Talking with someone new is always a little tricky. But chatting with someone who is transgender can feel intimidating—we’re not taught the words or “rules” to handle these conversations. I’ve learned that a lot of people will avoid talking to some¬one who is transgender because they’re worried about being disrespectful. That’s actually really nice. But if we’re going to bridge gaps, we need to have the conversation. Hopefully, this little guide will help.
- Don’t refer to me as a “he-she” or “it.” Do accept me as a full-fledged member of the gender with which I identify.
- Don’t ask me what my previous name was or say “Back when you were Fred . . .” or “When you were Linda . . .” Do use the name I go by now when speaking to me and referencing stories.
- Don’t keep using the wrong pronouns and name during someone’s transition. Do try your best to remember and just correct yourself if you mess up. It happens sometimes, but as long as we know you are trying, that means everything to us.
- Don’t ask me what is in my pants, and I won’t ask what is in yours. Do understand that not everyone who is a trans guy or trans girl wants sex reassignment surgery.
- Don’t talk about when I “switched” or “changed” genders. Do use “transition” to describe what I am going through or went through.
- Don’t assume I am here to shock anyone or get attention. Do believe that I just want to live a healthy, happy life and one that is true to my honest gender.
- Don’t assume that if I’m a trans guy, then I like only girls, or if I’m a trans girl, then I like only guys. Do know that gender and sexuality—which is about who you are attracted to sexually—are completely separate issues.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions. For real, please ask questions! Do make sure the person is an openly trans person before doing so in public.
- Don’t call me every time you see that a documentary about transgender people is going to be on TV. I already know what being transgender is about! Do call me if you see a listing for something you know that I’m genuinely interested in.
- Don’t ever call a non-transsexual guy a “real guy” or “complete guy.” Do know that a transgender person has done a lot of soul-searching to figure out if he or she is male or female. As such, we consider ourselves very real and totally complete.
Please use this as a general guideline; everyone experiences gender a little differently, so do your best to respect the wants and needs of the person you’re hanging out with. Remember, ask questions! (See number eight above—for real!) And don’t worry about messing up—everyone does at some time or another. If you can believe it, even trans people say the wrong thing to one another every now and then. Everyone’s journey is different, and we all have varying degrees of openness about that journey.