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Home » tvChix Articles » Etiquette When Speaking to a Transgender Person

Etiquette When Speaking to a Transgender Person

Gender Identity

The first thing to remember when dealing with a transgender person is to respect their gender identity. If you're unsure of how someone identifies or what pronouns they prefer, a simple and polite question should clear this up. If you must ask, phrase it along the lines of, "What pronouns do you prefer?" Usually this shouldn't be a problem and should be clear in context, with someone who is dressed as a man preferring masculine pronouns and someone who is dressed as a woman preferring feminine pronouns. If you accidentally use the wrong name or pronoun, simply apologize briefly and move on with the correct terms.

Questions

Many people are very curious about transgender people. This is normal and it's better to want to learn about something new than to simply reject it out of hand. However, the transgender people you will meet are not your own personal professors or museum exhibits. They don't exist for you to learn from. They are people with their own lives, interests and desire to privacy. Asking questions about the name someone was given at birth (especially if you phrase it as asking about their "real name"), their genitals or surgery status, their sex life, or anything else personal is incredibly inappropriate. It would be rude to ask personal questions of anyone without invitation and is doubly so when they're on a topic that the person might never want to answer at all.

If you have questions about transgender people in general, you would be better off researching this yourself than expecting someone else to inform you. Simply because someone is transgender doesn't mean they would be educated enough to answer your questions and they may rightfully resent the assumption that it's their responsibility to teach people. It would be something like meeting an immigrant from another country and then asking them probing political questions about their native land. They may or may not be able to answer you, and are likely to be annoyed at being put in such a position.

If you're friends with someone and feel that personal questions would normally be appropriate, you can obviously ask more intimate questions. Simply remember that you are asking questions about someone's life, not some academic topic.

Privacy

If you're aware that someone is transgender, this does not mean everyone knows. While gays, lesbians and bisexuals might consider "coming out" an incredibly important process in accepting themselves, things can be different with the transgendered. Many transgender people simply want to be known by the gender they identify with, rather than be known as transgendered. It's not your place to tell people. If someone wants to be out, they will tell people on their own.

Treat Them Like Anyone Else

A woman is a woman, whether transgender or not. If someone identifies as a woman, treat her like you would any other woman. The same holds true for those who identify as men.
If you meet someone who identifies as something else -- bigendered, androgyne, genderqueer, etc. -- it would be appropriate to ask how that person would prefer to be treated.

If you have any doubt about what would be appropriate in any given context, apply some common sense and ask yourself what you would do with any other member of the gender that person identifies with. This is especially true if the transgender person is someone who was already established in your social circles before coming out. If you always go out drinking with male friends on Friday night, it might make a trans woman uncomfortable to be the only woman there. Conversely, a trans man might feel left out if he isn't invited along with the rest of the lads.

In most cases, simply grasping that a transgender person is a person first and trans second will smooth over most situations. Educate yourself rather than expect your friend to do it for you. Treat him or her like an ordinary person. If you misstep, apologise and move on.



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30/Apr 08:12:19