Once you get to know a trans person you will quickly learn that you have a lot more in common with them than you ever knew. Trans-folk come in all shapes, sizes, political views and more – just like the rest of the population.
But, meeting a trans person or a group of trans people for the first time can be an uncomfortable and stressful situation for both parties. So with that in mind, here are some do’s and don’ts that can help you to make that first interaction a positive one.
1.) Don’t assume a person’s pronouns.
- Do ask their pronouns, use them correctly and apologize/correct yourself if you slip-up!
2.) Don’t use gendered language like “ladies and gentleman.”
- Do use gender neutral language like “folks” or “friends.”
3.) Don’t make comments or judgements based on a person’s appearance
- Do respect people’s clothing choices and presentation
4.) Don’t ask questions around highly personal items (surgery, sexual preference, transition, etc.) without permission.
- Do ask permission to ask questions and remember that if someone asked that question of you and it would make you feel uncomfortable then it is likely inappropriate.
5.) Don’t take photographs or post pictures of someone without their consent.
- Do ask for permission regarding taking or posting photos.
6.) Don’t “out” a transgender person publicly or to a group.
- Do ask the trans person if they are “out” or openly trans.
7.) Don’t use offensive or outdated terms such as “transvestite,” “he/she,” “hermaphrodite,” etc.
- Do educate yourself on current transgender-related terminology
8.) Don’t make assumptions about a trans person’s sexual preference.
- Do remember that sex and gender are separate.
9.) Don’t ask a transgender person “what their real name is.”
- Do use the name and pronouns that the trans person prefers.
10.) Don’t make assumptions about how a person is or should transition.
- Do understand that transition is a personal decision and that many trans people choose not to transition, choose not to have surgery or to take hormones.
Bonus - Don’t make back-handed comments or compliments (e.g. “you look pretty good for a trans person” or “you should take lessons to change your voice”).
- Do offer genuine compliments or simply say nothing at all.
About Lehigh Valley Transgender Renaissance
The leading organization for support and education around transgender issues in Eastern PA and Western NJ, our focus is on supporting transgender individuals as they work through their journey to become their authentic selves while helping the community at large learn more about what it means to be transgender.
If you would like to learn more about our Lehigh Valley transgender support group or to write an article for our blog please contact Lehigh Valley Renaissance or better yet join us at one of our monthly transgender support meetings!
Note: The opinions in this article are those of the author and not necessarily that of Lehigh Valley Renaissance or the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center.