The do’s and dont’s of being a good friend, ally, teacher, classmate, or what-have-you to gender non-conforming individuals.

DON’T assume anything. Ever. DO just ask.

DON’T ask a trans person about hormones, surgery, their birth name, their genitals, whether they pee standing up or sitting down. DO wait for them to tell you. They will if they want to, and when they’re ready. Except for that last thing. Why does anyone want to know???

DON’T assume a trans person is going to engage any particular facet of transition. Many trans people feel pressure to “pass,” or feel that they won’t be accepted as trans if they don’t complete certain aspects of transition. This is particularly painful when we hear this from both inside and outside the trans community. Of course, you don’t want to add to the problem, but be part of the solution!

DON’T doubt or contradict someone when they identify to you. They know best. DO trust them. Don’t you want them to trust you?

DO try really, really, really hard to get people’s preferred gender pronouns (PGPs) right. If you mess up, correct yourself immediately. DON’T get defensive if you get called out. Be mature, apologize, and all will be forgiven.

DON’T ask trans people about their life pre-transition. That can be a sensitive topic. Again, wait for them to bring it up.

DO examine your privilege. DO your research. Trans people know all about cisgender people, from standardized education and the media. Why shouldn’t you know about them?

DON’T police people’s gender. Yes, transmen can knit. Yes, transwomen can have beards. DON’T hate.

DON’T expect trans people to educate you about being trans. DON’T look to them in class every time a trans issue comes up. DO listen to them when they decide to give their input.

DON’T out trans people to others. At best, you’ll be disrespecting them. At worst, you’ll be putting them in harm’s way.

DON’T “compliment” trans people on how well they “pass.” Not all of them want/care about passing. Being just like a cisgender person is not the most pure expression of transness (hint: there’s no such thing).

DO make every space you’re in a safe space by being understanding, compassionate, and open-minded.

Note: Much of this also holds for trans people interacting with each other. We need to build mutual respect in order to move forward. There are a lot of differences between trans people, so we can’t assume we understand each other perfectly. We need to be willing to continue to learn and grow. We’re in this together.

The Non-Trans Privilege Checklist

1) Strangers don’t assume they can ask me what my genitals look like and how I have sex.

2) My validity as a man/woman/human is not based upon how much surgery I’ve had or how well I “pass” as a non-Trans person.

3) When initiating sex with someone, I do not have to worry that they won’t be able to deal with my parts or that having sex with me will cause my partner to question his or her own sexual orientation.

4) I am not excluded from events which are either explicitly or de facto* men-born-men or women-born-women only. (*basically anything involving nudity)

5) My politics are not questioned based on the choices I make with regard to my body.

6) I don’t have to hear “so have you had THE surgery?” or “oh, so you’re REALLY a [incorrect sex or gender]?” each time I come out to someone.

7) I am not expected to constantly defend my medical decisions.

8 ) Strangers do not ask me what my “real name” [birth name] is and then assume that they have a right to call me by that name.

9) People do not disrespect me by using incorrect pronouns even after they’ve been corrected.

10) I do not have to worry that someone wants to be my friend or have sex with me in order to prove his or her “hipness” or good politics.

11) I do not have to worry about whether I will be able to find a bathroom to use or whether I will be safe changing in a locker room.

12) When engaging in political action, I do not have to worry about the *gendered* repercussions of being arrested. (i.e. what will happen to me if the cops find out that my genitals do not match my gendered appearance? Will I end up in a cell with people of my own gender?)

13) I do not have to defend my right to be a part of “Queer” and gays and lesbians will not try to exclude me from OUR movement in order to gain political legitimacy for themselves.

14) My experience of gender (or gendered spaces) is not viewed as “baggage” by others of the gender in which I live.

15) I do not have to choose between either invisibility (“passing”) or being consistently “othered” and/or tokenized based on my gender.

16) I am not told that my sexual orientation and gender identity are mutually exclusive.

17) When I go to the gym or a public pool, I can use the showers.

18) If I end up in the emergency room, I do not have to worry that my gender will keep me from receiving appropriate treatment nor will all of my medical issues be seen as a product of my gender. (“Your nose is running and your throat hurts? Must be due to the hormones!”)

19) My health insurance provider (or public health system) does not specifically exclude me from receiving benefits or treatments available to others because of my gender.

20) When I express my internal identities in my daily life, I am not considered “mentally ill” by the medical establishment.

21) I am not required to undergo extensive psychological evaluation in order to receive basic medical care.

22) The medical establishment does not serve as a “gatekeeper” which disallows self-determination of what happens to my body.

23) People do not use me as a scapegoat for their own unresolved gender issues.

Note: I would argue that #5, 22, and 23 also apply to cisgender women.



One response to “Etiquette

  1. Thank you for this post! I am a high school teacher and this clears up a couple questions for me.

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