That's Not My Name

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Since I started taking testosterone, I’ve been significantly more sensitive to being misgendered. I work at a busy gas station, so I see a lot of people throughout the day and I get misgendered frequently.

One of the weird ways this has manifested is through people incorrectly guessing how to pronounce my name. My nametag says “Luxander”. (It used to say “Lux” but I didn’t want to keep answering the “what is that short for” question so I fixed it.) Most of the times people mispronounce it, they squint and ask if my name is “Luxandra.” Someone asked if it was “Luxandria” one time. Yesterday, someone asked if it was Lux-on-dra, with the long A.

Okay, so I recognize that there are people with dyslexia and other disorders that result in difficulty reading. However, this happens so often and (if you’ll pardon the phrase) so aggressively that I’m pretty sure it’s not just dyslexic people doing it.

This also happens when I’ve said my name. Specifically, I get my depression meds through a community health clinic. I have to call and leave a message on the nurse’s line if I have any questions or need a change in my meds before my next appointment. Obviously you need to state your name in the message. Every time I can remember getting a call back from them since changing my name, the woman says “Luxandra” and it’s infuriating. (I usually miss answering the phone, so they leave a message and I can’t correct them.)

I think people just can’t reconcile the gender they read me as and the gender they read my name as having. After all, the greek word andros means “man” and that root is often used in English words. Plus, “Alexander” is a pretty common name, similar to my own, and almost exclusively used as a masculine name.

This is weird and I don’t like it.

Has anyone else had people persistently mispronounce their name based on assumptions about their gender? I’m curious to see if others experience this.

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That's Not My Name

27 thoughts on “That's Not My Name

  1. 1

    I know quite a few people who have transitioned/are transitioning. The name issue is one of the most obvious and persistent ways people get it wrong. Mispronunciation/misstatement (e.g. saying Alexander rather than Luxander) certainly has been an issue for a few of them, worse still is coworkers who use their birth name rather than their chosen name for the very specific purpose of denying who they really are.

      1. Many languages and cultures do, not just English or Western Europe. And it happens to both personal and family names (see: Russian suffixes, female Sharapova and male Sharapov). Celtic male names end with an “n”, the female names with a vowel (Keira Knightly of “Bend It Like Beckham”, Kieran Dullea of “2001: A Space Odyssey”). You’ll also see this with East Europeans, Japanese and other peoples.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaur

  2. 3

    Part of the problem is that “Luxander” or “Lux” is not a common name in the USA, if anywhere, so the viewer has a tendency to either read it as whatever common name the reader’s brain tosses up first, OR think “what the heck IS that name” – in programming terms, it throws an exception handling error, then they have to think about the word instead of automatically handling it.

    Run some experiments on the customers: Put “Les” or “Andy” on the name tag for a while and see if the misgendering continues.

  3. 4

    Meggamat … In English, we have the HIStory of MANkind, which pisses off feminists and lets them glaim sexism. In Spanish it’s “LA HistoriA de LA RazA (all feminine nouns) which clearly means that Latin America is a bastion of equality.

    I think it comes out of Latin and Greek … embedded thoroughly in the language.

  4. 5

    I had a cis female friend in college named Glenn after her grandfather. She’d complain that she would tell people her name and they’d reply, “Gwen?”

    I think problems can occur without gender confusion as well, for example a friend named Alexa being called Alexis, because Alexa is unusual. My autocorrect didn’t even want go accept it.

  5. 6

    Back (way back) in the day my brother Attila would get mail from the military saying “we need women like you in the military.” I get it that feminine names end with an -a in the romance languages, but really, ATTILA? I hope their algorithms have been updated since then.

  6. 7

    Curiously, yes, but the opposite. I only recently started testosterone therapy, but before that, people frequently misheard my legal, female name. It starts with an A, it’s unambiguously female, and you’re probably heard it before. I’d say my name, and people would be like ‘So, Andrew?’, or ‘Arthur, isn’t?’ ‘Adam? ADAM?’ ‘Order for Andre?’ I usually had to repeat the process a few times before they got it. I found it pretty thrilling, even though I plan on going by zero of those names.

  7. 8

    If there’s one thing I’ve been kind of regretting for the last 8 years it’s having given my eldest a slightly unusual name that is similar but not the same as another name.
    People constantly understand the wrong name.
    They especially understand the wrong name when she herself says it. Rather than accepting that they might have to learn a new name or that they might not have understood it correctly, they assume that the child is too stupid to know her own name.
    I guess gender then adds another factor. Whenever people’s assumptions clash with reality, it must be reality that’s wrong.

