5 Tips on How to Not Be Fucked Up and Transphobic When you Talk About People: A Brief Guide for Cis* People
Posted December 9, 2009on:
-by Tim (formerly of DC SDS)-
1. the contrast to trans on the gender spectrum
2. someone who lives and identifies as the sex they were assigned at birth
1. Ask EVERYONE which pronouns they use, and actually commit yourself to using them. Please please please stop only asking people who look “gender-variant” enough about their pronouns. First of all, we (shockingly) don’t like always being singled out in groups for our gender presentation. Secondly, you can’t tell people’s gender identities by looking at them. We should be building a radical culture where everyone can have their identities respected, and making questions about pronouns a habit for everyone makes it much easier for that to take shape, rather than trans and genderqueer people having to feel the pressure of constantly outing themselves every time they meet a new persyn.
2. Stop saying “male-bodied” and “female-bodied.” Seriously though, I don’t know how this became standard protocol for radicals, but it’s incredibly problematic. Firstly, what do these terms even mean? What parts does a body need to be male, and what parts does it need to be female? Simply put, there’s no way of defining what a male or female body is, since both sex and gender are social constructs. And there are plenty of others who see themselves as having neither a “male” nor a “female” body. So when you use these terms, you’re identifying people based on their bodies and body parts you may assume them to have and assume that said body parts are at all related to their sex or gender.
3. Stop saying “male-identified” and “female-identified.” Well if you’re not supposed to judge people based on their bodies, then you should probably ask people how they identify. However, people often fall into the trap of then referring to trans/genderqueer people they know as “male-identified” and “female-identified,” rather than “man” and “woman.” Such language implies that cis people are “men” and “women,” but trans people are somehow less authentically gendered, and are only “male-identified” and “female-identified.” In somewhat the same vein, I’ve heard radicals say things like “He/She identifies are genderqueer,” a pronoun failure which in context signifies the same thing that “male-identified” and “female-identifies” often do: you may identify as a certain gender, but that doesn’t mean I have to treat you like that gender. So please, use “man,” “woman,” and “genderqueer persyn” rather than adding “-identified,” it’s already implied!
4. Stop “third-gendering” trans people. Trying to be trans-inclusive and say “men, women, and transgender people”? Please, stop. A lot of trans people identify as men and women. When you make a gendered list like that, it makes it seems like all trans people belong some “third gender” category and cannot then, be “authentic” men and women. Now, it would be nice for you to include genderqueer/gender non-conforming people in this list (“men, women, and genderqueer people”), but that is a more specific subset the trans community and we need to have that specific language so we don’t reduce all trans people’s experiences as uniform.
5. “Trans” is an adjective; consequently it requires a space between itself and the word it’s modifying. This is in reference to numerous people writing things that include words like “transfolk,” “transwoman,” and “transman.” This goes back to the discussion of “third-gendering” as well. Connecting “trans” to the word it’s modifying makes a “transperson” something distinct from a regular “person” You probably wouldn’t say “whiteman” or “wealthywoman,” so don’t use “transfolk,” “transwoman,” or any variant thereof.