It's been 10 months into my transition and plenty has happened in that time. I am, not surprisingly, the first transgender person in my circle of friends. All have been supportive and I've been asked the do's and don'ts when it comes to what they can understand me better. So I've decided to compile a list to help not only my friends, but anyone who reads this who knows someone who is transgender.
I hope this post will help educate and enlighten more people. A lot of the things in this list are basic courtesy and manners, but I understand how cis people and even some members of the LGBT community are curious and sometimes forget that it is a sensitive issue that can affect our self confidence and mental status.
My opinions do not reflect the opinions of all transgender people. This is written from my own point of view and experience. I do not claim to represent the whole transgender community.
1.Use their preferred pronouns
If your friend has come out as trans or genderfluid, ask them what are their preferred pronouns. There are plenty of gender-diverse individuals who may not identify with just one gender, so they may prefer a gender neutral pronoun like they/their/them.
I identify as male, so my preferred pronouns are he/his/him. If you are ever unsure, just ask. It's way better than being misgendered and it will show that you care.
2. Respect their decision to transition
This is their life -- I can assure you that this is not a spur-of-the-moment decision where they woke up and decided they wanted to be a different gender. It took me most of my life to realise that I was transgender and not a lesbian. While I've only been on this journey for 10 months, I've spent years struggling with self esteem and questioning why was I abnormal. Trust me -- transitioning is not a trend or fad. It is our road to freedom to be who we are and live a life where we are happy.
3. Do not ask about their genitals
You wouldn't ask someone you just met or a random stranger on the street about what's in their pants. So why would you ask me if I have a penis after you know that I'm trans?
While some trans people are open about their bodies, most are not. If you really had to ask, be sure to do it in a private conversation and ask if it's okay instead of going straight to the question about genitals.
4. Do not ask about how they do it in bed
Again, you wouldn't ask someone you barely know how they have sex, so why would you ask us that? All you need to know is, yes, we can perform in bed.
5. Avoid saying: "But you were so handsome/pretty as a boy/girl"
It doesn't matter if it's a compliment -- what you're doing is intentionally misgendering someone.
6. Do not out them as trans to other people
This is one that depends on the person. While I will not hide the fact that I'm trans, I would rather not have that be the only description of me. Instead of saying: "This is Vern, he's transgender," I would much prefer: "This is Vern, he's awesome."
I've got friends who have been revealing that I'm trans to people -- which I do not mind if it was brought up during conversations about the LGBT community. Correcting people when they refer to me as 'he' by saying: "Oh, she's not a he, but she is transitioning to become male," is COMPLETELY NOT OKAY.
There are trans people who choose to remain in 'stealth' mode because being outed or viewed as trans will cause so much anxiety. They also live in fear of being a victim of violence. So, don't out your friend unless you've asked for their consent first.
7. They are the same person as before they transitioned
While our appearance and personal pronouns may change, we're the same person on the inside. Our appearance is only changing to match who we have been all along.
8. Most trans people have experienced anxiety and/or depression
Imagine being constantly worried that every time you enter a public toilet you may get insulted, yelled at, stared at, judged, assaulted or even raped. And what if each time you looked in the mirror you saw someone that wasn't you? It would feel like you're drowning and no one can save you.
Being transgender is NOT a mental illness. Society's view of seeing transgender people as abnormal is the source of the mental illness.
9. They can be religious too
Just because we're trans doesn't mean we don't believe in God. There are religious trans people out there, religion is between you and God -- not between you and the people who go to church/temple/mosque or any other places of worship.
Using Christianity as an example, I've been told that God is against homosexuality because it is written in the Bible. The Bible also says you can't eat shellfish, wear clothing made of two different materials or work on Sundays, and let's not forget sex before marriage.
If you are going to throw religious rules at me, please be sure that you follow EVERYTHING the Bible says. I'm sorry but religion is not about being able to pick and choose what works for you.
If you insist on picking and choosing what you choose to practise, why not choose rules that spread love and kindness instead?
10. They are not out to "convert" people
Like I said, being trans is not a trend. And no, we do not want to "turn" you into a man/woman. Our lives are not easy -- you do not know how badly we wish we were born in the "right" body. So why would we want to put you through that?
And it is OUR journey. It's OUR life. We would love to have supportive and accepting family and friends in it. We would be happy to educate you and help increase awareness for transgender people but we are not out to get people to "join the club".
I believe that education is the key to helping the transgender community.