would belong in the category of identifying them as male/female. Transphobia—the prejudice of transexual or transgender people—has been more commonly voiced, and the best way to learn how to avoid being an oppressor is to educate and inform yourself. 

While I identify as a cisgender woman, I, along with many others, can learn to correct myself when involuntarily misgendering a person of the transgender community. Easily re-instating your words with accurate pronouns can show effort and acceptance that many transgender people have doubts about. While everyone is different, learning to adapt to be comfortable in the transgender community or even learning to respect the community can impact the health of others greatly.