An important letter about words

Hello friends,

As my appearance has become more feminine over the last year or so thanks to a combination of a safe environment and a lack of employment related dress-codes, a bunch of people have been asking me what words and gender pronouns they should use to refer to me. To most of those people I’ve said “I’m not sure yet, I’ll let you know if anything changes” which is mostly accurate. Really I’ve had a fairly good idea of what my preferred pronouns are for a long time but there are a lot of other factors to consider other than just my preferences and being very aware of those has made me avoid saying one thing or another. Also, it’s incredibly intimidating to have this kind of discussion about your identity and internal feelings publicly.

Although it may seem like it a lot of the time, gender isn’t black and white but rather a complex space with an infinite number of shades of gray and every colour of the rainbow in between. The fact that our language makes us choose which box (male/female) a person fits in makes us forget two very important things. Firstly, that not only is the person we’re talking about a complex individual who has a limitless number of presentations, emotions, roles and relationships. Secondly, that the box itself contains a mind bogglingly large and diverse group of other such complex individuals. Ultimately these questions come down to what feels most comfortable and causes the least friction, both socially and internally. I’m aware of my own complexity although I’m unlikely to ever fully understand all of myself I feel like I’m at a point where I can, at least for now, ask a favour. If you need to use gendered language to refer to me, I would appreciate it if you’d use feminine terms, that means using she/her/hers/herself as pronouns, etc.

Some people might wonder why this matters, especially in our modern age. In high school my friends and I knew and referred to a lot of people by our nicknames. Partially because we were a group that socialized online a lot outside school hours where we used nicknames anyway and partially because we all thought it was kind of cool. Some people still know me primarily as “Ace” and I forget that some friends have real first names because names like “Bear” and “Cao” are easier to remember. One of those friends from high-school was JT. I’m not sure where it started but that’s what we all called him. It wasn’t a mean nickname like Stumpy or any of the other vaguely diminutive names we used for other friends, it was one of those names that slightly elevated a person, giving them a certain mystique.

A couple of years out of school however, Justin let us know that he didn’t like being called JT, that it made him a little uncomfortable and that he’d rather we just use his actual name. In myself I noticed a kind of urge to keep calling him JT anyway,because it was easier for me to remember and it fitted my own internal narrative better. But I also respected Justin and his feelings so I made the adjustment. Sometimes I make a mistake but I make a point of correcting myself because I don’t want to be known as one of the douchecanoes that keeps calling him JT even though he doesn’t like it.

That’s all I’m asking of you, to put in the effort required to change the words you use because you respect my feelings.

I know this is a complicated topic that is very foreign to a lot of people and I’m really happy to talk to people about it and answer any questions people have to the best of my ability. I don’t have all the answers about the topic or myself but I’m happy to share what I’ve discovered. The one thing I would ask is that you don’t just spring it on me in conversation. Feel free to talk to me about this stuff online where I’ve got time to consider my response or just organise a time with me to come around for a cup of tea and a chat where you can ask away.

Thanks for your attention, I know a wall of text isn’t a lot of fun to read and I appreciate your taking the time to slog through it.

Warmest regards to all of you,
Ashton McAllan

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