The first time I was misgendered was in December 2021, shortly after my 51st birthday. But it was by no means the first time someone tried to make me feel bad about my color, body, appearance or gender expression, for no good reason. My parents never raised me to be petty, and I was probably a lot better with overlooking things when I was young than I am today. Now I am better equipped to handle such things, and they only rarely happen. Now that I’m better equipped to handle such insults, they happen far less, which goes to show you that the people to barter in insults tend to do it to those who are less secure in their being.

But I suppose if there is one through line of expression that occurs and reoccurs in my life, is the fact that my race and gender expression seemingly bothers many, if not for being a mostly European appearing Black person, then it’s for not being “man” enough for some, and this goes for both black and white people alike. I am both, yet neither. Life is like that, two things can actually be true at the same time, yet not so easily defined.

Being misgendered is something that has existed for centuries and is not a new phenomenon. Throughout history, gender expression has been a source of scrutiny and judgment, from the earliest references in Greek mythology to more modern expressions of gender identity in cultures all over the world. Examples of transgender references in Greek mythology include Tiresias, a blind prophet who was transformed from male to female and back again by the gods; Hermaphroditus, the son of Hermes and Aphrodite who was born hermaphroditic; and Iphis, a mortal woman who was turned into a man by the goddess Isis.

In other cultures, examples include the Hijra of South Asia, the Muxe of Mexico, the Fa’afafine of Samoa, and the two-spirit people of Native American cultures. In the western world, gender roles have been rigidly defined for centuries and those who identify as nonbinary or gender non-conforming have been subject to criticism, hatred, and even violence. In an interconnected and modern world, it would benefit others to be more respectful and open-minded when it comes to gender expression and identity. All people should be allowed to live their lives without fear of being judged or targeted for their gender identity or expression.

To be disrespectful to someone’s gender identity or expression is as disrespectful as it would be to someone’s race, religion, or sexual orientation. It is also important to remember that being misgendered can have a detrimental effect on those who are on the receiving end of it. Feeling invalidated or dismissed can lead to feelings of depression, isolation, and even suicidal thoughts. It is important to be mindful of the words we use and the way in which we express ourselves when discussing gender identity and expression. In the end, no matter what our own beliefs are, we should all treat each other with respect and dignity, regardless of our gender identity or expression. We should strive to create a world that is inclusive and accepting of all genders, and not one that shames, mocks, or judges those who are different than us.