I recently realised that I make the same mistake by using wrong names sometimes, just as people mistakenly use wrong pronouns for me.
I keep, for example, referring to one of my colleagues as ‘last name’ instead of adressing him using his first name. I keep thinking his last name is his first name and suits him much better.
There are several reasons for this, as I have discovered after I thought about it and did some 101 psychology on myself:
One reason is that I have heard his last name more times than his first name and therefore it has become easier to say it and repeat it and not think about what his first name was again.
Another reason is that I think his last name makes for a cool first name and sounds like the name of an adventurer and somehow that idea got stuck in my head.
Another reason I can think of is that on one of the social networking sites I often use there is somone with his last name as first name and I often read what they write, so this last name is again associated with a first name in my head.
I haven’t started misgendering him yet (or perhaps he does not know I am misgendering when I call him a ‘he’, because gender is, in essence, just an illusion), but I can understand how easy it is to use wrong words when referring to a person. Sometimes it’s easier to be wrong because it has been ingrained into our psyche, sometimes it’s more fun to be wrong (it can be really amusing calling someone by a different name so long as it isn’t an insult…but how would you know?).
It’s easy to make mistakes when calling people by complicated names, names that don’t suit them, and it gets more difficult when approaching the topic of pronouns.
The aim is not to get words right 100 per cent, all the time, but to keep trying and make an effort. That is often more comforting to a person than someone who gets it right but cares nothing for their wellbeing.
And to fully accept a name (whether it’s a new one or just one that one does not like or is not used to) one has to accept the idea behind it and what that name means, that it is attached to a person and that that person is worthy of me getting their name right.
All it takes is a little bit of awareness.