“That’s Made Up!”
As more gender identities, sexualities and pronouns come into existence, the most common rebuttal I’ve seen on my journey through the internet, over many sites, is the decision that neo-pronouns are made up. Or a gender identity is made up. Or a sexuality is made up. Always with the underlying tone of ‘because I haven’t heard of these, you must be jumping on the bandwagon,’ or ‘these aren’t valid because I feel you’ve made them up.’
How did the community go from wanting to validate people to suddenly becoming gatekeepers if you're valid enough to take labels that give you a sense of identity and put terms on your identity? That’s another topic. I instead want to focus on two intermingling topics: how to handle this from both sides of the page.
“That’s made up!!” pt. 1
This is aimed at the person making out that something is made up — honestly, does it matter to you? Is it going to kill you to give another human being respect? You can think something is made up all you want, but that doesn’t change the fact that another human being — with real feelings, emotions, and mental health — has told you something very personal and intimate. They’ve become very vulnerable. So keep your thoughts on that line to yourself and give that person some respect.
Because honestly, it’s not about you and your thoughts and your beliefs when someone comes to you and tells you, “well actually, I’m [this], and I use xi/xir pronouns.” It’s about them. It’s about the fact they felt comfortable enough to come to you and tell you this. Alternatively, it’s the fact that they have to tell you this because using the wrong pronouns is mentally hurting them so badly that if they don’t tell you, they know they’re going to cut you off.
“That’s made up!!” pt. 2
This is aimed at the person receiving what I feel is frankly a disrespectful remark. Your options vary — but I want to emphasize that no matter what someone else says:
YOU ARE VALID. YOUR GENDER IDENTITY IS VALID. YOUR SEXUALITY IS VALID. YOUR PRONOUNS ARE VALID!
Please say it with me; take it as a mantra because I mean that.
But that’s not addressing the fact you’re possibly feeling hurt, betrayed, or maybe you’re just going, “fuck ‘em.” No judgment here either way. But you can handle your reaction in many ways — and it’s going to depend on your mental health.
You can choose this moment to educate, you can choose this moment to explain to a person how they made you feel, or you can choose to walk away and engage later on. That should be if they’re a close friend or someone who is otherwise an ally. If they’re just a no-relationship person on the internet or in any walks of life? Take their comment, throw it out the window and give it as much heed as a piece of paper in your trash bin. Don’t let them bother you, don’t educate them (unless you really feel like it), and don’t feel bad if you just block them. You don’t have to listen to them or their hurtful opinions if they wanted to have a respectful dialogue with you? It’s on them to start with the base level of respect, in respecting the information you’ve told them, on your identity, and how you wish to be referred to, or on who you’re interested in.