Column: Understanding trans etiquette
Being kind and using correct pronouns are essential when interacting with people who are transgender.
Oct. 28, 2014
The opinions expressed by The Maneater columnists do not represent the opinions of The Maneater editorial board.
It never ceases to amaze me how much hate is present in this unforgiving world. Attacks on people who are transgender are a notable example.
According to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, 90 percent of people who are transgender have experienced harassment, mistreatment or discrimination on the job. Even more frightening, a 2014 report by The Transgender Violence Tracking Portal found nearly 10 percent of all reported violence was suffered by transgender youth.
These are harrowing and unacceptable results. There needs to be a change. It all starts with being considerate toward people who are transgender and avoiding the common mistakes made when interacting with them.
Use the correct pronouns and the name that they give you.
Names and pronouns are a method used to identify us from other people. For most humans, pronouns are taken for granted. Individuals usually use the pronouns they were designated at birth. However, this can become quite a different issue if one is transgender.
The decision to change pronouns is a brave step in transitioning to another gender, and it should always be respected. Even if someone is not transitioning and they decide to use more gender-neutral pronouns (such as ‘zir’ or ‘they’), you should follow them. The individual should be comfortable with the pronouns that other people use for them. If you are unsure about someone’s pronouns, it is always best to ask them which ones they prefer to avoid confusion.
A name also holds important significance. Sometimes, those who are transitioning will change their name to better fit their identity. It might be legally changed in court or they could go by another name informally. Whatever the case, it is essential that you call them by the name they introduce themselves by or have stated that they prefer.
Do not concern yourself with their surgery or private areas.
When reporting on transgender issues, the media often highlights the personal, very sensitive question of transitioning physically. This is very ignorant to do to anyone, regardless of gender identity. The media does not consistently ask about the private areas of those who are not transgender. You should not initiate this topic of conversation in any circumstance. It should be solely up to the person in question how they approach this topic, if they want to at all.
Accept the gender the person identifies with.
Some people refuse to accept the gender one wishes to identify with because they do not fit the ‘mold’ of that gender. In reality, gender is a socially constructed norm. It is easily pliable and subject to increasing change. People should be allowed to determine their gender (or lack thereof) by themselves, instead of sometimes being incorrectly assigned at birth. If somebody wishes to change their identity later in life, this should be respected.
Do not belittle someone who has not transitioned physically.
Just because a person has not transitioned physically to their preferred gender, it does not trivialize their gender identity. Not everyone who is transgender wants to or has the necessary funds to physically transition. This fact should not downgrade how the person feels. They should be able to express themselves however they see fit, and you should be considerate of them when they do so.
According to The Williams Institute, 0.3 percent of adults are transgender. If we can take these steps to rightfully respecting people who are transgender, we can make this world a little safer and less hateful for them.