I love you, I really do but having some of you around is like trying to explain your elderly pet.
“Ignore those growls, he’s really sweet once you get to know him. DON’T LEAVE THAT ON THE FLOOR! Sorry, he’s slightly incontinent and pees on hats. It’s not wool, is it?”
I’m going to write a few suggestions. Please read and share with your cis friends. The more people you reach, the less “those cishets” comments I get to read. And more importantly, the less vulnerable and depressed friends I need to reassure about their gender. This is very important because I’ve got a few friends who are really damn suicidal.
My first suggestion is to read my handy Introductory Guide to Trans (written from a cis point of view). You can read anything informative that you find, I just happen to have mine handy (and it explains what cis means). My second suggestion is to follow this easy list.
- Please don’t use elementary school knowledge to define someone else’s gender. Seriously, this is the only time people use childhood knowledge as proof. We don’t walk around saying, “Well Miss Smarty Pants! You say you have grey eyes but I learned in kindergarten that we have blue, brown, or green eyes. It’s basic knowledge!” or “You say the heart has four chambers and rounded edges but my four year old draws it with two bumps and a point. Plus it only has two chambers… if you fold it in half! What do you say about that Mister Cardiologist?” Gender is complex and only now just being understood. If your knowledge is from elementary school and secondary school, trust that you don’t know it all. Accept people’s knowledge of their gender to be correct instead of what you barely remember from grade nine biology.
- Don’t ask people about their genitals. At all. Ever. If you’re crawling into bed, you’ll find out soon enough. There’s a limited amount of variety and you’re either going to get a vulva (which I think looks a lot like Cluthu’s less cute cousin), a penis (which looks like a drunk with bad drawing skills sketched an elephant), or something in between. It’s not a surprise. It’s not like your bed partner is going to pull down their pants and, wow, there’s that pony you wanted for Christmas when you were four.
- No questions about surgery either. C’mon, it’s shocking if I mention I’ll probably need a hysterectomy, which means it should be equally shocking to ask anyone if they’re having top or bottom surgery. And they’re not chopping off their penis or breasts. If you’re that curious just google. Google doesn’t care what you search.
- Bathrooms. Here, in North America (as with most of the world) we have these magical devices called doors. We’re not peeing in a trough with everyone beside us… at least us girls aren’t. Quite frankly, I don’t care if the woman beside me has a full beard as long as she feels safe going into the stall beside me. And, for the transphobes, I just saw a woman yesterday feeding her baby while sporting a fine, full growth of 5 o’clock shadow. You cannot tell if a woman is trans. You can assume but you can’t tell. Don’t harass people going in to pee, don’t claim you’re doing so to protect “the girls”. I can assure you that every single trans woman I know would end up beating the crap out of someone abusing a kid in the washroom. My cis friends would too.
- No arguing with people about their gender. It’s their body and their mind. They know their gender better than you. That includes people who currently have no real idea what their gender is. I assure you that the person you disagree with does, in fact, possess at least one mirror and has knowledge of what their genitals look and feel like. There is nothing you can say about their gender which would be a surprise. It’s not like you’re going to say, “You’re a girl” and they’re going to say, “Wow, I never noticed that vulva before. You’re right!” They can sort out their gender without your input. All that’s needed is some back up support.
- Do not out anyone without their permission! You have friends, not trans friends to make you look cool and trendy. They’re people, not Pokemon critters. And, as people, they deserve the right to privacy. Introduce people by their names, not their genitals. This is my friend Sarah, she was my friend in high school and played the tuba. Not, this is my friend Sarah. She was Freddie in high school and played the tuba.This ‘no outing’ goes for anyone who’s LGBTQ or anyone with a secret. You don’t decide when the secret is shared. Not your secret, not your choice.
- Make friends with people, not their gender. Your trans friends are friends, not collectibles. If you’re not talking about their relationships, chocolate, coffee, jobs (or lack thereof), pets, lack of interest in doing the laundry, etc then are you really friends?
Jeremy had a friend over last week who shared her cold with us and this list is ending now so I can go for a popsicle run. I have the sweetest picture of Jeremy curled up in my bed while hugging zir cellphone but I’d like to live to see 47 years old so you’ll all have to live without it. Be kind, no staring, and no peeing on hats (metaphorical or otherwise).