We have seen the Bruce Jenner of Olympic glory, and we have seen the Bruce Jenner who told Diane Sawyer he was a woman. We have some questions.
Namely, how are we supposed to talk about this? For those of us who support Jenner and other transgender individuals, how do we discuss this in a way that’s respectful? It is estimated that that around .3 percent of the population (700,000 Americans) identifies as transgender, so maybe you’ll never cross paths with a transgender individual. Then again, maybe you will.
We talked to Dr. Scout, a federal government LGBTQ health trainer and the director of LGBT HealthLink. (Yeah, it’s just Dr. Scout. No first name, in case you were wondering.) “Don’t bother memorizing terminology – everyone can smell good intentions,” he said.
Instead, Dr. Scout shared these tips and answered a few questions for the discerning gentleman who wishes to discuss transgender issues.
WHAT EXACTLY DOES TRANSGENDER MEAN?
It’s a determinate feeling that your gender does not match the sex you were assigned at birth. Transgender is a gender identity and has no relation (necessarily) to who you go to bed with.
GENDER IDENTITY IS DIFFERENT TO SEXUAL ORIENTATION IN WHAT WAY?
Sexual orientation indicates whom you partner with. Gender identity indicates whom you are inside. Everyone has a sexual orientation – lesbian, gay, bisexual, straight and more – and a gender identity – cisgender, transgender and more.
SOMEONE TELLS ME THEY ARE TRANS, WHAT DO I SAY?
If someone announces they are trans, just thank them for being so honest.
GIVE ME A PRONOUN TO USE, PLEASE.
Just ask. Even if you don’t get it right, apologize quickly and move on.
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN TRANSGENDER AND TRANSEXUAL?
Transexual, an older term, is the preferred term by some who have changed, or want to change, their bodies through medical interventions.
On the other hand, transgender, which is only ever used as an adjective, is more of an umbrella term for people whose gender identity or way expressing it differs from the sex they were assigned at birth, or people who don’t identity as male or female – a third gender.
IS THERE NECESSARILY SURGERY INVOLVED?
Some choose to have surgeries, and others cannot afford the surgeries. A discerning gentleman doesn’t discuss unmentionables in polite conversation. A person’s private parts have nothing to do with their gender identity.
ANY OTHER IDENTITY NAMES I SHOULD BE USING?
Echo back terminology that a trans person uses. That is the best way to respect them. Supportively you can also say to others “I’m pleased to say my Aunt Sheila is now my Uncle Robert.”
WHAT ELSE SHOULD I DO?
Welcome us ferociously. Don’t be silent. Stand up for our rights whenever you can. Educate yourself on whether your state/school/hospital protects trans rights. Fight for it if it doesn’t.
If you serve people in any way, put out some signal that you’re welcoming: maybe a rainbow flag. If you have a trans youth in your life, reach out to support them, as you might be a lifeline for them. Support groups are always helpful. Check out the LGBT CenterLink. The Trans Lifeline is (877) 565-8860.