DEAR MISS MANNERS: Should misgendering be treated the same as using an incorrect name?
If I slipped and used the wrong name while speaking to or about someone, I would apologize and correct myself. If I were to accidentally misgender someone in conversation, is simply acknowledging and correcting the mistake sufficient?
I try very hard to use requested pronouns, but I have occasionally slipped regarding a person I’ve just met (as I have occasionally done with names) and feel terrible. Surely misgendering, which is commonly done as an insult, is a more egregious offense than saying “Anne” when I mean to say “Amy.”
What is the best way to address this unintentional rudeness?
GENTLE READER: The emphasis on suiting pronouns to identity has to do with tolerance and acceptance. Therefore, Miss Manners trusts that those who expect these virtues will also practice them.
That means there should be a reasonable acceptance of the nearly universal (with the exception of successful politicians) problem of remembering names correctly, and tolerance for the difficulty, now, of the correct pronouns. It should not be assumed automatically that mistakes are --well, not mistakes, but deliberate derogatory judgments.
An apology ought to be enough to establish one’s goodwill when mistaking a name or a pronoun. However, there is a limit. You can’t keep doing it to the same person and expect it not to be considered intentional. This makes it hard on people with bad memories, who will have to develop more extensive and self-abasing apologies.