Dear cis people,
Please start to expect us. Please actively expect that sooner or later you’re going to meet someone who is trans and you need to know the basics of trans etiquette before you do. That’s what I most need from you. Expect there to be people like me in your life.
This goes double if you work in a job that involves meeting people. If you work in a hospital, a school, college or Uni, if you work in social care, if you answer helplines, if you see people and talk to them as part of your job: Expect trans clients, customers and co-workers. Learn how to respectfully address people no matter what their gender and no matter how that gender relates to the one they were originally assigned.
You don’t need to understand why some people are trans. You don’t need to know the medical processes that some trans people might make use of in their transition. You don’t even need to know which people in your life are trans and which aren’t. Just please know that you are going to meet trans people and it’s your responsibility to be prepared.
You need to learn some basic trans terminology like “gender assigned at birth”. You need to make sure you know what “trans man” means, what “trans woman” means and what “nonbinary person” means. You need to know that some words used to refer to trans people are transphobic slurs and not to use them (Hint: if mainstream porn uses a word to describe a trans person, that word is probably a slur). You need to know that “trans”, “transgender” and “transsexual” are adjectives and never nouns. You need to learn and use the word “cis” or “cisgender” to describe people who are not trans. You need to already know that “You look just like a real man!” is almost never taken as a compliment.
You need to expect us. And not to expect us to educate you about trans people. It’s your responsibility as a human being to try your best to treat other human beings with care and respect. So once you know to expect that there will be trans people in your life, the responsibility to make sure you know how to treat us with care and respect is obvious.
I know it sounds like I’m asking a lot but I’m really not. The resources are out there. Ask in the comments if you need some links.
It all boils down to some very simple things you need to make sure you know:
- There are trans people and there are cis people. It doesn’t matter why but there are.
- Trans people’s genders are just as valid as cis people’s genders.
- Everyone deserves to be treated with respect and care.
- Treating people with respect and care involves acknowledging the validity of their genders by referring to them with the names, pronouns and gendered words they would want to be used for them.
- Appearance, genitals, internal organs etc do not decide people’s genders for them. People are who and what they say they are.
- You won’t always know if someone is trans or cis and this is okay.
- If you need to know things about a person’s genitals, medical history or trans status, be polite, kind and sensitive in how you ask and make sure you actually do *need* to know.
- Trans people aren’t obliged to educate you or to do so nicely. If you need to ask a trans person something about trans terminology or etiquette, be polite, kind and sensitive and make sure you are clear that they do not have to answer you. It is not their fault (or the fault of trans people generally) that you don’t know. It is not their responsibility (or that of trans people generally) to educate you. No one is born knowing this and everyone has to learn it. It is the fault of society as a whole that you don’t know this stuff – and part of changing our society into one where people are taught to show respect and kindness to all people is for you to do your best to learn this and to pass it on to others.
I know it feels much, much easier to just wait until you’ve got an out trans person in front of you and ask questions then and apologise when they wince at how you phrased something or be shocked when they tell you to fuck off. I know that seems easier. But please imagine for a minute what it is like to be regularly expected to explain your gender and how to respectfully treat you to almost every doctor, teacher, social worker, carer, nurse, bank clerk, pharmacist, new friend, new partner, class mate, cleric, lawyer, MP…etc… that you meet. And to smile and be nice about it and never show that you resent having to do this over and over again because so many people didn’t spend a few minutes online finding this out for themselves. I can explain what a trans man is and what it means that I am one in under a minute *because of the sheer frequency that I’ve had to do it*.
Help make this into a world where I and others like me will not have to constantly explain ourselves as an entry price for being treated like human beings.
Please educate yourself. Because you expect us.