Sue Perkins misgendered Emma D’Arcy but she's still a good ally (2024)

‘I have to say, aren’t they brilliant? They are absolutely brilliant and you’re in for a real treat with Emma this year… It’s a really great performance.’

This is the response actor Matt Smith gave to presenter Sue Perkins at a recent House of the Dragon premiere in London.

It’s a fairly unremarkable statement, but it’s a perfect example of how to respect someone’s pronouns – in this case Emma D’Arcy, who is non-binary and uses ‘they’ and ‘them’ pronouns.

It came about after Sue mistakenly referred to Emma as ‘she’ a couple of times while interviewing Matt. But without directly calling Sue out on it, Matt handled it brilliantly.

A clip of the exchange ended up on social media, where Matt’s respectful reply gathered tens of thousands of likes.

Shortly after the incident, Perkins took to X to apologise, saying that she had made a ‘s****y mistake’ and that she was ‘a massive fan of their work and would never want to be disrespectful’.

Of course, mistakes can always happen when it comes to pronouns, so I am glad Perkins took the time to make the apology. This sorry was a great example of how to own your mistake, correct yourself and move on.

She modelled how to be a good ally, and I think everyone should take note. If more people reacted this way instead of getting defensive, instances of misgendering would be far less upsetting for those it involves and their community.

When I first started my transition, my friends and family made their fair share of mistakes.

But their intentions were never malicious, and there is a huge difference between someone making a genuine mistake, and someone doing so on purpose.

Nowadays, I always get gendered correctly by strangers.

But I do remember how it used to hurt every time that didn’t happen, and especially if it happened multiple times and by the same people.

I sometimes compare it to someone poking you – if they do it a few times you don’t notice it as much, but once someone’s poked you 20 times, it really starts to hurt.

With misgendering it’s similar, and you feel your stomach drop. An apology always goes a long way to help with the pain it can cause.

It was a sh*tty mistake. Had loads of stuff going on in my earpiece and so wasn’t as focused as I should have been. No excuses though. These things matter and I feel terrible about it. Am a massive fan of their work and would never want to be disrespectful x

— Sue Perkins 💙 (@sueperkins) June 11, 2024

I was heartbroken to read that Emma D’Arcy has previously spoken out about their experiences of coming out, saying that they felt a pressure to present as a woman in order to gain success in the industry. However, they said that it wasn’t sustainable to pretend to be someone they are not.

That’s why it has been lovely to see Emma’s co-stars support them like Matt Smith did.

This feeling of pretending to be someone that you’re not is something that most trans people can relate to – myself included. Before I came out as trans, I felt like I was trying to live up to everyone else’s expectations of being a boy and a man, which never felt right to me.

Being able to come out was one of the most liberating and freeing feelings I’ve ever felt, and as a result I’ve been able to really blossom into the person I am today. I have a wonderful partner, friends and family that all support me exactly as I am.

It’s clear D’arcy has been able to as well, and it’s wonderful to see.

But misgendering still happens all the time.

Earlier this year, Eurovision commentators and even fellow contestants misgendered the non-binary Swiss winner of the competition, known as Nemo.

In one video, Israel’s Eden Golan mistakenly referred to Nemo with ‘he’ pronouns, while some fans remarked that Graham Norton appeared to unintentionally misgender both Nemo and Ireland’s non-binary entrant, Bambie Thug.

I think journalists and interviewers need to properly take note of this reality, and make sure they do their research before conducting interviews. It literally costs people nothing to prepare for it, and it really isn’t hard to do.

My advice to those who are informed they’ve misgendered someone is to simply be humble about it. Take it on board and apologise, instead of getting defensive and making excuses – which I’ve seen happen all too often. When people correct you, they’re trying to help you.

So see it as words of support, rather than an attack. It’s also not about you and how embarrassed you might be – I can guarantee you that the person who you just misgendered feels worse.

At the end of the day, it comes down to practice, and a willingness to get it right.

We all deserve to be respected for who we are, and journalists and interviewers in particular have a duty to make sure they are being respectful and professional at all times – that includes getting people’s pronouns right.

Trans and non-binary people are not going anywhere, and we deserve to be respected and recognised for our contributions to society. There is no good reason not to use the pronouns people ask, and the least people can do is respect that.

That’s simply common human decency.

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Allies like Matt Smith – and taking accountability like Sue Perkins – are just what the world needs more of.

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Sue Perkins misgendered Emma D’Arcy but she's still a good ally (2024)


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