They are just words, this is the mantra that I’ve heard over and over again when lesbian women refuse to recognize their gender of their significant others who happen to be transmen. The use of female pronouns and labels meant only for women are constantly used towards transmen and by their own girlfriends, wives, fiances.
The damage that these words do to transmen are beyond measure, they chip away at his confidence, they destroy his identity, and they leave emotional scars that are far harder to heal than any physical wound. By calling a transman someone’s wife or girlfriend one is not only completely neglecting to recognize his identity, but it is also disrespectful, and emotionally abusive.
They are just words.
The real problem is, they aren’t just words. Words give life to perceptions that are otherwise silent, the give life to our emotions in ways that affect the world and people around us for better or for worse.
Study after study researchers have found that negative words can have lasting effects on people not only mentally but also physically. A 2013 study found that teenagers of normal weight had a higher rate of becoming obese if they thought they were overweight than their peers that thought they weren’t overweight or were told differently.
Imagine what effect being called a woman, wife, she, her, etc. has on a transman. If a teenager being told or believing that he or she is overweight causes them to in fact become overweight, wouldn’t this have a similar effect on a transman. It could cause him to question everything that he feels and believes about himself and cause him to have a crisis of identity. Afterall, if everyone around him thinks or sees him as being female, perhaps there is something wrong with him mentally.
For those that still call transmen by female narrative despite their wishes, imagine now if you will, someone doing that to you. Imagine that everything you are absolutely certain about yourself someone denies and in fact claims the exact opposite of, and not just once or twice in passing. Every single day that you wake up everyone around you denies you that ability to make decisions or choices about the person you are.
They aren’t just words, they are affirmations of who and what people are and experience.