With gender-based issues and trans rights becoming a more mainstream conversation in society, people are naturally becoming more interested in the trans community. However, while most of the interest is with good intent, some of the questions that transgender people often get asked are insensitive, intrusive and candidly, none of your business.
A transgender person can be a trans woman (assigned sex is male, but gender is female) or a trans man (assigned sex is female but the gender is male). Showing interest in someone is perfectly fine – but sensitivity and awareness of the person you are speaking to is key to not offending them.
Today, they’re highlighting things you should NEVER ask a transgender person!
1. Never say to someone being transgender is ‘a choice.’
Being transgender is not a choice. You wouldn’t choose to live your life that risked facing discrimination and prejudice. You wouldn’t choose to undergo gender reassignment surgery and the years of anxiety and distress while you await your surgery. In fact, gender dysphoria, the condition of feeling one's emotional and psychological identity as male or female to be opposite to one's biological sex, causes extreme distress. More than four in five trans young people have self-harmed according to research. Being transgender is most definitely not a choice.
2. ‘Do I refer to you as he, she, it, or they?’
Pronouns are super important to the trans community just as they are to everyone. Use “he” when referring to a trans man. Use “she” when referring to a trans woman unless they’ve asked you to do otherwise. It’s okay to ask someone for their preferred name and pronouns when you first meet them. Always use the name and pronouns they tell you. Plus, showing interest in someone is perfectly fine – but sensitivity and awareness of the person you are speaking to is key to not offending them.
3. ‘What have you got down there?’
Seriously? Put it this way, would you walk up to a man in a bar and ask what he’s got in his jeans? No. You wouldn’t. Not only is this question rude, but it’s something that you don’t need to know and is completely inappropriate to ask someone.
4. ‘What is your birth name?’
Again, why does this matter? For a lot of transgender people, this is not something they want to disclose, as it’s not reflective of who they are today. Take them for the person they are in front of you and stop asking them about their past. Use the name they introduce themselves with and leave it at that!
5. ‘When did you decide you were trans?’
This question may sound innocuous, but it’s also incredibly patronizing. For trans people, it was never a choice. They didn’t just wake up one day and decide to be a woman or man; it’s how they were born. While they may exude confidence now, for a long time their true identity was something that they suffered with and were scared to share with the world.
6. ‘Are you gay or straight?’
Would you ask this to someone that wasn’t trans in a general social situation? If the answer to that is no (which it should be) then don’t ask it to a transgender person. What does their sexuality have to do with you? Keep in mind that gender and sexuality are two different things.
7. ‘What surgery have you had?’
Even if someone has actually had surgery, this question implies that a part of that person is fake; something that can be interpreted as extremely insulting. This is a personal question and it’s a subject that many transgender people would not feel comfortable disclosing. Like many of these questions, these are only topics that should be brought up by the trans person when and if they’re comfortable with it! Having the “op” – also known as “top” or “bottom” surgery – doesn’t make you transgender.
Still not sure what’s going on? Let’s be more specific: “top” surgery is any surgery that occurs above the waist, such as breast augmentation, mastectomy or facial feminization surgeries. Bottom surgery is any surgery that occurs below the waist, such as hysterectomy or genital reassignment surgery.
Lots of transgender people opt not to have surgery. That’s their business – not yours, and you shouldn’t be asking about it.
8. Are you a drag queen or crossdresser?
Contrary to what some may believe, transgender people are not like RuPaul – a drag queen. Drag queens (or kings) dress up like women or men for various reasons, but their gender identity in many cases matches what they were assigned at birth.
Crossdressers are people that dress up in the gendered clothes of the opposite sex. Statistically, they are usually straight men.