Part of having learned all new vocabulary, is also knowing how to use those words everyday. Your trans loved will recognize proper usage of these expressions as a sign of solidarity and affirmation.
Before we begin, there are a few pointers EVERYONE should know.
- Some of this material may require some people to “re-learn” how to use common words that they did not know have new meaning.
- Ignoring what others call themselves, or how they choose to express themselves can be just as traumatic as bullying or discrimination.
- “What are your pronouns?” Should be just as commonplace as “How was your day?”
- Refusing to learn new ways of speaking with others, or refusing to learn new vocabulary can be considered arrogant and is widely considered to be an act of transphobia.
- When someone tells you their name, use it even if you were once introduced to that person by another name. The use of a name that a person no longer wishes to be recognized as is called “DEAD NAMING”. It is offensive and disrespectful to knowingly continue to exhibit such poor self control.
- The journey to full self authentication can be somewhat complex, and often difficult. Noone owes you a full summary of their gender history. Be sure not to prioritize YOUR curiosities. Many of the questions people ask of trans folks are either none of their business, or are easily answered with a simple internet search. While you may be curious about certain aspects of their journey, transgender people do not owe you an explanation about their life anymore than you do them about yours.
- The use of “real” “regular” and “normal” can be excluding and insulting to transgender people. A trans man is every much a man as what one would call someone who was assigned male at birth. It is unacceptable to refer to certain groups of people as “real women” while calling others “trans women.” In this case, they are ALL WOMEN, an adjective is neither needed or appropriate.
- Do not use the word “transgenders” when referring to a group of trans people. Acceptable terms include “the transgender community” or “transgender people”. Similarly, “transgendered” is not an acceptable term within the community as it alludes to a person’s trans-ness was something that happened to them.
- Mistakes and using the wrong terminology is to be expected as we learn new concepts. It is important to correct the person using poor terminology right away. It is more important that the person using the wrong terminology not apologize for their actions. Instead, say “Thank you” and make the correction the very next time.
*Apologies often require the trans person to respond with things like “it’s ok” when in essence, it isn’t. It’s the year 2021 and these terms are not like learning a foreign language.
- Use of the word “they” or “theirs” to describe a singular person isn’t something new. Refusing to use the term for transgender people however, is. Most people are comfortable using a singular form of “they” in these surroundings:
“Did somebody forget to take their vitamins today?”
“If anyone calls for me, tell THEM I will call THEM back.”
WIth that in mind “Tell Richard that they have excellent taste in clothes” is no different.
FORGET : She’s a former woman who now goes by Michael
INSTEAD, TRY: That’s Michael. He tells great stories. You should meet him sometime.
FORGET: Dr. Merril Sage, named Jessica Brown at birth, made an enormous contribution to our cause.
INSTEAD, TRY :Thanks to Dr Merril Sage, our organization secured a huge contribution.
FORGET: So, are you ever going to have “the surgery”
INSTEAD, TRY: “Hey, what do you have planned this weekend”
FORGET: Women and Transgendered women showed up in large numbers to the rally.
INSTEAD, TRY: A record number of women attended the rally.
FORGET: We met a transgender at the bar last night.
INSTEAD, TRY: We met an awesome dancer last night.
FORGET: I’m sorry, it’s hard for me to call you Jimmy. I’ve known you as Justine for so long.
INSTEAD, TRY: Hey Just, I mean Jimmy, do you want to join us for dinner this weekend?
- Make assumptions about how someone would like to be referred to, instead ASK THEM
- Ask a person what genitals they have, had, or will have. Especially when using it as a factor in determining which pronouns to use
- Explain how someone else’s preferences affect you.
- Introduce, describe, or speak of someone by their previous identity as it is disrespectful
- “OUT” a person by taking it upon yourself to identify them as a trans person before they do. Their journey is specific to them, allow that person the option to introduce themselves as they would like to.
- Share someone’s previous name or gender assignment. That information about someone is NOT yours to share – ever.
- Use offensive shorthand slurs.
- Apologize when you use a wrong pronoun
- Respectfully ask a person’s pronouns and actively commit to using them
- Refer to someone ONLY by their current identity
- Correct yourself if you use the wrong pronoun
- Avoid phrases such as “real”, “regular”, or “normal”. Your transgender friend is NOT “as pretty as a “real woman”. She IS a beautiful woman – end of sentence
- Understand that you will make mistakes. Be open and receptive to feedback from trans people about how your language makes them feel.
- Remember that all people are greater than their gender identity and expression.
- Intervene and correct others EVERY TIME you hear someone using improper or offensive terminology. Yes, EVERY TIME.