What’s the T: Your microaggressions aren’t cute
Microaggressions. A term that most young adults who spend any amount of time on Tumblr or Twitter would be able to recognize and drop into class discussions to illustrate how “woke” they are on social justice issues. For the uninitiated, a microaggression is “a statement, action or incident regarded as an instance of indirect, subtle or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalized group,” according to the Oxford Dictionary. With a little bit of training and simply paying attention, a lot of microaggressions are actually pretty easy to spot, for example; a straight person telling a gay person that they “don’t seem/look gay.” However, a newer microaggression that I have experienced more and more, both on and off of Hofstra’s campus, is using “wokeness” as a veil to either a) just be a bigot, or b) inflate one’s own ego.
I have countless examples, the latest of which is being in classrooms where professors and students would refer to me with they/them pronouns even after I’ve clarified that I am a woman and I use she/her pronouns. The disregard for my identity in exchange for sounding “woke” and gender-neutral is just plain old transmisogyny, only nowadays, they strip me of my identity entirely instead of just calling me a man. Another prime example is the people who call me “sir” no matter what I do, say or wear. While this sounds like just regular old transphobia, when pressed on the issue, these people will argue that they didn’t want to assume my gender and that “men can wear skirts/dresses too!”
Now of course this is not what they actually believe; it is simply a defense tool. If they actually just didn’t want to “assume my gender” then they’d stop calling me “sir” as soon as I said I was a woman. These people just say that so that if I try and challenge them on this after months of being called a man, they can let the crocodile tears flow and complain to other cisgender people about how hard they were trying to be inclusive and how aggressive the trans community is to anyone who “makes a mistake.” This guise of “wokeness” is not a genuine attempt to be kind or anything like that. It is simply a trap used so that a transphobic person can practically say whatever they want, but as long as they use the correct wording, so-called “allies” to the trans community will defend them over me.
Then again, many of the people who would label themselves trans allies are just doing so because they like to use the trans community to prop themselves up for how “progressive” they are and inflate their egos. These are the people who will stop me as I’m walking to class because they just had to tell me how “brave” I am. These are the people who will shout, “Yes, queen! You better walk! Wig!” as I walk past them, as if I was casted in their own personal Hofstra drag race. These are the girls who will say to me, “Oh gosh, you’re even prettier than me and I was born a girl!” These “compliments” are not even actually for me. They’re so that Becky can go back to her sorority sisters and tell them all about how nice she was to the trans community, they’re so that Becky can tweet out, “Trans rights are human rights!!!” without actually having to defend or stand up for trans rights.
So to all the “Becky’s” I’ll just say this: I’m not brave for walking to class in my clothes, I’m tired. I’m not someone for you to test out all the gay slang you know on. And yes, of course I’m prettier than you.
What’s the T is a column from the perspective of Serena Payne, a senior psychology major and trans woman.