A few days ago I accidentally called a transperson by the wrong pronoun. Well, maybe. It would be so unlike me to say such a thing, that part of me wonders if she just misheard me, or if I just wasn't enunciating well.
But right or wrong, the accusation felt like getting punched in the stomach. And it still feels like getting punched when I think back on it. I apologized in a private message later, and I might have gone too far in my apology. I really wanted to make sure she knew I don't think of her as a "he". So now I'm kicking myself both for using the wrong pronoun AND for overdoing it on the apology. This right here, this is what those of us socially inept people live with every day. Even the most pleasant conversations echo through my head later, so I can analyze them to see what sort of mistakes I might have made. Sometimes after perfectly tame interactions I have to stop myself from sending them an e-mail explaining any little slip ups I might have made.
It doesn't help that my tongue is easily tied. Even easy sentences are often like tongue twisters to me, and the wrong word comes out of my mouth quite often. This causes me embarrassment, which causes me to want to interact even less, which leads to me talking less, which allows my speech muscles to atrophy, which makes me makes me stumble even more. Vicious cycle.
Just for "fun", my brain still keeps reminding me of every social blunder I've ever made, most of which have been long forgotten by the other people involved. I remember dozens of times when I was wrong about which actor was in what movie. I still get angry over a dispute I had with some classmates in elementary school over a game we were playing. I still get embarrassed about my hat falling off during kindergarten graduation.
But my slip up with the pronoun is particularly upsetting because I try so hard not to make that mistake. Unlike most slip ups, there's a "I've hurt one of my own" factor here. It's a mistake I wouldn't want others to make of me when I'm dressed as a woman, so it's horrifying to me to make that mistake on someone else. One year I went to Nashville Pride dressed en femme, back when it was still held at Centennial Park. Of course, the Pride festival itself is a somewhat safe haven from bad comments, but on the walk there from my car I overheard a parent telling their child, "Don't stare at him." It hurt.
I've had several transfolk as friends... but even typing that just reminds me of the old racist standby, "I can't be racist, some of my best friends are black!" It's just that it's so unlikely for me to use a wrong pronoun. With ordinary mortals, who aren't used to being around transpeople, I can see it. Some of the less enlightened might consider an MtF to be a man in drag, and might have to keep reminding themselves, "Say she not he. Say she not he. Say she not he." But I don't think of her as male in my head, so it's not like this "he" was hiding behind my tongue waiting for me to speak without thinking.
I hate being accused of failing at one of the few things I'm actually good at and/or knowledgeable about. I don't have much, but GLBT/gender relations is something usually have up on people. I've spent so much of my life dabbling dabbling in different hobbies and fandoms, that I'm not an expert on much of anything. But I am a liberal SJW who believes in political correctness and a huge supporter of GLBT rights, and if there's one thing I know it's to call people what they want to be called. It's one of my core beliefs, and it's one of the few things that makes me feel on the same level as other people.
I might be boring, socially inept, and a complete failure at connecting with other human beings, but by golly, at least I'm better than those bigots over there at GLBT relations. So failing at one of my few specialties makes me want to curl up into a ball. It doesn't matter that it was just a trip of the tongue, it doesn't matter that she might have just misheard me, and it doesn't matter that she's already accepted my apology. For me, what matters is that I screwed up one of the few things I'm good at. Yes, there's a completely messed up hierarchy of things I let bother me. I have plenty to be depressed about: NO direction in life, lots of debt, and heck, let's not forget my own gender issues... but one little slip of the tongue makes me want to hide in the corner.
Is it like this for everyone?