In case you’ve been living under a rock, Caitlyn Jenner is dominating headlines, social media and our conversations. Jenner’s transition is groundbreaking for a lot of reasons and will pave the way for other people who are transgender to feel more secure in their own transitions. The other benefit is that the publicity has started a much-needed conversation on what it means to be transgender and how we should treat transgender people.
The conversation, it seems, has spread to Twitter bots too. The @She_Not_He account is described as “a bot politely correcting Twitter users who misgender Caitlyn Jenner.” Twitter bots are generally nothing to get excited about. But times are changing, and we can get behind this one that aims to drive social change, educate and ensure that people who are transgender get the respect they deserve.
With simple and well-meaning alerts to people who use “he” when referring to Caitlyn, the bot is offering an opportunity to get educated. And in many cases, the receivers of the bot’s alert have apologized and made note that they’ll correct their language moving forward. It’s understandable that some people just aren’t aware of the appropriate way to refer to a person who is transgender. However, if they are Twitter users, they’ll quickly learn and ideally make some changes.
.@earthscraft ~ROBOT CLANKING NOISE~ It's she, not he.
— She not he (@she_not_he) June 3, 2015
If transgender people are unfamiliar territory to you as well, we have some tips on how to talk about people to ensure you are giving them the respect they deserve.
Their name isn’t a stage name
Caitlyn Jenner isn’t just Caitlyn for magazines or for show. That’s her name now. Much like a person changes their name when they get married, Caitlyn’s name has changed, and it’s official. That applies to all people who are transgender. Referring to them by their former name is disrespectful, and it just doesn’t make sense. If someone insisted on calling me by my maiden name instead of my married name, I’d be concerned about their sanity.
Surgeries and various procedures are none of your business
Whether or not a person has fully transitioned, is taking hormones or plans to have any future surgeries is none of our business. We’re generally completely unconcerned with what is happening in strangers’ pants, so why is it all of a sudden a topic of conversation when a person is transgender? If you wouldn’t ask another person what’s going on with their genitalia or if their boobs are fake, then you shouldn’t ask that of a transgender person either.
Listen to the bot — it’s “she,” not “he”
Just in case you aren’t on Twitter and can’t be corrected instantly by a bot, when referring to a person who is transgender, use the correct pronoun. Caitlyn Jenner, Laverne Cox and any other transgender person deserves, just like anyone else, to be referred to appropriately. They aren’t confused about their gender — you shouldn’t be either.
They aren’t doing it just for attention
There are a lot of less hurtful ways to get attention. This isn’t an easy road. It’s filled with bullying, bigotry, insecurity and pain. It can be a difficult concept to accept if you’ve never had any experience with it, but that doesn’t mean their feelings aren’t valid and real. It’s not your battle, and it doesn’t serve any purpose to condemn, judge or otherwise disregard a person who is transgender as being confused or attention-seeking.
Don’t compare transgender people with other people
I had to cringe every time I saw a comment or a meme about how much better Caitlyn looked than Kris Jenner. I loved seeing the overwhelming support and positivity surrounding Caitlyn Jenner, but it doesn’t do her any favors to compare her to anyone else. Supporting one person doesn’t have to come at the expense of another.
If you don’t understand how to talk about transgender people, that’s OK. It’s time to learn. With Caitlyn Jenner and many before her leading the way, it’s time we all make the effort to be accepting and to treat people with respect.
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