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15 Things You Should Never Say To A Trans Or Gender-Nonconforming Person

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    Imagine if, upon meeting you for the first time, an acquaintance started questioning the intimate details of your life. You’ve barely said "Hello," and this person is on to asking how you have sex, what your genitals look like, and whether or not your family hates you?

    Unfortunately, this is a common experience for those who are transgender or gender-nonconforming. There is still a ton of misunderstanding around non-binary identities, which leads to some very stressful daily interactions for trans and GNC folks. (Don’t even get me started on pronouns!)

    Don’t want to be part of the problem? The first step in being an ally to the trans and GNC community is doing some homework. To help you do your part, we’ve put together 15 things you should never say to someone trans or GNC. Here are a few basic definitions to start you off:

    Transgender (or trans) is an umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from what is typically associated with the sex they were assigned at birth.

    Gender-Nonconforming (GNC) describes some people whose gender expression is different from conventional expectations of masculinity and femininity.

    Cisgender (or cis) is a term for people who are not transgender.

    The gender binary is a socially defined code of acceptable behaviors which classifies gender into two distinct, opposite, and disconnected forms of masculine and feminine.

    The gap between what we learned in sex ed and what we're learning through sexual experience is big — way too big. So we're helping to connect those dots by talking about the realities of sex, from how it's done to how to make sure it's consensual, safe, healthy, and pleasurable all at once. Check out more
    here.


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    Most people don’t have just one moment when they realized what their gender was. It’s something that happened gradually, a sum total of their life experiences to date, and may still be evolving now. It works the same if you’re trans or gender-nonconforming. And though we’ve all dreamed of Labyrinth-era David Bowie looking into his crystal ball and giving us an identity epiphany, life disappoints.

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    In other words, Can I remind you of a time in your life when you were unhappy and not yourself? Often, bringing up the past can cause distress to trans and GNC individuals (like most trauma survivors). Keep the conversation current, and honor your acquaintance’s self-expression. Curiosity is not an excuse for voyeurism.

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    Actually, non-binary gender expression is not a new thing. Gender expansiveness has a long history in many communities around the world, including two-spirits in Native American culture and fa'afafine in Samoa and New Zealand. These identities are not only deeply spiritual, they also pre-date Shiloh Jolie-Pitt by more than a century.

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    For trans and GNC people, shifting their identity is not something taken lightly. Living their true gender exposes them to a disproportionately high amount of violence and harassment, and yet is often the only option for living authentically. Implying that someone has made this life-altering decision to be "cool" erases the fact that it is a survival necessity.

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    Trans and GNC people may adopt new pronouns, and some folks use pronouns outside of the traditional gender binary (like ze or zir). Using someone’s chosen pronouns is an essential way to show that you respect them.

    Often, there is an adjustment period, and you will make mistakes. That’s okay! Just correct yourself, move on, and don’t make it about you. Committing to using your trans/GNC acquaintances’ preferred pronouns is a meaningful and critical act of support.

    One last note here: Never assume pronouns! It is always better to ask first. For bonus points, include your own pronouns in your introductions as well.