You may know a person in your life who is a transgender person. If not, you are likely to meet, work with or know people who interact with trans people. You may be worried that you'll say the wrong things to them, or not even know that there are things you may say, that may offend or insult them.
We've compiled a short list of things to be careful of saying, out of respect to trans people.
This list is not exhaustive, but it may be a good place to start.
1. If you don't know what pronoun to use, listen first or ask
Gender identity is an integral part of a person's identity. So, use the pronoun appropriate for the gender a trans person identifies with -- he or she. It is also acceptable to use the pronoun, they, for people who have a non-binary identity.
She-male, he-she, shim are all defamatory.
Further, transgender people are people, not things. So asking "is it a he or a she," is not only offensive, but also downright disrespectful. Don't do like those judges from a popular music talent show did -- it is not funny.
2. Use a transgender person's chosen name
For some trans people, being associated with their birth name can be a source of anxiety or a painful reminder of a past they'd much rather forget.
Respect the name they choose to go by.
If you happen to know a trans person's birth name -- don't share it with other people without their permission. The same goes for photos before their transition- just don't be that person.
A trans person's gender history is personal information, to be shared as and if they wish.
3. Don't assume a trans person has had or wants to have sex reassignment surgery
There is no right or wrong way to transition.
Daniella Argento, a trans woman shared with HuffPost SA that although she considered the surgery, she decided against it. "I am not convinced that being transgender is always a condition that needs to be medicated," she said.
Some trans people have challenges accessing medical care, hormones and surgery due to a lack of financial resources or access to healthcare.
It should be enough that a person who says is transgender is. A trans person is no less a trans person because of their having or not having reconstructive surgery.
4. Avoid backhanded compliments
"You look just like a real woman."
-What does a real woman look like?
"I would have never known you're transgender, you're so pretty."
-So, trans people aren't supposed to be pretty?
"Have you considered a voice coach?"
-Do you say this to all your friends with deep or soprano voices?
The point is, such comments can be hurtful or even insulting.
There are many people who still do not understand transgender people. Our lack of understanding, however, does not inhibit our capacity to learn about trans lives and subsequently give them the respect and sensitivity they deserve.By starting with these points above, we can help make the space for trans people better, more inclusive and safer.