I’ve been transitioning for over 2 years now, and in that time I have heard a lot of offensive narratives from people. While they may not have meant for it to be an offensive statement, it still was. Sometimes it’s the little things that you might not think are offensive; until you take a step back and really think about what you just said or did. Being a trans ally is so important, I cannot stress it enough. We live in a time where being trans is stigmatized, seen as taboo, or we are unfit to even be called humans. We need real cisgender (cisgender means non-transgender) allies that say “Enough is enough; I am standing up for transgender people because they are human beings.”
While I am obviously writing this from the perspective of a transgender woman, however some of these may apply to trans men and gender non-conforming/non-binary people, so I would love to hear from you in the comments to help add to this article, in hopes that it can teach people how to be better allies.
The “You Make A Good ___” Complement….
- You make a good woman/man.
- You look like a real woman/man!
- You look better than me and I am a natural born girl/guy.
I have heard this (The female variations anyways) so many times before and while it might seem ok, it’s really not cool. This is not a complement and it’s not making us feel any better. So what does this actually say to a trans person? It sends a pretty hurtful message we are not genuinely female. It says “Hey you look great for being a fake.” I assure you I am just as real as the next women. To put it simply it is insulting like any backhanded compliment.
What Can I Say Instead?
- You look beautiful/handsome.
- You are a beautiful woman/handsome man.
Just leave out anything that implicates that we are anything less than real. Yes, it really is that simple. It truly is.
Anything To Do With My Body……
- Have you had the surgery?
- Are you going to have the surgery?
- What work have you had done?
- Are you’re boobs real?
- So do you have a penis or a vagina?
Questions about my body come up so often in conversation, and not by choice. It gets really tiresome, and it is a bit offensive. It would be like me coming up to you and then randomly asking “So how are your genitals today?”….. Or “How’s that penis/vagina of yours today?” The insanity of being asked a question like that is mind boggling, is it not? So what makes it ok for you to ask me essentially the same type of question? Are the contents of my pants just that enthralling that you just have to know? Well they shouldn’t be.
What Can I Ask?
- Well just don’t….If I want to have a conversation about my surgeries, and/or contents of my pants with you I will do so. If you’re truly that curious about my transition use questions about transitioning directly so that I might naturally open up about these things. If I do not bring it up then I don’t want to talk about it. If I consider you a good friend I will totally have this conversation with you. Just don’t blindside me with it in the middle of dinner.
- This is my trans friend I was telling you about.
- This is my trans gay/lesbian friend I was telling you about.
Why do I always have to be the trans friend or trans lesbian friend you were telling them about? Tossing in trans and lesbian/gay are not really needed in introductions to people. I know it must seem like I am this mythological creature right out of “The Iliad and The Odyssey”. However you are mistaken, trans people are all around you. We blend in with the rest of society. You think you can tell who all the trans people are, but in actuality you cannot. We are in a way like Cylons from BattleStar Galactica. We come in many forms and we want equality.
What are you? And other assortments of misgendering….
- Are you a boy or a girl?
- Sir, ma’am, him, her, she, he, etc?
So we’ve made it to pronouns and things. I am going to make this very simple, if you don’t know then don’t make assumptions. Just listen to how a person refers to themselves. If you do not know if a person is trans then just keep it gender neutral. If you have talked to the person and you still have no idea, it could be ok to ask “What pronouns do you go by?” This can sometimes be hit or miss, but personally I find this a lot better than assumptions followed by me I secretly wanting to choke you.
Misgendering of a trans person is probably one of the single worst things you can do. Getting our gender wrong is defeating, it makes us feel useless and rips apart our confidence in ourselves. We put in a lot of work to present as the gender we identify with Please respect that.
Words Hurt Everyone!
I am not a fan of slurs and hurtful words, I can’t think of anyone that is. You might be asking what’s wrong with transgenders or transgendered? It might seem like it works for more than one of us right? Well actually it’s just improper English and it’s annoying, it makes you sound uneducated, and is often used in a negative context by hate mongers and therefore can make you seem hateful. Tranny, Shemale, Ladyboy……. Just don’t use those at all, just don’t. You also probably want to avoid Tgirl/T-girl due to its primary usage in the pornographic industry. On a personal level, I am fine with Tgirl but a lot of people are not. Most of these terms stem from Pornography and put a nasty label/image on us. Now I’m not saying anything is wrong with porn, it can be a great thing, however these words are used so often to mock us and put us down due to how highly sexualized we are made out to be in porn. We are people just like everyone else; we are not just your sexual fantasy.
So You See A Trans Person At The Supermarket….
You have a trans friend and you are super excited because OMG, you noticed another transgender person. However please don’t go up and ask if they are trans, just don’t. Don’t even say “Hey I have a trans friend.”(as per above) This is just bad and not cool on so many levels. For one it catches us off guard, and you’re likely going to get mean looks from us, or even choice words. It also just exposes us as trans to everyone in the area around us. This could potentially be very unsafe for us. You noticed, congrats, but I am not going to give you a gold star.
Don’t All You Trans People Know Each other?
Yes! Were all a part of this huge international conglomerate with secret decoder rings and full member list. We meet on the 3rd Tuesday of every month in your cities courthouse in order to conduct our Trans Agenda meetings…… Ya, No, we don’t all know each other, not in the slightest. I know more than you do because yes I am transgender but I do not know every trans person in existence. So that’s awesome you have a trans friend but I have no idea who they are and giving me a name does not help me at all. Do you have any idea how many people that I know who are named Rachel?
What It All Boils Down To.
In the simplest terms it means this, don’t ask personal questions, observe ones gender and know what slurs and hateful words are before you speak. If you know something is not ok to ask a cisgender person (non-transgender person again for those who don’t know). Then why ask a trans person the same question? If you are asking cisgender people that question, then you should seek further ethical education because at that point your just a walking HR violation.
Remember listen to your transgender friends when they say something is not ok. What might seem like funny harmless images could be very offensive to someone who’s transgender. We are tired of being the joke of internet memes and the trick in Hollywood movies for the main character. We are just people, we are not tricking anyone, and our gender is not funny. Saying “Oh it’s just a joke,” or “Why can’t you take a joke” or even “Everyone is to PC and their hands are being held now a days.” This is not an excuse and your being an asshole. So please I beg of you, be the better cisgender ally I know you are all capable of being.