I’m very lucky that my friends have taken my “transness” on board completely since I came out last summer. My family, on the other hand, are finding things a little harder. I thought I’d write a piece about deadnaming.
I’m having one or two issues with my family. Now, I shall be clear that these are no major issues in the grand scheme of things – and I know that other transgender people have to deal with far worse.
I’ve read countless tales of transwomen being disowned by their parents and wives – even of children being kept away from them because people think there’s some link between being trans and paedophilia (of course, there isn’t – most paedophiles are straight cis men).
So my issues are nothing like as serious, but this blog is for me to write down all my fears and troubles, as well as hopes and dreams, so I can’t really just fail to mention this little bugbear – deadnaming.
I wrote at Christmas how I was deadnamed throughout the day by my family. This, combined with the fact that I was full of flu and had about two hours’ sleep, made it my worse Christmas ever.
Anyway, I don’t see my family loads, but I do see my dad fairly often as we go to the football together. The last time we were all together (me, mum, dad, sister, brother-in-law, two nieces) was in early March when we went out for my dad’s birthday.
I was deadnamed throughout the meal, despite repeatedly asking them not to do it. All I get back every time is: “Oooooh, I’ve been calling you Andrew for forty-odd years – it’s hard to get used to.”
I get that, and it would be fine if it was just occasional absent-mindedness. But it’s not that – it’s making no effort whatsoever to get my name right. I must get called Andrew 95% of the time, Andie 5%.
A couple of weeks ago I was at the football with my dad and my uncle (not my real uncle). I popped to the loo and came back. They were in conversation and hadn’t seen me.
Then I heard my dad tell my uncle: “He’ll always be Andrew to me.”
Great, thanks for that. Just what you want to hear when you start estrogen therapy imminently.
I told him I’d heard him, and he tried to change the subject. I ignored him and said I hope I wouldn’t always be Andrew to him, because there’s to be some pretty major changes ahead and I’d kinda like my parents onside.
He said he “didn’t mean it like that” and that he’d support me, as he’d told me when I first chatted to him and my mum – before I came out to everyone else. I said that we needed to have a chat over a beer sometime – still not arranged.
Fast forward a couple of weeks to Saturday night and it was my mum’s birthday. So we all went out for dinner again. Not the greatest of eateries, but that’s another story.
I always feel a bit on edge when we do the whole family thing together at the best of times – I don’t really communicate well when I’m in a large group. Add in the deadnaming I knew would be forthcoming, and I wasn’t exactly looking forward to it.
And, sure enough, there it was again. My mum, my dad and my sister all calling me Andrew. To top it all, my brother-in-law was calling me “chap”, as he did at my dad’s birthday do, and Christmas.
So I corrected them, yet again. This is not just something I feel the need to do – but something my gender psychotherapist has said is important to do.
And I do it in a nice way, saying:
“Please don’t call me Andrew.”
“Please don’t call me chap.”
Sometimes I get a “sorry” but usually the same old “It’s hard for us – we’re not used to it” thing.
Yeah, cos I only changed my name to Andie legally last June and, even before then, had called myself Andy since I was teenager. One reason I called myself Andie was so it would be easier for other people. I should have gone for Audrey after all!
So why is it important not to deadname someone? Because it makes them feel like shit, that’s why. This person (in this case, me) has told you their biggest secret, they’ve put their trust in you.
They’ve probably been carrying around this secret like a rucksack weighed down with lead for decades, and now you’re in on it. They trust you. Is it so, so hard to get their name right?
Being called Andrew now makes me feel invalid, like everything I’m going through is just some stupid phase. Like when I went vegan for two years. I’ve been trans all my life. This is not just a phase. You’re born trans and you stay trans for life. That’s how it works. It’s serious – and it’s REAL.
The only people who didn’t call me Andrew at the meal were my nieces. I told them in March: “Please don’t call me Andrew, call me Andie.”
And they’ve respected that, and they call me Andie (or a nickname). If two little girls can get their round it and make the effort, why can’t four intelligent adults?
I must just point out that I know nobody’s doing it for shits and giggles. There’s nothing malicious about it at all – it’s pure absentmindedness. But, come on, make an effort please!
