At what point do you complain of harassment by a public official? Here’s a suggestion for all trans men and women out there who are sick and tired of being misgendered.
A friend posted, yesterday, to the effect that he didn’t see being misgendered as “harassment”. Hmmm. I said that on the whole I’m not fond of using laws on harassment, as they have been extended far too far.
Sauce for the goose
Still, they have a place, espesh when dealing with bodies like the Police, which seem to think it OK to bend the law so far that it is permissible to arrest someone for possession of a pen. Its only right that they, in their turn, should understand what it feels like to be skewered by a literal application of the law.
And in this case, I think justifiably so.
The nature of harassment
Harassment. In principle, it is a “course of action that causes distress or alarm”. Course of action has more or less been established as two or more similar instances.
So-o. Someone approaching you in the street and calling you names once might be many things (breach of the peace, incitement, etc.) but it wouldn’t be harassment. That same someone approaching you every time you left your house, or following you around town and continuing to call you names WOULD be.
The rule of Three: first contact
So back to the misgendering and the rule of three. Something I am going to push, I think in future.
If someone misgenders me once, I smile politely and, most times, correct them. Its quite likely honest mistake – although possibly ever so slightly thoughtless.
That is, even if I’m not passing, anyone dealing with me can see that I have a non-standard gender presentation. So a bit of commonsense might say: tread carefully.
And whilst I’d make greater allowances for the ordinary man in the street, my tolerance level for public officials who are meant to have had diversity training is far, far lower.
“Here’s your coffee, sir”.
“Not sir, please”.
Rule of three: closing in
If someone misgenders me a second time, I am a bit more assertive.
“Do you want sugar with that, sir?”
“No, thanks. And I did ask you not to call me sir”.
At that point, there can be no question in anyone’s mind what you feel about use of that word. You’ve said it aloud. You’ve told the individual your feelings on the matter. Unless they really, really aren’t listening, they now have no excuse for going there a third time.
Which is why Three’s a charm.
Rule of three: Three’s a charm!
Misgender me again after that, and I think the proper course of action is to ask to speak to the manager and to take matters on from there. If you are sufficiently distressed by the misgendering, its worth pointing out that the person doing it has probably just committed a crim offence. That you would like words to be had, and an apology. Then play it by ear.
Is that really how I live my life? No. Of course not. If I did: if I picked up on every smallest slight that people inflicted, I’d never get out of the house. But I suspect people know and get it. There is a world of difference between someone making honest mistake and someone misgendering for the purposes of winding up or putting you down.
I’ve never actually experienced that from a police officer (which is good): but if I did, then an official complaint feels like the only way to go. I have experienced it from other officials very occasionally (its rarer than you think), and when I have, I have almost always reported it.