Today let’s talk about one the most poorly represented members of the LGBTQIA+ community, transgender individuals.
There are three forms of gender: cis gender, transgender and nonbinary.
In Latin, cis means on the same side of. Or in other words, gender is on the same of someone’s assigned sex.
Trans means crossing. So this is someone whose gender crosses their assigned sex.
Nonbinary is an adjective that describes a person who doesn’t identify exclusively as male or female. There is tremendous diversity here with dozens if not hundreds of different identities within this category. You may hear terms such as genderqueer, gender nonconforming, trans, bigender, 3rd sex, female to male, male to female, gender expressive, gender creative, gender expansive and my favorite- gender colorful.
There is great diversity amongst the trans community with individuals not only using different words but also different presentations of their identity. Three quarters of transgender youth responding to a Human Rights Campaign identified with terms other than “boy” or “girl” demonstrating the growing continuum of the trans spectrum. While some may choose surgery or hormones as part of their transition, others may not.
Although there is increasing visibility of the trans population, 70-80% of the US population reports never having met a transgender person with that number increasing about 90% for a transgender child. Representation within the media is poor at best. And basic rights of transgender individuals is still an issue up for debate within our legal system.
If we are going to create a more loving and accepting society, we must educate ourselves and learn to stand with our friends and family. Here are some basic do’s and don’ts to start:
You do not ask about a person’s body parts. Unless you want to discuss your vagina, don’t ask about someone else’s.
Do not ask to see someone’s pre transition photos. Or ask what their name used to be.
Do not ask when someone “became” transgender. No one becomes transgender or turns gay. Just like you are who you are, they are and were who they are.
And do not ask how people have sex. There are plenty of resources out there to explain that to you.
Do listen. Without inserting your story or experience.
Do respect an individual’s privacy. If they chose to come out to you, that is your privilege of having been trusted. It is not their privilege to come out.
Do learn how to use inclusive language. For example, use “hey, everyone” instead of “hey, guys”. I will write on this in detail in the future but a quick internet search will yield tremendous resources available on this.
Do ask their name and pronouns. One great way to do that is to introduce yourself with your name and pronouns. “Hi, I’m Sarah and I go by she/her. Nice to meet you.” If they want, they will offer theirs.
While I recognize I am just scratching the surface on the ABC’s of LGBTQIA+ this week, I am grateful to be able to provide you with a starting point of knowledge. I always welcome questions and conversations at firstname.lastname@example.org.