Why Being Transgender Can Be So "Awkward"

Photographed by Stephanie Gonot.
In a TED Talk speech filmed earlier this year, speaker Jackson Bird opened up about why it can be so "awkward" to be transgender — namely because of how other people in your life act around you.
In his speech, Bird highlights all the thoughts that might go through someone's mind when they find out that he's transgender: "Transgender... wait, does that mean that they're actually a man, or actually a woman?"
"I wonder if he's had the surgery yet — oh now I'm looking at his crotch, look to the right, that's a safe place to look."
"Yes! I knew it. No real man has hips like those."
You get the point. But Bird isn't necessarily shutting people down for wondering these things — rather, he's illustrating why this can make it so "awkward to be transgender."
"Being trans is awkward," he says. "And not just because the gender I was assigned at birth mismatches the one I really am. Being trans is awkward because everyone else gets awkward when they're around me."
The awkwardness, he says, can come from well-meaning people who are just afraid that they'll say the wrong thing, or that they don't know something that they think they should. And in the middle of that anxiety, they never actually ask questions.
Bird says that coming out as trans means that you never stop coming out, and you keep having to educate people about what it means to be trans.
The whole video is worth a watch, but especially for what Bird says about how often trans people are still misunderstood — and what we can do about that.
"As soon as [a trans person] tells you their new name and pronouns, that's when you start using them," he says.
While it can be difficult to make a change, and we might make mistakes, "If we apologize profusely when we’ve used the wrong gender pronoun for someone’s pet cat, I think we can make the same effort for the real humans in our lives."
Watch the entire video above and follow Bird on Twitter here.
Gender and sexual orientation are both highly personal and constantly evolving. So, in honor of Transgender Awareness Week, we're talking about the importance of language and raising the voices of the LGBTQIA community. Welcome to Gender Nation, where gender is defined by the people who live it. Want to learn more? Check out our Gender Nation glossary.
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