Transgender people are increasingly making their way into mainstream society. There’s been the highly public transition of Caitlyn Jenner, Laverne Cox’s role in Orange is the New Black and much more. Yet, despite all this, there’s also a general ignorance of what transgender people are like and how to relate to them. With that in mind we bring you things everybody should know about transgender people but don’t:
Gender Roles Are Not Binary
There’s an assumption that transgender means somebody transitioning from male to female or indeed from female to male. This isn’t the case. “Trans” simply means “across” and the term transgender is thus “across gender”. There are many different varieties of trans people and it’s not a good idea to stereotype anybody’s identity just because of this label.
Gender Isn’t Always Conveyed by the Way Someone Looks or Their Name
You can’t make judgments about someone’s gender identity based on the way they dress or indeed by their name alone. It’s best to use gender neutral pronouns “they/them” until such a point as you feel comfortable asking how somebody would prefer to be spoken to/about. If you don’t feel confident enough to ask – try and pick up on clues that are presented in conversation; it shouldn’t take long to work it out.
Trans-women Aren’t Drag Queens
A drag queen is, usually, a gay man who dresses up to entertain people. A transvestite is a man who likes to wear women’s clothing. A trans-woman is someone who was born in a male body but feels they should have been born in a female body (at least this is generally true in the West, in other cultures – this may not be the case). It’s important not to confuse a trans-woman with a drag queen; it’s a hurtful way to talk to a trans-woman.
Not All Trans People Are The Same
Each trans person is a unique individual. They may or they may not share parts of their beliefs, identities, etc. with others but there’s no way to tell how someone feels about their life without speaking to them about it. Making assumptions is a bad idea and can lead to hurting someone’s feelings without trying.
Not Every Trans-Person Will Have Surgery
In fact, not every trans-person even wants surgery. Some do want surgery and can’t afford it. Others reject the idea completely. Still others understand that it’s an incredibly complex and demanding thing to do to their bodies and they aren’t sure whether or not they want to go through with that. It’s rude to walk up to anyone and ask them about their genitals, so please don’t ask about surgery until you have a strong enough relationship with a trans-person. If a trans-person doesn’t want to discuss it with you – it’s polite and respectful to respect their wishes and change the conversation to something less intrusive.
There is No “Trans Community”
While some people may claim that there is – they’re wrong. Communities are things that evolve among willing participants. Not every trans person wants to be a poster child for their identity. Many trans people choose to live their lives apart from other trans people. Sure, you may find that groups of trans people gravitate together to share experiences and even advice but that doesn’t mean that individual group is the “trans community” either. It’s worth remembering that because not all trans people are the same – many trans people will have different, sometimes very different, views on other trans people and in fact just about everything else.
We Don’t Know How Many Trans People There Are
Census data is often an easy route to determining how many people of a specific type there are. Unfortunately, as the vast majority of global censuses neglect to ask questions about trans-identity there are no reliable indicators as to how many trans people there are in the population at large. There are estimates from 0.3% to 1% but they’re simply guesses. Until there’s a better form of statistical monitoring – we’ll never know for sure.
Transphobia Has Serious Consequences
It’s hard to be different and everybody at some point in their lives knows this as a personal truth. For trans people it’s harder still because your core identity isn’t something you can switch on and off like a lightbulb. Sadly, transphobia (the common term for discrimination against trans people) has some serious implications. Transgender people are 25 times more likely to attempt suicide compared to the rest of the population. 4 in 5 trans people say they’ve been bullied, attacked, refused work or experienced some other kind of discrimination in general and 9 in 10 say they’ve experience such treatment at work.
Trans Doesn’t Mean Gay
There are gay and lesbian and bisexual transgender people. However, there as a percentage there are no more gay, lesbian and bisexual transgender people than there are in the rest of the population. The majority of trans people, in the West, consider themselves to be heterosexual. In short someone’s gender identity and sexual identity are often separate for that person. So a transgender man in a relationship with another man, for example, may not consider themselves to be gay or they may not consider themselves to be straight.
Trans People Are Not Another Species
You have more in common with transgender folks than you might think. If you can ignore someone’s gender identity for two seconds you’ll find that transgender people are exactly like you. They’re people who love and care for their friends and families. They watch TV and eat in restaurants. Of course, just like all people – they’re all unique and you’ll find that while some trans folk love to do something, many others probably don’t. Just like you and your friends. By the way, transgender people sometimes refer to people whose gender identity tallies with their birth identity as cisgender which just means the opposite of transgender – it’s not an insult and shouldn’t be taken as one.