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8 Things transgender people are sick of hearing

The only real response to “How do you talk to a trans individual?” is “Like a person.” Yet, for some reason, many non-trans folk seem to think it’s OK to subvert respect or common sense and ask super personal, inappropriate questions when they meet a trans individual.

SheKnows talked with a handful of trans individuals to find out what they would prefer to hear or be asked, rather than the stereotypical (and completely rude and disrespectful) questions they often come up against.

‘What are your preferred pronouns’ is definitely top of the list, or ‘How can I help raise visibility for trans issues as a cis person?’ But, I guess I wish cis people would ask me regular things, about how my day is going or about my favorite food or movies, or about any number of things unrelated to my gender identity!” — AJ

I’m OK with whatever they want to tell or ask me, as long as they can keep it as respectful as possible. I don’t expect people to know about things they are asking me, because that’s the point of asking. I do expect people to take me at my word about my own experience, and honor that. So when I say, ‘That word is a slur, it’s probably a bad idea to use that,’ the ideal response is something along the lines of ‘Oh, I’m sorry,’ followed by visible effort to stop its use. Maybe with a follow-up question, like, ‘What kinds of words are more okay to use?'” — Seranine

I’d like cis people to genuinely listen to me when I talk about transphobia. Don’t identify with the cis people in the story. Don’t start explaining about how I could have been mistaken. Listen to me. I am the authority on my experience, and I know more about transphobia than you ever will.” — Ella Lin

More: Gender Identity 101: A guide to understanding transgender issues

Maeve Baruk, blogger for the site, A Beautiful Transition, offers a helpful guide that relates to trans women in particular when it comes to the do’s and don’ts of what to say:

1. I dislike it when people say, “On the upside, you don’t have to deal with periods and cramps!”

Instead ask, “How is your day going?”

I wish people would remember that menstruating generally means you can carry a child. For the most part, reminding a trans woman that she doesn’t menstruate is the emotional equivalent of pouring salt in a wound. I completely understand that your intent is ‘Isn’t it awesome that you don’t have to deal with this thing that I think sucks?’ but please don’t ever say this.

2. Please never ask anything to do with how we use a restroom such as, “Do you pee standing up or sitting down?”

Instead ask, “How is your day going?”

A lot of transgender people experience great dysphoria and emotional distress because of their genitals. Please be courteous and don’t ask such invasive and rude questions.

3. Please never ask: “What was your name before?”

Instead ask, “How is your day going?”

For many transgender people, their birth name carries emotional associations that typically aren’t good. Personally, it carries 20 years of depression and 13 suicide attempts. Instead, compliment us on our chosen name. If we have a non-run-of-the-mill name, it’s usually okay to ask about where the name originates from. But remember to be courteous and ask if we don’t mind explaining our name’s origin.

4. I vehemently dislike hearing the question, “When did you decide this?”

I personally don’t mind hearing, “When did you figure it out?” but this is because I’m fairly open about transitioning. A safe statement to make would be “I’m glad you’re doing what you need to, to be happy.” Or “You look much happier now.”

More: Mom brilliantly revises transgender son’s birth announcement

5. I dislike being asked, “Have you had surgery yet?

Don’t even mention, let alone ask about surgery unless you are going to donate a few grand to help pay for what many, many, many insurance plans refuse to cover. Also remember that not all trans people are uncomfortable with the bits they were born with. Myself, I will usually answer this question, then talk about how I spend 2/3rds of waking hours in a state of nausea because most insurance companies think bottom surgery is just a cosmetic procedure.

6. I really don’t like being asked, “What bathroom do you use?” or ANY variation thereof, including the wretchedly offensive, “Do you think it’s okay for you to use this restroom?”

Don’t ask a transgender person this, ever. If you ask me, you will get scathing sarcasm, highlighting that you just asked a very dumb question. Yes, you’re curious, but that does not negate that it’s an offensive inquiry.

7. I don’t like being asked, “Are your breasts real or did you have a boob job?”

Please be respectful, and never ask this. Instead compliment me on my outfit or talk about something other than my body.

8. I dislike being asked, “So, you like guys now?”

I would prefer people to simply say, “I hope your day is going well.” I do answer this question and lecture on gender versus sexuality. I will also point out that it’s offensive to make inquiries into people’s sexual preferences.

My most general bit of advice for people is that if it’s not something you would ask your parents or grandparents about on national TV, don’t ask a transgender person unless they explicitly say it’s OK to ask questions.

More: Girl Scouts allows transgender girls, doesn’t care if you’re mad

For more on what not to ask, Dani Heffernan from GLAAD reminds that it’s never OK to ask about a person’s surgical status, or other personal details you wouldn’t feel comfortable asking anyone else. Check out GLAAD’s transgender resource center for more tips on how to be a better ally.

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