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9 Things Not To Say To A Trans Person

9 Things Not To Say To A Trans Person

Sixty-two percent of trans people experience transphobia in public spaces. These are some things not to say to a trans person to avoid being offensive.

Sixty-two percent of trans people experience transphobia in public spaces; your unintentional words just add to their problems.  What is not okay to say to a trans person? I’m here to answer that and to correct the word vomit that people unknowingly spew from their mouths. So keep reading to learn some of the things not to say to a trans person.

1. “When did you decide to switch genders?”

Families are generally the worst when it comes to ‘coming out’ because they ask ‘When did you decide to switch genders?’ Being trans isn’t a choice; I never woke up one day and said ‘I’m gonna be a man now!’  You don’t decide what your gender is; you figure it out along the road. Some get there faster, but no matter how long it takes, your gender is still valid. For me, it was like everything suddenly clicked into place and so many things made sense.

Another family hit is ‘I’ll always see you as (insert gender here)’, which is just a whole other level of offensiveness. That says that you aren’t accepting them as the gender they are, and that’s not fair. It’s not even just family; friends say this stuff as well. Saying that you only see them as their ‘past gender’ just means you have never seen them for who they are in the first place and that you need to stop living in the past.


2. “Have you had the surgery yet?”

Most of the things that are offensively said are generally said by stupidly curious people. They say the dumbest and most invasive things that you could think off. Someone actually asked me ‘Have you had the surgery yet?’ Ridiculous, right? Firstly, the surgery is a choice and whether we’ve had it or not is none of your business. And it’s the way they say ‘the surgery’ which makes it worse because it makes it sound like it’s a new fashion trend. They make it sound like something that needs at trademark at the end of it.

3. “What you got down there?”

You would think that we would get some privacy in our lives, but then we get people who ask ‘What you got down there?’ while non-discreetly looking and nodding at the crotch region. Why does that even matter? Knowing what’s in someone’s pants isn’t exactly going to change their gender; you wouldn’t ask that to a cis gendered person (someone who recognises as their birth gender), so we expect the same courtesy. And for some reason people can get offended if they didn’t know we were trans, especially if they showed a romantic interest in us. They get annoyed that we didn’t announce the fact we’re trans when that’s nobodies business. Did we get annoyed when we found out you were cis? No, because we know whether somebody is trans or not doesn’t matter.

4. “Can’t I just use your old pronouns?”

Then there are the people who don’t even respect you, let alone your boundaries.  They’ll most likely say something along the lines of ‘Can’t I just use your old pronouns?’  However, if they don’t respect your pronouns then they don’t respect you.  Some people even refuse to use neutral pronouns (they/them or it/its etc.) because they think it’s confusing and that they don’t know how many people they’re talking about. It really isn’t that hard to use neutral pronouns, if you don’t know someone’s gender then you would neutralise the pronouns to not insult them. Most Pokémon don’t have genders so neutral pronouns were used with them.  And it’s always pretty obvious that you’re talking about one person.


5. “OMG that’s so cool!/ You must be so brave!”

The most common reaction I generally get out of people is ‘OMG that’s so cool!/ You must be so brave!’ or something along the lines of that. We get that you just want to show you’re okay with a trans person, but we are still people. I don’t get excited when I get introduced to a cis person because that’s just weird; they’re a normal person and so are we. There’s nothing ‘cool’ about us (some are cool but that’s their personality) and sure we can be considered brave because ‘coming out’ is a hard process and what many people don’t seem to understand is that we come out multiple times.  We have to tell people on a regular basis and that’s only after we know it’s safe. But it’s the action that’s brave, not who we are. It’s nice to see the support but don’t treat us like a different person because of who we are.

One time I made a new friend and she introduced me as her ‘trans friend’. Why she labeled me, I didn’t know, but it was insulting. Why do I need to be the ‘trans friend’, can’t I just be the ‘friend’? What’s wrong with wanting that? Plus she outed me to someone I may not have wanted to be out too. You need to have someone’s permission before you can tell others about their sexual orientation or their gender.

6. “You look just like a (insert gender here)”

Next is the person who likes to point out your appearance; they can say ‘You look just like a (Insert gender here)’. I can’t say this for all trans people, but not all of us like people pointing out what gender we look like. It draws attention to it and you may mean well by complimenting us, but you don’t have to say it out loud. But you could also be saying that we don’t look like the genders we recognise as. Clothes do not hold genders; a boy could wear a skirt but he is still a boy.


Another way this can go is ‘Why don’t you try harder?’ I never understood what they wanted me to try harder at. Just let people wear what they are comfortable with. I’m trans male and for a while I couldn’t afford to get a chest binder because those things are expensive. So people judged me for ‘not looking the part’; and this is the case for other trans people. ‘Looking the part’ can be expensive or that person’s home life isn’t that great. Not all parents are supportive of their trans children and they don’t let them have the freedom with their clothing choices like others have. I was lucky to have parents who didn’t really care about the way I looked, but others aren’t so lucky.

7. “So, you’re gay then?”

What does that even mean? If someone is trans female and she’s heterosexual that does not make her gay because she’s a woman attracted to a man. She might be MAAB (Male Assigned At Birth) but she is still a woman and if she’s heterosexual then that’s it. This occurs to all the genders; the gender that you were assigned with at birth does not link into your sexuality. The same goes for when someone says ‘Why can’t you just be gay?’

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First of all, I would like to say that trans people can be bisexual, pansexual, asexual, demisexual or any other sexuality; and if you don’t know the meanings of these sexualities then google them. If you’re trans it isn’t easier to ‘just be gay’, it’s hard to hide who you are just so you don’t offend someone. And being told to ‘just be gay’ means that you want us to hide who we are.

8. “Sorry!”

One of the most common things I have come across is the apology; it’s not as offensive as the others, but it’s still annoying. This is when someone will get your name/pronouns wrong and say ‘sorry’ a million times afterwards. We appreciate the fact that you actually want to apologise and that you recognise that you got something wrong, but don’t draw attention to it. My old English teacher got my pronouns wrong once and he wouldn’t stop apologising for it, even after I said it was fine. What made it worse was that everyone in the class was looking at me; it was horrible.

We are normal people, we are perfectly capable of handling someone getting our name/pronouns wrong because you are definitely not the first person and you most certainly won’t be the last to do so. Instead of a million apologies, maybe you should just correct yourself, and say something like ‘That’s what she… sorry, they said.’ It’s simple, right? What we appreciate the most is a correction because we understand that people have the occasional slip of the tongues.


Now, I understand that not all things that are said to us is offensive. If someone gets our name or pronouns wrong when they first meet us and they didn’t know, then that’s not their fault. We just need to correct them. If we don’t then we can’t get offended because we never corrected them. But if we did correct them and they still use the wrong name or pronouns, then that’s not our fault.

9. “What’s your real name?”

Lastly, we have a ‘real’ name. This generally occurs after someone finds out that your trans and when you tell them your name, they stupidly ask for your ‘real’ name. This is probably the most annoying thing to say to a trans person because the name they just gave you is their real name. You might mean the name that they were given at birth, but that’s still not their real name; their name is the one that they give you. I’ve just never understood why people want to know a name that isn’t even mine, it’s not like I’ll respond if you use it. It’s like calling someone called Alfie, Robert; it’s rude to change someone’s name.

So, the moral of the story is to think before you speak. These are a few of the things not to say to a trans person, because these things are simply offensive. Let me know what you thought of the article in the comment section down below!
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