21 Things Not to Say to a Trans Person

Ephraim Obare
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Navigating the labyrinth of language in our diverse society can feel like an advanced-level game of Twister. We are often tip-toeing, anxious not to trip over our tongues, particularly when interacting with individuals whose experiences we might not fully understand. Take, for instance, conversations with our transgender friends and acquaintances.

Even with the best intentions, stumbling into a verbal pothole is easy. This is about correctness and fostering empathy, understanding, and respect.

“So, What’s Your Real Name?”

“So, What’s Your Real Name?”
SIPhotography via canva.com

This question is invasive as it disregards the individual’s chosen identity. Asking someone to reveal their birth name can be hurtful and disrespectful. We should respect how an individual has identified themselves, regardless of the name they were given at birth.

“Have You Had the Surgery?”

“Have You Had the Surgery?”
Syda Productions via canva.com

This is a private and sensitive topic that shouldn’t be casually asked. Some individuals may not have had the resources or support to pursue medical transition, and they should still be respected as their chosen gender.

“You Don’t Look Trans”

“You Don’t Look Trans.”
Jay Yuno via canva.com

This statement invalidates and implies that trans people must “look” a sure way to be valid. Every gender expression should be embraced and accepted as accurate without judgment.

“Which Bathroom Do You Use?”

“Which Bathroom Do You Use?”
Daniel Megias via canva.com

The answer is simple: the one that corresponds to their gender identity. Asking trans individuals this question puts them in an awkward and intrusive situation.

This question should not be asked, as it implies that trans people don’t belong and are different from the rest of society.

“I Could Never Date a Trans Person”

“I Could Never Date a Trans Person.”
Tassii via canva.com

This statement is a blatant expression of prejudice. Trans people are like everyone else and should be considered valid partners. Love is a human right, regardless of gender identity or expression.

“You’re So Brave”

“You’re So Brave.”
South_Agency via canva.com

While meant as a compliment, this can reinforce the idea that being trans is an inherent struggle. Instead, it’s essential to recognize trans people as individuals living and striving for the same things as everyone else.

“What Was It Like Being Born the Wrong Gender?”

“What Was It Like Being Born the Wrong Gender?”
CREATISTA via canva.com

Trans people aren’t born the wrong gender; they’re born themselves. Asking this question implies that there is a “right” gender and can be dismissive of their identity. It’s best to ask trans people about their experiences in ways that don’t negate their identities.

“What Do Your Parents Think?”

“What Do Your Parents Think?”
Dima_S via canva.com

This question assumes that accepting parents is necessary for one to be trans. However, parental acceptance is not always the case.

Moreover, it can put undue pressure on trans people to discuss a personal and potentially tricky topic with you. Instead, ask what their experience regarding coming out and being accepted by their family has been like.

“How Do You Handle Lovemaking?”

“How Do You Have Lovemaking?”
PeopleImages via canva.com

Again, this is a private matter. Additionally, it implies that trans people can only have coupling in specific ways.

“How Do Trans People Know They Are Trans?”

“How Do Trans People Know They Are Trans?”
Koldunov via canva.com

Everyone’s journey to self-discovery is unique. Asking this question implies that there is a definitive answer or timeline to discovering one’s gender identity.

A better way to approach the discussion could be by asking what their journey was like and how they came to identify as transgender.

“I Miss the Old You”

“I Miss the Old You”
Zinkevych via canva.com

This implies that the person’s true identity is less acceptable or desirable. It is essential to recognize that the person is still the same, and their identity should be accepted and celebrated.

“Are You Sure It’s Not Just a Phase?”

“Are You Sure It’s Not Just a Phase?”
Daniel Megias via canva.com

This question invalidates the person’s identity and experience. It implies their identity is inaccurate, or they can change it whenever they want.

It’s important to recognize and respect the person’s self-identification. Instead, you could ask what inspired them to identify as transgender and how long they’ve known.

“But You Act Like a Typical [Male/Female]”

“But You Act Like a Typical [Insert Gender Here]”
Andrey Popov via canva.com
Gender expression varies and doesn’t define one’s gender identity. Every person is unique and should be respected, regardless of gender identity or expression.

Instead, try to understand the individual’s experience and validate their feelings. Ask questions that show you care and are open to learning about them as a person.

“You’ll Never Be a Real [Man/Woman]”

“You’ll Never Be a Real [Man/Woman]”
Pixelshot via canva.com
This statement denies the person’s true identity. It implies that they will never be accepted and can cause insecurity and discomfort.

Instead, please focus on the person’s strength and stand with them in their fight for acceptance. Let them know you affirm their identity and are there to support them.

“It’s Hard for Me To Get Your Pronouns Right”

“It’s Hard for Me To Get Your Pronouns Right”
Pixelshot via canva.com

Respecting people’s pronouns is essential, even if it takes some practice. Instead of shying away from the conversation, take the time to learn about pronouns and practice using them correctly. Show that you are willing to make the effort to ensure everyone feels respected.

A Redditor says, “If you accidentally refer to someone by the wrong pronouns, just correct yourself and move on. Don’t dwell on it; seriously try not to repeat that mistake.”

“How Do You Know You’re Really [Male/Female]?”

“How Do You Know You’re Really [Male/Female]?”
Pixelshot via canva.com
This question invalidates the individual’s self-identified gender. Instead, take the time to listen and understand.

Ask questions to help foster the conversation and learn more about their identity in a positive light. This can make them feel respected, supported, and accepted.

“I Could Tell Immediately”

“I Could Tell Immediately”
Pixelshot via canva.com

This statement objectifies and stereotypes trans people. It’s dismissive and implies that it is easy to determine someone’s gender identity.

Instead of making assumptions about someone’s gender, ask questions or seek resources. This can demonstrate that you are open-minded and supportive.

“What if You Change Your Mind?”

“What if You Change Your Mind?”
Sangiao Photography via canva.com

This question undermines the experience of self-discovery that trans people go through. It implies that someone’s gender identity can change at will and invalidate their experience.

“But You Were So Pretty/Handsome Before”

“But You Were So Pretty/Handsome Before”
LeoPatrizi via canva.com

This implies that they’re no longer attractive after transitioning. It is hurtful and means that their worth is contingent on the gender they were assigned at birth.

“I Don’t Believe In Being Transgender”

“I Don’t Believe In Being Transgender”
Bowie15 via canva.com

Transgender people exist regardless of whether one believes in it or not. This statement is invalidating and dismissive of their lived experiences.

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Author

  • Ephraim Obare

    Ephraim Obare is a versatile member of the Frenz Hub writing team, bringing a rich background in economics to his work. An avid swimmer, reader, and cyclist, Ephraim blends analytical insights with his diverse interests.

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