My whole transition appears to be this big, awkward elephant in the room with my family. It’s either not mentioned whatsoever, or only very briefly. I’ve been to countless hospital and clinic appointments, but I got more questions and sympathy (forget empathy) when I came off my bike and banged my knee recently.
My mum asked me on Saturday: “Have you had any more appointments?”
I wasn’t sure what she meant – whether it was business appointments – so I asked her.
“You know, at Nottingham…”
This is where I attend the gender clinic and have been for appointments with a haematologist at the City Hospital.
So I said I had, and that all had gone well, and that I’d be starting HRT soon (a topic for another blog post).
Her reply was: “Oooh, very good.”
And that was it.
This thing is happening, and my family don’t appear to be too thrilled about it. I know they don’t complain about it as such (thankfully), but I can just imagine the conversations that take place when I’m not there…
“How can I call him a woman’s name when he looks like a man?”
“I don’t want him to do it. He could get another DVT.”
“He’ll never get another girlfriend. He should have stayed with Georgie – she was the best thing ever to happen to him.”
“Remember when he went vegan for two years?!”
I posted this on Facebook when I got home on Saturday night (the rest of the family went back to my sister’s to eat birthday cake).
My sister replied with a face-palm emoji.
I replied with a useful resource about deadnaming. Read it here.
She replied with the usual 40-odd years thing and that my dad calling me Andrew is not malicious.
I KNOW IT’S NOT MALICIOUS!!!
But that still doesn’t make it any less upsetting to deal with. I also pointed out that it wasn’t just him. They seem to have a theory that I’m getting at him by correcting him all the time – but that’s only because I see him more often.
So then she said that everyone feels like they’re treading on eggshells because I “snap their head off”. I don’t! Just get my frickin’ name right! This is far more frustrating for me than them.
“I’m pretty sure if dad suddenly wanted to be called mum that you’d occasionally call him dad,” she added.
Not quite the same as a name, though, is it? And, were that to happen, I’d go with it. And it’s only “occasionally” they get my name right, not wrong. If they called me Andie 95% of the time instead of the other way round, I’d probably not bother correcting them at all.
Then she said something very interesting: “Maybe it will be easier when you’ve become more Andie (if that makes sense?)”
I guess by that she means it will be easier for them when I look more female (more binary) – when estrogen does its thing and when I start wearing more feminine clothes around them.
The only reason I’ve not done that is because I know they’re struggling with it, and I don’t want them to freak out if I suddenly turn up in a flowery frock with wig, heels and makeup.
They’d feel uncomfortable with it – and that would make me feel even more uncomfortable than I do already. So why would I want to put myself through that?
I haven’t done that. I’ve stayed very androgynous when I’ve seen them, I haven’t insisted on she/her pronouns (that’s gonna be fun in the future, eh?!) and I’ve not talked about my transition loads as some trans people do (and as I do with people who are OK with it and ask questions).
All I’ve done is ask them to call me Andie. And they don’t. And, if it’s not malicious, it sometimes feels like they’re not taking this seriously. And that hurts.
Actually, there is one other thing, and that involves my nieces. They’re brilliant – one is eight and the other is five. I love them to bits.
They know something’s different about their “uncle”. Kids are smart – they notice if I’m wearing tights under my jeans, they comment on my flowery trainers, my gelled fingernails, my earrings, my ballet shoes necklace.
They couldn’t give a monkey’s. Most kids are like that – they only have a problem with something if adults start telling them that being trans, gay or whatever is bad, or weird, or unnatural.
I wasn’t allowed to open my girly Christmas presents in front of them on Christmas Day, or wear anything feminine.
Just wait until after Christmas, my sister said. That was four months ago and they’ve still not been told. And that leads to me ask the question: why not?
Maybe I should tell them myself – I’d certainly know what to say. But then is that my responsibility? Shouldn’t it come from the parents?
As I said at the start, these aren’t massive problems compared to those faced by some trans people, but they’re still upsetting. I’m sure in a year or two, things will settle down. Until then, I just need to wait and be patient – not something I’m that good at.