Hey, I’m going to be at WisCon!

If you read my blog, you probably already know that. If you’ve read it for years, you might already know most of what’s in it. Here’s what you should know about me:

  • There is no minimum level of acquaintance or friendship you need to come say hi to me, sit by me, etc. None! I go to the con to be bold and sociable.
  • I have a fairly strong case of prosopagnosia, or face blindness. I recognize people by context clues and what Moist von Lipwig calls “the furniture”; hair styles, glasses, etc. This doesn’t work very well for people I see on an annual basis or less. All of this is to say: don’t take it personally if I look at your name tag every single time I see you, and don’t feel awkward introducing yourself or others in your group even if we’ve met before.
  • Because of this, I like to make sure that I’m plenty recognizable to others. When I go to events, I like to have a flag, basically, that people who think they might be looking at me can use to confirm it. My rainbow hair actually started as this, before becoming a year round trademark. The thing is, though, this year I’m planning on switching my hair out, possibly on a daily basis. Sorry for that, but if you see someone with brightly colored hair in a bob cut who is wearing a skirt, a leather collar, and some sort of hat, it’s probably me!
  • I have a mitochondrial condition that primarily prevents as chronic fatigue with some features of a seizure disorder. There is a good chance that at least once before the con is over, I will look like death. I assure you, I’m okay. You might see me goofing around and dancing one day, and then hobbling on a cane the next day. It happens.
  • Related, but my face and I are only intermittently on speaking terms with each other. A lot of the time, I don’t know what it’s doing, and I don’t know why it’s doing it. Please don’t try to judge whether I’m having a good time or not by looking at my face. It’s really just my face. And if you think you see me pulling sour or angry faces at something, it’s probably a tic related to the previous bullet point.

Now, a couple more things I’m adding.

I am a woman. My pronouns are she/her, and they’re likely to be on my name tag. You might think WisCon is a sanctuary for me, and in some ways it is, but it’s also the place where I get misgendered the most out of the entire year. Every year.

I think there are multiple reasons why this is so, but a big one is a thing that happens in liberal spaces where cis or mostly-cis guys feel comfortable playing with gender and doing things like wearing skirts and make-up: while they get praised for bravery, the trans women at best get lumped in with them. Cis people who are the first and loudest to say “Trans women are women!” still wind up treating us as men in dresses in the presence of actual men in dresses. I guess it’s the male default taking over. Most people I interact with in my day-to-day life never dream I’m trans, because absent some kind of prior knowledge or context, they see no reason to speculate otherwise. But WisCon is awash in that kind of context.

Someone can watch me on a panel where I introduce myself, refer to myself as female, and then point to me and say, “He had a lot to say about self-publishing.” People can be staring right at my name tag, with my name (Alexandra) and my pronouns (she/her) on it and then say, “I’m sorry, are you a boy? I can’t tell. Working with the GLBT youth taught me I should look for an Adam’s apple, but you’re wearing a choker.” My hand to gosh, I’ve had a person at WisCon ask me if I was a drag queen, and when I said no, I’m a trans woman, she said, “Oh, okay, because I know that drag queens like to be called ‘she’ and ‘her’ when they’re in drag.” and then she proceeded to try to refer to me by male pronouns.

And people like to say things like, “Well, people don’t know!” and “They don’t mean any harm!” And I’m sure they’re right. I am confident, 100% confident, that both of the people I quoted in the last paragraph were trying to show me how progressive, supportive, and open-minded they were.

But why is their “right” to try to impress a stranger more important than the stranger’s health, safety, and comfort?

This kind of thing always happens more and more as the con wears on and my voice wears down. People who interacted with me as a woman and referred to me correctly at the start of the con apparently hear my increasingly hoarse voice and decide it’s my “real” voice reflecting my “real” self and take it as permission to start misgendering me.

In the past? I’ve swallowed this kind of rudeness and ignorance out of a desire to not make waves. This year? Lolnope. You’re looking at my name tag. You will respect what you read there, or I will shut you down and walk away.

There are people I deal with every year at the con, whom I tell every year, “I’m a woman,” and they apologize in the hurt way that is meant to make you feel the need to reassure or apologize to them, and say, “It’s hard!” It’s not hard. I’m a woman. You don’t have to solve a math problem. You don’t have to do some complicated lateral thinking. You don’t have to memorize dozens of arcane rules. You don’t have to know anything about my body or my history or my thought processes or my life to figure out what to do.


The same thing happens in reverse to my partner Jack. He’s a man. He is at the start of the con. He is at the end of the con. He is when we go back to our hotel room or leave the hotel to eat.