If you’ve got time to learn how to make filter coffee, you can learn to filter your words too.
The online world has given us a lot. Apart from the array of memes, mochas, and aromatic massage oils, social media has also helped turn the tide in transgender visibility. Since most of our lives happen online, our interactions with people via media are just as important as they are with people IRL. In India, identifying as LGBTQIA+ is a challenge in both the real and virtual world, which is why we need to educate ourselves and learn every way we can be an ally all year long.
Since we’ve already given you some deets on what you should do, we thought we’d switch it around and talk about things you should definitely never say to a transgender person. Read on below:
"You don’t LOOK transgender!"
‘Transgender’ is not a look you can sport with your favoruite trainers; it is an identity. There is no one stop shop guide that explains how to “look” transgender. The misconception in society that you can always “make out” when a person is transgender is rather misguided and even toxic in some cases. Trans people don’t choose to look a certain way. Trans people are just people.
"What's your REAL name?"
Between the nicknames we give our buddies and the dozens of names we give our pets, we can easily remember a name someone chooses to identify by. And if you really don’t remember, there’s nothing a quick IG search won’t help you with. If however, you do need to speak to someone for legal purposes, make that clear.
"Did you get THE surgery?"
Asking a transgender person if they’ve gotten “the surgery,” is the same as asking what their genitals look like– which is strange, invasive, inappropriate, and irrelevant. Also, there is also no such thing as “the” surgery. There are a number of gender-affirming procedures and surgeries for trans folks, and one isn’t usually more common than the rest.
"Can I see a before picture?"
Not only can this feel invasive and painful – many trans folks do not like looking at old pictures of themselves because this brings back trauma and dysphoria. Trans folks’ journeys are often especially sensationalised through images. But trans people are not just a shocking transformation. They aren’t more one gender than another. They shift their presentations to match their true gender. They are people with rich stories and history just like anybody. So try not to be reductive, and focus on the million other things you could do or say.
“Have you thought this through?”
Question: Did you think through your latest online purchase? If you take hours to pick between the right pair of jeans or which candle sparks the most joy in your life, you best be sure they’ve thought things through. They’ve spent months if not years deliberating this decision. Transness is not a whim or an afterthought or a trend. It is not impulsive or least of all poorly thought-through.
This is in no way an exhaustive list, and barely scratches the surface of the inappropriate things often said to a transgender person. Whether it a non cis-het gender or sexuality, everyone has their own journey. It is our responsibility to respect everybody’s decisions in who people choose to love and how they identify themselves.
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