I’ve been misgendered my entire life. For the record, I am a biological male and identify as such. But my first name is Robin.
I was named after the baseball pitcher for the Phillies (1948–1961), Robin Roberts. He spent the latter part of his career with the Baltimore Orioles (1962–1965), Houston Astros (1965–66), and Chicago Cubs (1966). He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1976. My father loved baseball and most other sports and was an excellent softball pitcher himself while he was in the Air Force, playing on base teams and winning trophies. So it makes sense he would name me after a baseball pitcher he admired.
When I was about four we were living in New Mexico; my father was in the Air Force (he made a career of it and went to Vietnam twice). The base was having a Christmas party and my parents signed up for it so I could get a present from Santa.
The part came, and I got my gift—and it was a doll, because my first name is Robin and 87 percent of the people in the United States are female and so they just assumed…and they didn’t have any boy’s toys left so I either got the doll or nothing.
This was to become a lifetime norm. During the early days of NASA’s space activity I excitedly wrote to the agency when I found out I could get free literature—some sort of newsletter as I recall—about our space activities. I was so excited when it came, except that it was always addressed to “Miss Robin Nettelhorst.”
As I got older and entered puberty, it wasn’t long before I started receiving free tampon samples in the mail. This lasted through college and eventually once I got married I was able to pass such items on to my wife.
My senior year of high school the first day of class the teacher of the English class I was in was taking role and when he got to me, he said Miss Nettelhorst. I responded with “that’s mister.” He did it the next day, too; my response was the same.
Having endured all of this through my entire childhood and through high school, when I got my first checking account, I did not use my first name. Instead, I went by my initials, “R.P. Nettelhorst.” I had made a decision that on all correspondence and any interaction where I was not face to face with someone, I would not use my first name. All my subscriptions, all my correspondence, I just used my first two initials with my last name. Then, = when I began writing and getting published, I decided that I would not use my first name in my byline. Instead, I’ve always used R.P. Nettelhorst.
Even here on my blog, I don’t use my first name, nor do I use it on Facebook or Instagram or Twitter. Again, unless I’m face to face with someone, I just don’t do it.
And yet, I don’t think ill of those who make the mistake—after all, it is a reasonable one given the percentages. And I don’t say mean things to the people who make the error, nor do I condemn them or think that they should suffer for making the mistake. Because mistakes like this are really of no great importance in the broader scheme of things and are easily fixed.
I do not feel that I am being disrespected just because someone chose or chooses the wrong prefix or pronoun to reference me. It is an easily rectified error and it has not harmed my life in any substantive way that I can tell.