Does Your Family Call You by Your Deadname Behind Your Back?
by Mila Madison
When you are a transgender person, getting together with family can often be a stressful situation. While you are transitioning, it is a time of adjustment for everyone involved. You’re family transitions along with you. With that comes the possibility of misgendering and the accidental use of your old name or as we call it, your “deadname”.
“IS MY FAMILY STILL USING MY DEADNAME WHEN REFERRING TO ME WHEN I AM NOT AROUND?”
It had been a while since my family got together, so we were finally able to work out a date where we could make it happen. My mother would have us all over for dinner. Though I was looking forward to catching up with everyone, I started to brace myself for what may happen. Of course my crazy brain began to ponder why some people are able to get our names and pronouns right, while others have a hard time with it. While I don’t feel anyone in my immediate family would intentionally misgender me or use the wrong name, I did begin to wonder what the problem was. Though my mother seems to be trying to get it right, in all honesty it hasn’t been smooth sailing. I don’t think my brother had called me by either my deadname or my new name since I came out to him. That is when it popped into my head. The very question that freaks me out even now as I type it. Is my family still using my deadname when referring to me when I am not around?
With my paranoia in tow, my wife, kids and I went to my mother’s house and I was as ready as I could be. I was prepared that it might be a night of triggers and dysphoria for me, but I also knew that the only way things would ever change was if I was around my family more often. I needed them to see me for who I was for them to get used to it. I was ready for anything.
But here is the issue. Was this all in my head? So often I find myself looking at everything through the transgender lens. Perhaps people just learn differently? I mean there is a difference between someone just being evil compared to someone who is actually trying to get it right. Did I have unrealistic expectations of my family? Was I that paranoid that I was wondering if they referred to me by my deadname behind my back?
“I FELT MY FAMILY WAS FINALLY BEGINNING TO SEE ME FOR WHO I AM. I WAS A DAUGHTER, A SISTER AND AN AUNT. “
As I arrived my little nephew was at the door and he welcomed me with big “Hi Aunt Mila!” My mother, step-father, grandmother and yes, even my brother were calling me Mila and addressing me with the right pronouns. Though there was the occasional slip, for the most part my family was doing great. I began to loosen up and actually enjoy the evening. We poured some wine and shared some stories. We started to play music. My mom and I were dancing in the kitchen. I started to feel like my family situation was turning a corner. My mother and I even talked about getting manicures together and having lunch. My brother and I talked about what we were doing in music, just like we had used to. I was having a great time as we went well into the morning, all laughing and having fun. I felt my family was finally beginning to see me for who I am. I was a daughter, a sister and an Aunt.
I went home with the feeling there was hope for me with my family after all. The thoughts about them using my deadname when I was not around were just that, my own thoughts. As I began to think once again about why some people have so much trouble getting names and pronouns right, I realized that people learn differently. Some people need repetition to learn while others just get it. In some cases being transgender has nothing to do with it at all. I thought about people I know who had changed their name and weren’t transgender. I realized many of the same people who had trouble with their name changes also had trouble with mine. Perhaps it is not always a transgender thing? Maybe the day will come where they make no mistakes. My mom will simply see me as a daughter and my brother will see a sister. Maybe they already do and it is all in my head. Either way I am happy with the progress that we have made as I keep reminding myself to enjoy the journey. I again realize though everyone may have the same intention, some people learn and adapt to change differently. For some it comes easy and for others, it is just a matter of them getting the necessary reps.
Stay safe and keep fighting for all of us!
Love and peace,