****NOTE: I refer to them as pronouns instead of preferred pronouns because I think calling transgender like me on the reference of preferred pronouns adds to another level of separation between the cisgenders and the transgender. I believe that ciswomen and transwomen should just be women and cismen and transmen should just be men. Thanks! ***
So, my friends in Uni (University of the South Pacific) (and even the ones that I forged friendship with over social media) are outstanding in terms of respecting both my name and my pronouns. I always prefer people addressing me with my real name “Tamani” because, I, feel that this is an androgynous name; since in Fiji’s context, this name can be used both by a Girl and a Boy (And I totally thank those that named me). So, as a transgender, I relate more confidently to this name when introducing myself (as well as people to address me with) without having, to have a stage name of any sort because of its versatility. So having the right name, for a Fijian Trans, also needs the right pronouns to go with. Hence, every time I hear someone use the correct pronouns I feel a warm wave of “OMG someone just referred to ME with the female pronoun!” and even though I am a firm believer of not relying on other people to confirm my gender, I can’t help but beam with Fijian pride, knowing that progress is quickly adapting with my peers and friends.
Well, not everyone is as diligent as these few friends of mine are. I still get some “him” and “he” and “Jone” (my middle name: which I don’t normally use) going on. The “Jone” I get, I spot right away. I should probably do something about it. It’s the “him” and “he”, and “his” that fly under my radar. You would think that it’s because I’ve been a “him”, “he”, and “his” for 15 years, but in all actuality, it’s because my brain does not register that those sentences apply to me at all. It just assumes that they are referring to someone else, even though no one else is there. When I look in the mirror, I cannot point out a single feature of mine that implies that I am a male (I’ve been conditioning myself for quite some time now to make sure that I get my own pronouns correct), so I assume that other people assume that I do not have a Y chromosome. I guess I forgot how much work that was for me (But literally speaking, I have a lot of Y chromosomes, as I carry my mother’s physical traits).
Here, in Fiji, most people are unaware about the issue of relaying the correct pronoun of a person, particularly towards the transgender. Some are even informed, and because of the space in which their conversations take place with Trans-genders, it is usually hard for them (whilst some are just purely ignorant) to use the correct pronoun when addressing the Trans community. The environment whereby, such conversation takes place could either be culturally or religiously influenced and manifested. One great example was the incident that happened in one of the villages in the province of Naitasiri in the upper highlands of Fiji, where the National Youth Council (NYC) held their 2014 AGM; of which I was part of, as the Rainbow Pride Foundation Limited Youth representative. What happened during the last day of this meet was an issue where the Provincial Youth Council Reps were addressing some of our Transgender sisters as “Him” and “He” and “Mr.” despite the fact that the some of the past speakers had earlier on, addressed them as “Ms.”, “Her” and “she”. The confusion of using the right pronoun caused one of the speakers to question out to the entire gathering as to “What do I call *name of the transgender*? And he further questioned, “Is it a “He” or a “She”?, to which a few replied back with the correct pronoun of “She”; to which he then again said out loud, that “It doesn’t really matter”, “I will call *name of the transgender* “He”, because he felt like it was right to do so. This momentum escalated more and resulted in the removal of the suggested inclusion of “…to protect and uphold…Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression…” in the new 2013 NYC Constitution. Such incidents are great examples of what exists in Fiji despite, the progress we are making.
A recent article by Fiji Times, on “Fight for rights”, whereby they interviewed Trans Activist Sulique Waqa, from the Haus of Khameleon, and addressing her with her correct pronouns is a significant change for the Media here in Fiji. The mere fact, that they are more sensitized with the use of pronouns when addressing Transgenders shows how informed they are now compared to past years.
The point here is, is for people to please do their best to use the she/her/hers pronouns when referring to me or any other transgender accordingly, but it you slip up and a “he/him/his” gets in there, don’t feel bad or freak out. I understand that other people need time to adjust, and especially since I have not undergone any physical transition yet (i.e. Sex Change), that these things are bound to happen, so please know that I’m pretty laid back about it (for now) and that I will just focus on when you get it right.
Thank you, friends, for transitioning with me and supporting me on this amazing journey!!!