The following is the text of a pamphlet published and distributed by Bread, Roses & Hormones, a campaign for gender liberation led by trans women and non-binary people.
Click here to download Misgendering is Sexual Harassment as a PDF.
Misgendering, not such an innocent mistake!
“Misgendering” is the act of relating to a trans person as if they were still their assigned sex at birth, including using the wrong name and/or pronouns for them.
The impact of misgendering on low-income trans people is massive because we have no choice but to spend most of our time around other people, whether at work or on the streets. A young trans woman who took the BRH survey reported that at one job she “showed up dressed as a woman and immediately got the vibe that was a bad decision.” By the time she left that job a year later, she said she was thinking of de-transitioning. Another woman who took the survey, who has lived on the streets for 43 years said she’s never had a positive experience in a women’s shelter because she is trans.
We are expected to put up with the violence of misgendering… why?
“My boss on more than one occasion has called me ‘sir.’ He did not meet me before I came out, he signs my checks so he knows Laura is my legal name, and given the pandemic he has never even seen my full face… He ‘apologized’ once by saying ‘I call everyone sir,’ but that is just not the case from my experience.”
Misgendering is a collective harm against trans people
“It is a weird obsession with my genitals. And I can feel it!”
Misgendering is of a sexual nature, but like other forms of sexual harassment and violence it is about power, control, and discipline.
Whether it’s a “friendly” pat, commenting on someone’s outfit, or speculating on someone’s body parts, sexual harassment gives every women and trans person the message that we exist to be objectified, used and abused.
The Canadian Labour Code definition of sexual harassment:
“any conduct, comment, gesture, or contact of a sexual nature that is likely to cause offense or humiliation to any employee; or that might on reasonable ground be perceived by that employee as placing a condition of a sexual nature on employment or on any opportunity for training or promotion.”
Women and trans people unite against sexual harassment!
To fight misgendering means to name it, expose it, and fight against it wherever it appears by any means necessary.
To name misgendering as sexual harassment is to say that it is a fixation on our bodies to control our genders and sexualities! To expose misgendering as violence is to show its devastating effects on trans people: self-hatred, depression, death, and/or detransition! And to show that it happens everywhere! To fight misgendering is to collectively say we are not putting up with this shit anymore!
To do that is to build a network capable of connecting these experiences, politicizing them, and fighting for each other and all of our siblings!
Ending sexual harassment means women’s and trans power
In the women’s meetings BRH has coordinated with women living on the street in Vancouver and Surrey and through our survey people spoke of landlords who coerced us into sexual relationships, social workers who treated us badly for being gender non-conforming, police officers who touched us inappropriately and beat us up, and partners and so-called friends who have taken advantage of us or threatened us if we did not behave a certain way.
Fighting misgendering alongside all other forms of sexual harassment means fighting against the power of landlords, bosses, social workers, healthcare professionals, doctors, police officers, and against misogyny in our own communities.
Fighting collectively against sexual harassment on every front means to unite women and trans people together against gendered exploitation and oppression.
We want to fight back with you!
If you are experiencing sexual harassment from your boss, coworkers, landlord, doctor, healthcare workers, cops, social workers, partners, friends, or out in the streets contact Bread, Roses & Hormones.