I learned something important during my transition: How people treat me defines them – not me. If they can’t see past your stereotypes, it is they who are limited. Don’t just follow these guidelines for our sake. Follow them because they make you a better person.
- Treat us as we present ourselves. A transsexual woman is a woman. A transsexual man is a man. She is “she”. He is “he”. If you use the wrong pronoun, don’t get stressed. It happens. But don’t let it pass. Being referred to by the wrong pronoun is painful. A simple acknowledgement can turn our day around. (“I’m sorry Ma’am. I was focusing on taking your order. By the way, that’s a pretty dress.”)
- Don’t stereotype. Treat us as individuals. We are as diverse as any other demographic group. A group of us is as likely to differ on politics, lifestyle, and values as any other random selection of men or women. Imagine if someone asked you: What is like being Puerto Rican? How does an African American think? Like you, we are so much more than our gender.
- Don’t assume that we want to discuss our gender. While some of us are quite willing to discuss our journey, others want nothing more than to put that aspect of their lives behind them. Find a discrete way to test our feelings before asking personal questions. If you do ask questions, try to do so in a way that affirms who we are (avoid: Do you miss being a man? better: What do you enjoy most about being a woman?)
- Be an ally. If you see one of us being mistreated, stand up for us! If you see one of us standing off to the side, make us feel welcome. Invite us to your barbecues and parties. We are pretty interesting people!
If you look again, you will see that these guidelines – with slight rewording – can be applied to anyone you meet who is different from you. These aren’t rules of transgender etiquette. They are rules for civil behavior in a wonderfully diverse world.