The Soft Sell (Upping the Ante)

I’m thinking differently about coming out to more people, lately.  Like, I’m starting to plan for it, as opposed to trying to figure out whether it’s something I want to do or not.

Mainly, I’m thinking about telling some people that I’m on testosterone (and what that means in general and what that means for me), and asking them to use male pronouns from now on, when they refer to me.  I could go around doing mental gymnastics about this forever.  Do I have a right to impose this on others? (yes!)  Do I want to? (not sure)  Will others take me seriously? (not sure), etc.

I do not generally pass as male.  And I’ve been on low-dose testosterone for almost 11 months, and I still don’t pass.  And I plan on being on it for the rest of my life without ever really passing as male.  This is what I want; I’m right where I want to be.  Except, I feel more male than female, inside, and I want that recognized with male pronouns.  Also, I just want to be more visible as being non-binary, and the visual/pronoun incongruence suits me.  I could go my whole life without anyone guessing I’m on T (I think).  I know that I could go my whole life without being seen how I really feel.  And that could be said for a lot of people.

I (sort of) came out to my parents in November.  I did this at that point only because I was getting married, and pronouns were going to be used, haha.  C’s family consistently uses male pronouns for me – that’s how I was introduced, and how they know me.  It’s awesome!!!!!  My family does not, and I’d never brought it up to them.

So, in preparation of the getting-married day, I told my parents, over dinner, that I don’t feel like I am either gender, and I avoid pronouns when I can because none of them feel right, but when I have to use them, I prefer male pronouns.  I said, “So, I wanted to tell you this because other people use male pronouns for me, and I wanted you to know why, so you would know what was going on.”  My mom was nodding emphatically the whole time I gave them the spiel.  My dad was making eye contact with the TV rather than with me or my mom.  I know he heard me, technically, but I know nothing beyond that.

Yesterday, I was talking about coming out, in therapy.  And I relayed/reviewed this scene with my parents (’cause we’d already gone over it, at the time it was happening), and my therapist looked surprised and replied, “Oh, I didn’t realize you had given them the soft sell!”  And when she said that, all I could do was visualize Soft Cell (see below) and stare at her, confused.  It took me a while to register what she was saying.  And I was all, Damn!  …but, she’s totally right.

These guys know how to keep a secret.

These guys know how to keep a secret.

My parents do not use male pronouns for me now that I’ve explained this to them.  I didn’t ask them to.  At this point, I don’t actually expect them to because I haven’t told anyone else within their circles, and even I think that would be too weird and uncomfortable for them.  BUT!  It has made me decide that I want to tell more family members and then start expecting that they will make the change for me.  I know it will be hard and I will feel vulnerable.  I know some people probably will be able to just switch with no problem, and some people may never actually do it, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t ask.

As of now, here’s what I’m looking at:
Friends / Community – use male pronouns, I feel understood
C’s family – use male pronouns, I feel understood
Work – use female pronouns, about half know I’m married to a female, they probably all think I am a lesbian
My mom’s side of family – use female pronouns, all know I’m married, they probably think I am a lesbian
My dad’s side of family – use female pronouns, use my birth name, no one knows I’m married, they probably think I’m a lesbian
My mom – uses female pronouns, I feel understood (interestingly), knows I’m on testosterone and how I identify
My dad – uses female pronouns, I don’t know what he thinks
My bro – He’s been living in Turkey for 3 years and I have not had much contact.  In the past though, he has used male pronouns, I feel understood.

I think that I have a lot of work to do.

6 Comments on “The Soft Sell (Upping the Ante)”

  1. rimonim says:

    This sounds like it’s the right move at the right time. I think there’s a lot of value in asking others to use the pronouns you prefer, even if they aren’t perfect about it or refuse to use them at all. You’re standing up for yourself. I found that I felt more comfortable and confident after I asked everyone to respect my wishes, even in the awkward months when most people were inconsistent at best. It was a message of respect for myself, from myself–and it meant a lot.

    I hope people will show their support!


    • janitorqueer says:

      Thanks for this encouragement! It’s really helpful to remember to frame it as something I’m doing for myself rather than something I need everyone around me to do perfectly, in order to feel like they validate me. I like what you said!


  2. micah says:

    this hits home for me so hard…. (you thought I had it all figured out? nope)

    When I made the switch, it was in one big swoop, like a band-aid. But I only chose to just tell the people I interact with most of the time, which is not a lot, and I got a new job so that was instant change. It’s done, so I never have to think about it.

    I usually don’t come out to old acquaintances unless it comes up, or they give me a very concrete sign that they are ready. Since by definition I don’t interact with this group much, I haven’t bothered with anyone yet.

    My family is still all over the place…


    • janitorqueer says:

      I want it to be all at once, like a band-aid! But it’ll probably end up being more like by group. Work seems like the toughest category, so I won’t even think about that too much right now.

      It’s just interesting seeing this slow mental progression… for so long I didn’t think I’d want to come out to more people. But I see how it could be really beneficial, even if it doesn’t totally catch on with everyone.

      And yeah, a lot of times it seems that you’ve got it all figured out!


  3. Kaci Smith says:


    This post made me think a lot about the first few times I met you at FNB and I didn’t really know about pronoun usage at all. And C corrected me, and immediately I just understood “Okay cool this person uses he” and that’s all it took for me. I wish the whole world could be like that.

    I also remember working with yr dad and feeling confused in the way he called you “she” or “her.” In fact I was pretty angry because that’s not how I knew you, or who you are.

    Either way, this blog is incredible. Your writing is always great.


    • janitorqueer says:

      Thanks Kaci! It’s really awesome to hear that feedback – that it was so easy for you to pick up what pronouns others were using, and just go with that.

      And yeah, I hadn’t ever really talked to my parents until recently. I don’t know how many more times I would have to talk to them for it to sink in. 😦

      Probably a lot more times…
      I’m so glad we got to catch up the other day! It’s been too long!


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