Humans have a tendency to name things; we name our pets, our stuffed animals, even small inanimate objects. Humans also have a tendency to give nicknames, not just to things or people, but to themselves. If someone obviously prefers to be called by a nickname, that is automatically respected as a more personal and emotional choice.
Why can it not be the same when it comes to gender issues?
On October 21st, a White House memo was leaked by The New York Times that stated the following: “Sex means a person’s status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth…[gender as determined] on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable.” This means, in summary, that the acknowledged difference between gender and sex would disappear. Sex refers to your physical reproductive organs, and gender refers to your state of being based on emotion. The memo, if passed, would change how the federal government investigates gender discrimination, particularly in schools. LGBTQ students, especially those that are trans, face some of the worst abuse in school at the hands of the administration, their peers, and even the teachers, which has only gotten worse after Donald Trump was elected. This could potentially mean most schools would have an incorrect or incomplete lesson on LGBT subjects, or have no LGBT course whatsoever. Some schools could forgo the important education about transgender awareness altogether.
The discrimination faced in public and outside of school is worse; for the past handful of years, more than twenty trans persons have been murdered every year, and that’s only in the U.S. It also does not account for unsolved murder cases and cases that were never reported. While California is largely a blue state and is more tolerant towards trans people, violence and hate can happen here as well.
When people hear my original name, Juliette, they seem surprised. I often get remarks about how beautiful it is, and others wonder why I would change such a unique name. I want to tell them why, but I am scared of what they would say or how they would act.
A kind woman that I work with loves my legal name. I go by Jay at my workplace, and I have stated how I am not keen on my original name, but this does not stop her. As she was walking out to her car one day, she raised a hand and called out to me, putting precise emphasis on each syllable: JU-LI-ETTE. She bid me goodbye and for her, that was that. It was not transphobic. It was no act of hate, but it was not what I wanted, and she knew that. In the moment, my opinion of my own name did not matter.
For the next few hours I heard it over again in my mind. I went home, and my mother called me with those three syllables. I went to bed, brushed my teeth, got dressed for school, and even in an environment where many people do not even know my deadname, I heard it every time I was alone. I heard it every time I looked in the mirror, every time I joined a discussion in class, and I am hearing it now.
In the two years since Donald Trump was elected as the President of the U.S., many people told me they could not imagine a world as crazy or as hateful as the one they live in now. I can, because in many ways, I see it every day. I see trans people and gay people getting put down and bullied on social media, I hear slurs thrown around in rap music and in my classrooms, and every time I mention who I like or my gender identity, I feel eyes on me burning into the back of my skull.
The one thing that comforts me is the people that accept me and care about how I identify. There are people that ask what pronouns I prefer, and people that switch to calling me Jay after first knowing me as Juliette; they are the only hope I have against the memo. What the memo means to those taking hormones, and getting sex surgery, and those who wish to change their gender on their driving license, is much different. Would we still be able to get access to medical transitioning, and would the cost be higher than it already is? How could anyone handle being misgendered because their gender is not portrayed accurately? How would I feel hearing those three syllables for the rest of my life?