Tranifesto: 10 Things Not To Say to a Trans Person

Many trans people speak and train in a variety of venues, and they do so because it is important to them to educate non-trans people about who they are. They get a lot of comments and a lot of questions in those settings, and unless they have specified that a particular topic is off-limits, they expect and are happy to answer any and all questions that come their way. In that situation, as the old cliché goes, there are no stupid questions.

But there is a big difference between a training or educational setting and a social or workplace environment. When transgender speak or train, they make the choice to answer questions, respond to comments, and so on. When they’re eating fast food, shopping at the mall, or just meeting someone for the first time in a social setting, they’re sometimes caught off guard.

So I present “Ten Things Not To Say to a Trans Person” as a cautionary reminder to us non-trans folks outside of a formal educational or training setting.

1. “Have you had ‘the operation’”? (Equally offensive: “Have you had ‘the surgery?’” or “Are you pre-op or post-op?” or “Are you done?”)

There is no one “operation.” Trans people have many surgeries or no surgeries. They know what you’re talking about, but like to pretend that they don’t just to annoy you. Like you, they consider their private parts private. “You show me yours, and I’ll show you mine”.

But transition is not all about genitalia – in fact, the social aspects of transition can be far more complicated, complex, and compelling. To ask about surgery is to disregard every other aspect of a person as a human being – not to mention the fact that you would not likely ask anyone else you know about his or her genitalia outside of the bedroom or while cruising on that pick-up website.

Unless you’re asking them to sleep with you, what’s underneath their clothes should not be of concern. And if you are asking them to sleep with you, then they’d probably like to see what’s underneath your clothes before they make a final decision.

2. “Which bathroom do you use?”

Transgender use the bathroom that matches the gender that they are presenting. They use the bathroom that is right for them, just like you use the bathroom that is right for you. And they use the bathroom for the same reason that you do. They have no interest in seeing or hearing anything that you are doing in there, and would prefer that you not take an undue interest in them. They just want to get in, take care of business, and get out. If you have seen most public restrooms, you will understand why.

3. “If you combed your hair a certain way, walked a certain way, did ______ (fill in the blank) a certain way, you would be more masculine/feminine.”

You will most likely come across a response or variation of “Thanks for the tip. Now, as for what’s wrong with you …”

4. “When did you decide to become transgender/transsexual?”

Transgender people don’t “decide” to “become” any way. Much like you and I, they were born that way. “When did you “decide” what gender you were – or did you just know?” They may have made a “decision” to transition, but most trans people will tell you that transition is not a choice – it is a medical necessity, and any “decision” that was made was simply the decision to continue to live, which necessitated transition.

5. “You pass really well.”

While some trans people may take this as a compliment, especially in the early stages of transition, “passing” implies that a person is not what he or she seems to be – that the person is “passing” for something else. Unless you’re a driving instructor, if you want to give a compliment, just say, “You look nice today” or “That color looks good on you” or whatever you would say to anyone else.

6. “I thought you’d be a monster – but you’re just a normal person!”

Again, some people might just take a comment like that in stride, others might respond with “Catch me during the next full moon”.

7. “How do you have sex?”

Buy them dinner and they’ll show you.

Seriously, there are many ways to have sex, and trans people have sex just like everyone else. Sex is not just the missionary position, although trans people have sex this way as well. But if you’re strictly the “tab A into slot B” type of person, you might be missing out on some things yourself.

8. “I can still see the woman (or the man) in you.”

“Darn, did I forget to zip up my pants again?”

But seriously, most trans people would prefer not to be reminded of their previous incarnation, if you will. While those who say this generally mean no harm and are just being sentimental about a “person” they miss from their past, those who have transitioned usually don’t share the same sentimentality about their pre-transition self, so no matter what you see, it’s best to keep it to yourself.

9. “Are you afraid that people will hate you or want to hurt you?”

As with most things that are different and misunderstood; most likely. We’ve all had someone say or do something hateful, but we try not to think about it unless someone brings it up.

10. “What does being a man (or a woman) mean to you?”

It means not being asked that kind of question, because you would never ask a non-trans man (or a non-trans woman) the same question.

Shared by Gossip Guy, you know you love me -xoxo

By “special” request by a Trans friend I am including a link back to the original blog I shared this article from: The Tranifesto. I am actually suprised how childishly he reacted over me sharing something on my personal blog even though I signed the post “Shared By…” instead of using my normal signature. I thought putting the name of the blog in the title of my post was sufficent enough; who knew?


3 Responses to Tranifesto: 10 Things Not To Say to a Trans Person

  1. Heather says:

    So amazing! It’s a great way to help people who don’t have any knowledge of trans issues. I like it.

  2. Heather says:

    What an excellent way to promote awareness and education GG!!! You’re helping people who may have all those questions and more, understand something that may indeed be very misunderstood.

  3. Matt Kailey says:

    I’m glad you enjoy my work. This original work by me has been slightly altered here, but those who are interested in this piece and others like it, and who would like to learn more about trans issues, are welcome to join me at my blog, Tranifesto. I have fantastic readers and everyone is welcome.

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