I was having a conversation with my wife the other night about her transition when she asked me a question she had never asked me before. She said, "Why was it so easy for you to change my pronouns?" I thought about it, but had no real answer for her, and since that night, this question has been rattling around in my head. I have watched the people around me struggle through this process, why did I find it so easy to make the change? I am truly puzzled by this. Thinking back to the beginning of her transition, I saw how long it took our friends and extended family to make this very important change. Why was that not the case for me as well?
“DID MY SUBCONSCIOUS BRAIN KNOW MORE THAN I DID? OR, WAS IT JUST THAT I ALWAYS SAW THE WOMAN SHE WAS MEANT TO BE?”
Was it easy for me because of the years that she lived as the wrong gender, I teased her and told her that she did certain things just like a woman would? Did my subconscious brain know more than I did? Or, was it just that I always saw the woman she was meant to be? Perhaps it was a combination of all of the above. I think for our children, once they started to see my wife for themselves, they were able to change the way they referred to her. From the first time I painted her toenails to her first makeover, to the day she finally started dressing full time. They were there for all of it. They basically had a front row seat to her entire transition.
I tell every family member and partner of a transgender person that I meet that we go through our own form of transition, and changing pronouns is a part of that process. As your partner’s authentic self is emerging, you will start to see them for whom they have always been. I tell them to practice the new pronouns first in their head when they are not around their partner. Such as when you're in the supermarket trying to figure out what you are going to make for dinner. Instead of thinking to yourself "What would he like to have for dinner?" you change your inner monologue and say, "What would she like to have for dinner?" It is a silly exercise, but I swear it works. You also need to change their pronouns in the past. Just because they were living as their deadname when you took a vacation to Mexico, it does not make it ok to use that deadname when reminiscing about the past (My mother-in-law is very guilty of this and it makes the little hairs on the back of my neck stand at attention every time she does it).
“BE MINDFUL OF THIS ENORMOUS CHANGE IN YOUR LIFE AND THE HARM THAT CAN BE DONE BY CONSTANTLY GETTING YOUR PARTNER’S PRONOUNS INCORRECT."
Another technique I preach about is to practice by writing it down. I can still remember being in the first grade. Every week one of our assignments was to write down our spelling words five times each, and then to use them in a sentence. This was not to keep us busy, it was to drill the spelling of these words into our heads. We learn by repetition, so why not go back to basics? Another wonderful practice we can all incorporate into our lives is to slow down, and by that I mean, think before you speak. Be mindful of this enormous change in your life and the harm that can be done by constantly getting your partner’s pronouns incorrect. We are all going to slip up once in a while, but when it happens every day it is extremely hurtful to them.
The transgender person in your life wants only your authenticity. If they see that you are making a real effort to change their pronouns, an occasional slip up is acceptable. I always attempt to view a situation from another person’s perspective; in this instance it is my partner. If she were not making an honest attempt to make certain changes I had asked her to make, it would hurt my feelings. Transition does not happen over night; it is a process. Use this time to evolve the ways in which you see and speak about your partner. It is all part of being a supportive ally to the person that you love.