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How do I not get burnt out by misgendering and deadnaming over the holiday?

Updated: Mar 13

Q: This is my first Christmas back with my family since I changed my name and pronouns. How do I not get burnt out from correcting people and emotionally drained from getting deadnamed?

K: This is a great question. We've answered a question previously about how to support trans and gender diverse relatives at family gatherings, but we haven't talked about how to get through these gatherings as a trans and gender diverse person. One of the most helpful ways to not get burnt out on correcting people, regardless of where it's happening, is to ask someone else there to take on that work. This isn't always possible, but if you do have a relative who will be there or a friend or partner who can attend with you, ask if they can correct people they hear mispronouning, misgendering, or deadnaming you.

If you don't have someone else who is attending or can attend and help out, then my next question is about your family's attitude(s) towards you being trans or gender diverse. Are they trying to use your correct name and pronouns but are still slipping up? If so, then having a conversation with your family before the gathering could be helpful. In this conversation you could acknowledge that this is your first holiday back, and you need people to get your pronouns and name right. You could suggest ways to practice, but I'd also talk to them about what they should do if they realize they made a mistake, and ask if they can help keep each other accountable. For me, this type of conversation does a few things. The first thing it does is name your expectations (that they should practice), the second thing it does is hopefully make them pay attention to mistakes they make, it also lets them know you'd like them to correct each other if one of them slips up and doesn't notice. Lastly, I just find it easier correcting people if they know to expect it in advance.

That being said, this all only addresses half of your question, it won't prevent the emotional toll of getting mispronouned, misgendered, and deadnamed. In my experience, it helps to have a counter -- people who will use your correct pronouns and name so that you're not just hearing the wrong things all day. You could ask a family member or friend who will be there and does get your name and pronouns right to do that more often in your presence (like, find ways to refer to you in the third person in front of you). If you won't have anyone there who can do that, then having friends who can text or call you periodically throughout the visit to say gender affirming things or use your correct name and pronouns can also work. Holidays are tough and it's extremely draining to put up with this sort of thing. I hope some of these tips help.

S: Agreed with all of the above. I really hate that there is no good answer to this question (or the many others like it). As long as people fail use others' correct names and pronouns and other language, the best thing trans and gender diverse people can do is try to get through it with as little hurt as possible, and that is incredibly unfair. There isn't a real answer for you because you're not the one who is making mistakes and causing harm in this situation, but those who are doing that often aren't the ones making an effort to improve.

But none of that frustration is useful to you. So in addition to K's points, there are a few things you could try. If you're in a position to limit time spent in situations that that are painful for you, that can help, whether it means going for walks, finding a place in the house that you can be alone, or leaving entirely.

On a completely different note, giving people a non-optional but fun way to practice, be reminded, and remind each other can work in some dynamics--you could set up a misgendering swear jar in a central location or something like that. Setting the public expectation that you do want people to be corrected, and supplying a memorable way to go about it, makes it so you don't have to specifically decide on people to ask to do it on your behalf. You can also accomplish something similar by announcing the group that you'd like them to remind each other when they make mistakes, though that depends on whether you feel comfortable with how that may be received in your particular situation.

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