For the last few days I’ve been staying with an old friend who knew me before transition. It’s been wonderful to catch up with him and enjoy each other’s company. Now that I’m living authentically I feel as though there are fewer barriers up, and we’re able to have deeper and more meaningful experiences together.
One thing I’ve had to work through is the occasional slip he’s made into my former name and no-longer-correct pronouns. When he first said it I was a little shocked, mainly because I hadn’t heard that name for a long time, and it took me a few moments to realize who he was referring to.
As soon as he said it you could see him trying to reel it back in. It was almost like the cartoon character that grabs words from the air and shoves them back before they can be all the way heard. He accepts me completely as Vanessa, and he was clearly distraught about his slip up.
After he’d said it, I had a realization of my own – It’s okay. I don’t need to be stressed, or feel invalidated, or self-conscious. When I do this I feel bad, and make my friend’s inadvertent mistake seem more catastrophic than it really was. I put emotional intensity into a moment that is best handled by leaving it cast aside in the dim veils of memory.
The next time he made this mistake I thought about how he was feeling. I smiled, said it was okay and told him how much I appreciated his effort to get it right. I diffused the situation, and let him know that I care about him and his efforts.
We all make mistakes, and that’s okay.
How do you handle the times when a well meaning friend or family member slips up with your old name or pronouns?
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