I’ve been trying to correct my language lately. Not my potty mouth (that’s here to stay), but the way I gender body parts. I’ve been working on saying “this is for a vagina/penis/g-spot/clitoris/etc” rather than “this is for a woman/man”. I have been erased from discussions of sex and sexuality before -- not nearly to the extent that trans and non-binary folks are, mind you -- but enough to understand that framing everything in the gender binary is harmful to anyone that exists outside of it.
I learned my lesson when I misgendered a friend of mine at Pride this year. I hadn’t seen him since high school, when he identified as a woman, and as I was introducing him, the word “she” slipped out of my mouth. As soon as it did, my heart sank and I was kicking myself for days.
It wasn’t even that he seemed particularly hurt by my mistake. He hadn’t yet come out to me and I’m sure my slip-up wasn’t unexpected. But he corrected me with such grace and understanding that I almost cried. I felt like a terrible friend, feminist, and ally. I wondered how many people’s identities I might have erased without knowing. I had just had my interview for the store and I wondered how I could reconcile these feelings with working in a sex positive store.
I’ve decided that the only way is not to create those feelings anymore.