  8. 9

    My brother (b. 1965) was named after a football coach, my father’s friend. I have known only 5 people (including my brother, and the coach) with that name–two men, three women. My brother gets his name mis-named constantly, to fit his masculinity… but the three women with that name reported people being confused, too (it’s not a common name), and they too had people feminize the name by adding letters to make it fit their expectations.

    I’ve had to learn thousands of names (at least temporarily) as a prof, and my brother’s experience has made me keenly aware that names are important, and that they are often gotten wrong. I try very hard to get everything right, but have had students, having faced years of disappointment, tell me not to even try, for some names. For example, “Nguyen”–three students, and each pronounced it differently. The second was the one who told me not to bother, and I respected her wish.

    Names really are important. There is no excuse for an Oscar presenter to mispronounce Quvenzhane Wallis (or for me to not know the code to put the accent mark over her last “e”), or for newscasters to get a name wrong, pretty much ever (possible exception for live coverage of a breaking event?). There are reasons, but not excuses, for wrong-naming in some other circumstances… but not twice.

    Tl-dr–yes, my brother has experienced this, in a very different context from yours. Yes, it is annoying. No, it is not something to just ignore (IMO). Yes, it is weird, and no, I don’t like it either.

  9. Dre
    10

    I’ve noticed a pattern of folks relatively consistently adding an “a” to the end of my name, both speaking and writing. I feel like they see me as female and feel like they need to feminize my name for it to “fit.” It’s really frustrating.

  10. 11

    This happens to me a lot. My name is Ilan which people who assume I’m female will commonly assume is Ilana or Alana. When people assume I’m male it tends to be Ian or Alan. I had an unusual name before transition which was actually mispronounced even more than Ilan is, so I’m used to it…partly why I chose an equivalently uncommon name. I just spell it out after I say it so they get it right.

  11. 12

    I’m pretty sure most of it is pattern seeking – our brains are always patching together meaning from incomplete sensory input, so most people will literally misread or mishear if their brain is primed to expect something else.
    When they’ve been told and do it out of malice, that’s horrible, denying one’s identity.

  12. 13

    I hate it when I have to read out somone’s name and it#s not clear what the pronounciation is.

    There’s a lot of Gaelic names that seem simply illogical if you don’t already know them.

    Mhari is one that’s quite common- (pronounced either Varry or Marry depending on the person)

    I’m cis and have one of the most common names for my gender so I’ve never had this issue.

    HOWEVER-

    one day I was meeting an intern who was coming to work for us and they introduced themselves,
    “Hi, I’m Neil”
    The person in question looked (to me) female, so asked
    “Is that Neil?”
    “…yeahl”

    anyway I called them Neil for the rest of the day until the end when I say their name on the register as “Niamh” pronounced N-eve- female name.
    I asked them the next day and it turned out that I’d misheard them and they were too embarrassed to correct me.
    I felt like such an asshole, apologised and never spoke of it again.

  13. 14

    Hi Lux, I’m in a somewhat similar situation, I’m currently not on HRT yet (still waiting to hear back from the medial facility that handles that) but it’s been becoming more evident of my sensitivity of the gender pronoun :/. This week alone I’ve been called “dude” on multiple occasions, had to deal with medical complications (not associated with my transitioning) and the woman on the phone went “just gonna fill out all the other Information, like how you’re obviously a boy” and ending with “Sir”. I sometimes can smile and shrug it off but it’s eating away at me :/ Since I’m not on Estrogen I still have 0 outwardly signs of being feminine. I’ve been going by the name Nicky/Nikki as it has nice feminine sound ot it, but people have been calling me Nick for so long (that’s what I went by before I put two and two together of how I really am).

    *sighs*

  14. 15

    Your name is odd, why should anyone know how to say it or remember it? All these made up names, while making their holders feel special, are bound to cause problems. Try the suggestion upthread of putting a more well-known name on your name tag and you’ll probably notice a big change. It doesn’t have to be a “common” name, just something that has a little more familiarity to regular people. Being an older person, I had to laugh about the short version–Lux used to be a detergent brand in the “olden days”. Try Jax–short for Jaxson!

    1. 15.1

      I mean, it wasn’t constructed to be like this, but it can easily be viewed as a modified version of the name “Alexander”. The formula already exists for greek-based names ending in “-ander”. It’s not my “made up name” that causes the confusion, it’s the obviously masculine perception of the ending of my name being incongruent to their seeing me as a woman.

      Which is happening less and less now that I’ve been on hormones for nine months and look more masculine.

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