“They are always so ‘nice;’ so ‘interested;’ so ‘understanding.’ They are always ‘so glad you felt you could trust me,’ and always ‘really want to help.’
“They ask me a billion questions – questions which I know I don’t have to answer and could be directed at their nearest search engine – but they really don’t want to get things wrong so I answer them anyway. By the time we are done talking, it is five in the morning and not only have they been told my pronouns, they have been told exactly why I prefer those pronouns, what non-binary means, why so many little things they do hurt me and how they can stop doing them… Heck, they probably have an entire potted history of gender theory complete with direct quotes and a reading list under their belt.
“My throat gets dry from all the talking (or if it is online, my fingers are sore from typing), but it feels worth it because they say they have gained so much from talking to me, and I have changed their entire perspective on the world. They’ll always ask pronouns when they meet new people from now on; come to Pride next year; join an LGBT+ rights organisation, and become a of beacon of ally-ship.
“I then realise that they are making it about them and not the people they are supposedly helping. But I think ‘it’s better than a negative reaction, right?’
“Three and a half minutes later, they say to someone ‘this is my new friend, she has some amazing views on gender! She prefers the pronoun they, so I’m calling her they. I wish there were more girls like her.’ They never actually call me they again. And I sigh. I’ve talked enough to leave me drained; they’ve listened enough to feel good about themselves but change absolutely none of their behaviour.
“I wish they wouldn’t bother pretending.”
Photo credit: Rowland Goodbody
Editing: Rowland Goodbody and Harriet Evans