When someone makes a name change or pronoun, it is a gift to be given the new ones. You have been entrusted with a piece of themselves so it is not to be taken lightly.
Yet we are human and our brains love to work on autopilot. So they will make mistakes now and again. How we handle these mistakes is important.
First, know that being corrected required emotional labor on the part of the other person. Assume good intention that they are wanting you to be part of their own or someone’s life as opposed to trying to shame or embarrass you.
Second, own it. Correct yourself on the spot and keep going. Just go back, repeat what you said with the correct name and/or pronouns, and keep going forward with the correct name and pronouns. Do not apologize profusely, make it a big deal, or make excuses.
Do not be defensive. If you feel defensive, ask ask yourself who you are protecting- is it yourself or the transgender person?
Lastly, forgive yourself. Approach yourself with kindness and compassion. Learning is difficult when you are hard on yourself, making it more likely to make more mistakes rather than less. We are humans with human brains after all and people know that.
The goal is for us all to learn and be respectful of one another. Correcting ourselves quickly, kindly and gently will serve everyone.
Having trouble with a name or pronoun change? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We can practice together.