The Person Inside ... The Gulf Between Us

TAble Setting as Metaphor for Ettiquette
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4 Simple Rules of Gender Etiquette

I learned something important during my transition: How people treat me defines them - not me. If they can't see past their stereotypes, it is they who are limited. Don't follow these guidelines for the sake of others.  Follow them because they make you a better person.
  1. 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.”)
  2. Try not to 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.
  3. 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?)
  4. Be an ally. If you see someone being mistreated, stand up for them. If you see someone standing uncomfortably off to the side, make them feel welcome. Invite them into your circle.

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.




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Tina White

Tina White

Tina White is the Executive Director of the Blue Ridge Pride Center, in Asheville, North Carolina, and a member of the board of directors for the Human Rights Campaign. Tina spent 35 years consulting to and working for global corporations. Her specialty was large-scale business transformation: redesigning companies to pursue new strategies and improve performance. She has since shifted her focus to activism, writing and speaking. She speaks and writes on issues of diversity & inclusion, organization transformation, social justice, and personal identity. Tina is the author of Between Shadow and Sun. She describes her 50-year struggle with gender and her wife's efforts to embrace her revealed identity. She holds an MBA in Strategy, Marketing & Finance from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and an AB in Economics from Princeton University. She and Mary live in Asheville, North Carolina.
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