15 Surprising Ways You Might Accidentally Misgender Others

Gender fluidity is one of the hot issues today in the United States. Whatever your stand is, respect is always a good position to start. Misgendering is not in line with respect. 

Misgendering means referring to a person in a gender that doesn’t align with their affrmed gender. You can misgender someone intentionally or unintentionally, so aside from respect, self-awareness is also important here. This is particularly relevant for people with non-conforming genders, including transgenders and nonbinary. 

How do you avoid misgendering? Here are 15 ways you can unintentionally misgender people. 

1. Making Assumptions

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Assuming a person’s gender based on many factors you find “masculine” or “feminine” can lead to misgendering. Assuming a person is a woman just because that person sports long hair is misgendering. It’s the same thing when you base it on how masculine or feminine their voices sound. 

Assuming a person’s gender is a big mistake so it’s better to directly ask than to take a guess. If you don’t know how to approach them, you can just listen and wait for someone else to ask or call that person. 

2. Guessing Based on  Names

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The name Jordan is now also used as a girl’s name, and many guys carry the name Aubrey. That alone can tell you that guessing gender based on names is not good. 

Some names may sound masculine or feminine, but they should not be used as the basis for one’s gender. Educate yourself about gender identity and pronouns that will be useful in conversations. You can skim through online articles and resources about gender identity.

3. Using Gender-Specific Language

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Language is a powerful tool that can accommodate as much as it can discriminate. Using gender-specific language can lead to unintentional misgendering. Avoid using masculine pronouns like he and him in general, especially when you don’t know a person’s gender identity. 

Use gender-sensitive language to help you be more considerate about other people. Instead of calling everyone “guys,” you can just say “folks” to make it more inclusive.

4. Not Asking Beforehand What Words to Use

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If you don’t know how to refer to someone, you can just ask that person. Not doing so can lead to misgendering and misunderstanding. Form a habit of asking people how they refer to themselves or what pronouns they want to use. It’s nothing to be ashamed of when you just want to respect their choices.  

5. Misunderstanding Cultural Norms

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Cultural norms can also play a part in misgendering. Some hairstyles and clothing are considered feminine or masculine, but you can’t base people’s genders on that alone. 

Today, many women like dressing up in masculine clothes, and men are also becoming more open to their clothing options. Women are sporting pants and coats on formal occasions, and men are starting to explore using skirts and heels. Popular former One Direction member Harry Styles is a good example of this. 

6. Being Careless of Your Language

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Being careless with how you talk and your choice of words can lead to misgendering, among others. Slow down when talking and think actively before saying anything. People with no filters should be careful about their thoughts and intentions. 

7. Using Passive Language

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Using passive language is one way you can misgender people. Use sentences that will create certainty rather than ambiguity. Instead of saying that someone “prefers to be known as transgender,” just say that someone is transgender. 

Be straight to the point and do no dilly-dallying. Do not second-guess, especially if you already know the gender identity of that person in the first place. But do not out someone, too. 

8. Relying on Physical Appearance

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Seeing a little facial hair and calling them sir? Or having humps on the chest and immediately concluding she’s a woman? Those are recipes for disaster that can lead to misgendering. 

Never rely on physical appearance when referring to anyone’s gender. You could be unknowingly insulting someone in the process. 

9. Using Pet Names

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Using pet names when talking to people like sweetie or honey can be considered misgendering. Some pet names are considered feminine, like “honey,” while others are said to be masculine, like “buddy.”

If you’re not close enough to those people to know their genders, then you’re also not close enough to call them pet names. Stick with their names and the pronouns of their gender identity. 

10. Using Gendered Restrooms as a Guide

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Traditional restrooms come in two – Male and Female, but it can get confusing these days. Today, individuals choose to use the restrooms that make them feel comfortable. 

Using the gender of the restrooms people use as a guide about their gender identity will be inaccurate and come as rude. Just ask the person what gender identity she or he has to be safe. 

11. Relying on Stereotypes

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Stereotypes are generally unreliable, which is the major cause of misgendering. Don’t rely on stereotypes like men are exclusive to sports while only women use makeup. Try to widen your mindset and remove preconceived notions from your thoughts. 

12. Assuming Family Roles

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With the rise of diverse family configurations, it’s a bit difficult now to say that a dad is a man or a mom is a woman. Assuming traditional family roles can cause misgendering. Today, there can be two dads or two moms, and assigning “mom” as the caretaker of the home does not work anymore. 

13. Using Gendered Terms for Jobs

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More than the usual toxic culture at work, you also need to avoid gendered terms for jobs. The mailman can be a woman, and a fireman can also be a firewoman. The best thing to do is to keep these titles gender-neutral, like using mail carriers and firefighters instead. 

14. Overlooking Gender-Neutral Options

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Gender-neutral salutations can now be used to show inclusivity and respect. Sticking with the basic Mr. or Ms. can lead to you misgendering people.

You can always choose Mx. to be more open to non-binary people. If you find this a bit weird, you can practice using this new honorific to get used to it. 

15. Forgetting About Non-Binary People

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When you forget about the existence of non-binary people, you open yourself to more chances of misgendering. Always remember that many do not identify as strictly male or female. Respect is the key to avoiding misgendering; embracing these possibilities with an open mind will greatly help.

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