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Author Topic: Transgender Respect / Etiquette Training (Tell me what you think?)  (Read 1345 times)

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Offline Mouse

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Transgender Respect / Etiquette Training (Tell me what you think?)
« on: September 21, 2008, 03:49:59 PM »
Okay, so, here's the outline of what I'm going to discuss tomorrow night and I was just hoping for some quick feedback. I guess read as though I'm educating all of you guys'n stuff. So ask ANY questions or clarifications on anything so that I can make it easier to understand.

Thank you!


I'd like to start off by clarifying what some words and terms mean. That way if they pop up in discussion you'll know what I'm talking about.

I might write them on the board so people can see them, but I don't want to seem too lecture-y. What do you guys think? Here's what I want to bring up:

Crossdresser - Someone who (regardless of motivation) wears clothes, makeup, etc that are considered by the culture to be appropriate for the opposite gender.

Drag - Wearing clothes considered appropriate for the opposite gender.

Drag King / Drag Queen - A woman who dresses up like a man or a man who dresses up like a woman for purely entertainment purposes.

FTM/F2M/Female-To-Male - A transsexual man. Some people don't like this terminology because they feel they have always been men regardless of their bodies and they are only just now making that identity visible.

Gender - the social construction of masculinity and femininity in a specific culture.

Gender Expression - how someone chooses to express one's gender identity to others.

Gender Identity - how someone feels on the inside in regards to being male, female or something else. Not always visible to others.

Genderqueer - someone who does not identify as male or female or may identify as both.

Intersex - a person who is born with chromosomes, genitalia or internal reproductive system that is not considered 'standard' for either a male or a female.

MTF / M2F / Male-to-female - a transsexual woman. Some reject the terminology because they feel they have always been women on the inside, etc.

Sexual Orientation - Who you are attracted to, regardless of your identity. Some male-to-female people are attracted to other women and identify as lesbians. That's perfectly normal. I'm a female-to-male person and I am attracted to other men and identify as gay.

SRS - surgical procedures that change one's body to conform to a person's gender identity. They may include 'top surgery' (breast augmentation or removal), 'bottom surgery' (altering genitals). There are MANY diferent kinds of surgeries that may be undertaken to transition. There is NO SUCH THING as a 'sex change operation' or one magical surgery that changes someone's sex.

Trans / Transgender - an umbrella term for someone whose self-identification or expression goes against what is expected for their birth sex.
- Transsexuals, crossdressers, drag queens/kings, genderqueers, etc.

Transsexual - a person whose gender identity is different from their assigned sex at birth. Transsexuals often undergo hormone treatments and SRS but not all want to or can afford to do so.


Now some basic issues.

The most important thing I can stress is to respect everyone's identity. Call everyone by their preferred names and pronouns. Use language and behavior that is appropriate to their identity. Do this for EVERYONE, ALL the time, no matter how much you think they deviate from what a "real man" or "real woman" should be.

It's hard and dangerous to change your name and pronouns. Know that it took a lot of courage for this person to let you know who they really are. Be honored. It may seem hard or silly to you but it's a matter of life or death to us.

If you don't know what pronouns or gender-labels to use just ask them. Politely and respectfully. (What are some polite ways to ask? Suggestions: 'What pronoun do you prefer?" "How do you like to be referred to, in terms of gender?")

If you misrecognize someone's gender, it's okay, don't freak out. Apologize once and get it right the next time.

Invasive Questions.

You don't have ANY right to known anything about a person's medical information or anatomy unless they decide to share it with you. This means don't ask about:
their genitals
their surgeries
the effects of hormones, etc.

Don't ask if they have a penis or a vagina. Would you ask a non-trans person that?


Transphobia functions in a really different way than homophobia. Being out is not necessarily desirable or possible for a trans person. Being a good ally means supporting a trans person's decision either way. There are many situations where being 'out' could have serious negative repercussions: transpeople are killed every year just because other people find out they're trans. Revealing someone's status as a trans person could cost them a job, a relationship or their physical safety.

Many trans people are perceived 100 percent of the time as their preferred gender and have no desire to be 'out' as trans. There's absolutely NOTHING wrong with this. If you know someone who is private about their trans experience, respect that.

Some of us express our gender in different ways in different parts of our lives. Some may not be able to be out at work, but are out around friends.

Think about why you would out someone in the first place. Are you doing this for their benefit or for your own personal reasons?

Don't ask us if we are SURE or remind us that our transition is irreversible and that we may regret our changes. We have been thinking about this LONG before we've mentioned anything to you. We are aware of the consequences.

Don't tell us how you liked us (or certain things about us) better before we transitioned.

Don't tell us how hard this is for you or how uncomfortable we make you. However challenging it may feel to you, it's much harder to live as a trans person.

Don't judge our ability to be seen as male or female. For example, don't say: "Maybe if you did ____, or didn't do ____, you'd pass better, and we would be able to accept your gender better." You should respect a person's identify regardless of how they appear or act. Our passing is usually a result of money and genetics, not desire or determination.

As allies, it's most important to recognize that trans people face may struggles you may not have realized. Many organizations tote themselves as 'LGBT' organizations and have absolutely NO trans resources or may not even realize what the 'T' stands for.

You should always interrupt transphobic behavior when it happens. For example, correcting other people when they refer to someone by the wrong pronoun.

This also means defending your trans friends against violence. Violence against transgender people can be especially horrific. In 1997 in Washington DC a transsexual woman named Tyra Hunter was fatally injured in an auto accident. Paramedics at first refused to treat her after they discovered she had male genitalia, laughing and mocking her as she lay dying.

In December 1993, an FTM named Brandon Teena was raped by two men who discovered he was born female. Brandon reported the rape to the local sheriff who refused to investigate, dismissing him with the comment, "What are you, anyway?"

Later, the same two men whom the sheriff refused to arrest for the rape murdered Brandon and two of his friends.

For more information on the cost of anti-transgender violence, you can visit 'Remembering Our Dead" at www.gender.org/remember - an online memorial to transgender men and women.

In addition, at least 35 percent of transgender people have thought seriously about suicide and about 16 to 32 percent have attempted suicide (Xavier, 2000; Clements, et. al., 1998)

Trans communities experience up to 60 percent of unemployment (Transgender Law Center & S.F. Bay Guardian, 2006).

Among non-trans people, an estimate 7 percent of men and 22 percent of women hav ebeen raped in their lifetime (MDPH, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survery, 2003). One study of trans people found that 55 percent of FTMs and 68 percent of MTFs had been raped at least once (Clements, et. al., 1998). Averaged across gender, this means that trans people are FOUR TIMES as likely as non-trans people to experience sexual assault.

I have some activities and stuff planned out. In the beginning I plan on opening with a Boy/Girl game where I chalk up two columns (Boy/Girl) on the board and ask people to list traits underneath each that embody or are associated with each. Then I'll go through them and through discussion cross them off as each one is disproved. (For example, 'penis' under the 'boy' column - you do not suddenly stop being a boy if you lose your penis in an accident, etc).

And then at the end plan on finishing up by passing around index cards and inviting everyone to ask anything they want on the index card or asking it outloud if they feel comfortable, this way no one feels as though they are drawing attention to themselves if they are afraid of asking a question.

Comments/criticism? Obviously this is just an outline of what will be discussed and it'll be more conversational and interactive when I'm actually having the talk.


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