How do you properly respect such a transgender person? Simple – there’s just a few essential instructions:
1. Use the appropriate gender pronoun
If you’ve known us for a long time in one gender and must get acclimated to another? That’s difficult – particularly at first. We know that – and won’t take offense if you slip now and then and still call us he. However, it can be dangerous if you slip too often – particularly in public environments. We never know when we might be seated next to a person who would react intensely by such disclosure. Also, we prefer to safely visit the ladies room without confrontation when nature calls.
What’s the easiest way to get accustomed to using to our new pronoun? Use it – even when we’re not around. Oftentimes, amongst a group of old friends, somebody starts referring to us as “he” – when its now “she” – and others chime into that same rhythm.
Would you like to be a transgender person’s hero? Then always use she and have the courage to correct others when they get it wrong.
2. Never use a mean “He”
The transgender equivalent of the N-word is the “mean he” – where somebody uses this masculine pronoun as a weapon to publicly out or demean a transgender woman.
It’s one of the cruelest things you can say: thus, please don’t!
3. Realize – We’re still the same person underneath
Transgender people dealt with trans-issues since childhood. In fact, we’re usually aware of our transgenderism between the ages of five and seven years old. Although we might not fully address the issue until we’re older, it’s always been a big part of our personally and existence.
Thus, the person you knew before we started transition is exactly the same person you see today. We might outwardly look and act different. However, underneath it all? We’re still the same friend, brother, co-worker, husband or father you always knew.
One of the most challenging aspects of changing genders is the loneliness during our transition phase. Some people pull away due to varied degrees of prejudice. This is but one reason our attempted suicide rate is an astounding 41 percent compared with 1.6 percent for the general population – according to a study called the National Transgender Discrimination Survey.
What’s the most valuable gift you can offer a transgender friend? Open your heart to accepting her journey and open your eyes to the reality that the exact same friend you knew before? Is still there.
4. Don’t ask about our genital configuration
The first question on the tip of almost everyone’s tongue when they knowingly meet a transsexual woman – particularly if she’s quite passable and obviously evolved in her journey? Has she had the “final” surgery? This procedure – known as GRS: Gender Reassignment Surgery is very expensive and requires substantial recovery time from work to complete. Thus, lots of transsexual women haven’t yet completed this step. If you ask such a personal question about something she often can’t control? It can be a source of anguish.
Please don’t ask this question. It’s rude – like asking a breast cancer survivor if she still has her tits.
However, if you’re aware a transsexual woman recently completed GRS? It’s appreciated and appropriate to offer a congratulatory comment.
5. Be sympathetic to how challenging it is to successfully change a gender
Changing a gender is very challenging. The process to complete the physical changes is brutal and expensive. However, mastering the thousands of nuances that mark the difference between men and women requires years of constant study and practice.
Early on? We might wear too much make up, too much hair, or show too much leg or cleavage – too much is sometimes analogous with “dressing like a transsexual”.
If you think you can help us improve our feminine presentation through tips and advice? By all means volunteer that information. However, keep in mind that our new gender identity is younger than our chronological age. Thus, we might have teen girl-like sensitivity to perceived criticism. Please be diplomatic.
6. Don’t out us before we meet someone unless necessary
While an accidental “he” might cause others to surmise we’re transsexual, associates sometimes share those details just before we’re introduced to new people.
Unless we’re new to transition and it’s painfully obvious we’re transgender – and thus you consider it important to share that fact and related etiquette with someone whose meeting us for the first time – please try not to tell everyone in advance. It creates an effect similar to if we unexpectedly rolled up in a wheel chair: it’s all someone sees when we first meet.
Ironically? The prettiest transsexual women often get pre-outed more often than us “Plain Janes” – as a veiled compliment. “You’re not going to believe she’s transgender” is a common but devastating way of telling others how much you admire her hard work and journey. Again, please try and let her first meet the person without prior disclosure.
7. Don’t out us in public settings
Aside from occasionally slipping and using the “he” pronoun, friends will sometimes “out” us in public settings because of the unique story associated with our friendship. I once had a dear girlfriend do this as we chatted with a couple seated next to us at a fine restaurant. The evolution of our association from my male self to my new female identity is a colorful story. However, in public? It’s not a good idea to share with strangers. You just never know when someone might react sternly to such trans-disclosure.
So please – try not to out us in public.