Etiquette In Gender: Four Tips For Talking To A Transgender Person

Here are some secrets to making sure that THIS is the message you’re sending to trans-folks.
Source: allarewelcomehere.us

I had an experience at work not long ago that will stay with me for some time.

A regular at the welcome center that I work at (a regular according to him; I’m usually to busy to recognize faces) approached me. And while I don’t think he meant any harm in retrospect, he asked me a lot of questions that were kind of creepy and made me feel uncomfortable. So uncomfortable, in fact, that I spent a few minutes when I got home that day shrieking in frustration into my pillow when I was sure no one was around.

So, to help circumvent such awkward moments for transgender and cisgender folks alike, I’d like to highlight a few problem areas in the exchange I had in hopes that people will understand why these particular topics are bothersome to us and hopefully avoid them in the future.

Most transgender folks don’t like being reminded that they are transgender

The issue started with the gentleman correctly assumed that I was transgender because I apparently looked like his sister (telling a woman she looks like your sister is troublesome as well, but a different issue altogether) and she was transgender as well.

Now, I’m an exception to the rule in this case; I typically don’t mind if people ask if I’m trans or not because I see it as an opportunity to educate and inform them about any questions they may have. However, calling attention to it can cause a lot of trans-people to feel singled out and targeted. Bare in mind, ours is a community that has spent the bulk of our time in the mainstream consciousness ducking a lot of hate people that have issues with us. So when someone points out that we’re transgender, our first thoughts tend to be a panicked flurry of, “oh god, does this person have a problem with me? Are they fetishizing me? What do they want?”

Usually, it’s best to just treat them like a human first and let them come out to you once they feel comfortable around you. Remember: nobody likes to be outed against their will.

Don’t ask us for our “real name”

He then proceeded to take note of my nametag and asked me if that was my ‘real name’ and what it was. Being at work, this was the point where I had to bite back on my anger and inform him that I didn’t feel comfortable divulging that kind of info.

The fact of the matter is that the names we use, whether we change them or not, ARE REAL. They’re the names we use to interact with others and that they use in turn. They’re as real as they would ever need to be. Suggesting that our chosen names are aren’t real is a good way unintentionally delegitimize us and our identity. If we change our given names, there’s probably a good reason why we don’t want you knowing them.

Don’t call too much attention to our bodies

One of the things that most often marks me as a trans-woman in public – and the thing that this gentleman keyed on – is my height (6’4″ in flats). This wasn’t too objectionable as many people are quite fond of my height. However, it was when he got to asking me about HRT and surgery that things got a little strange.

As I said, transgender people typically dislike being reminded that they are transgender. And a good way to remind us is to ask us personal details about our bodies. It’s actually really hard to talk about things like Gender Affirmation Surgery or Hormone Replacement without feeling like someone is fetishizing or judging us (our dating profiles are often clogged with messages akin to, “Dick or no dick.”). So, once again, let us be the ones to come to you first instead of just asking us if our boobs are real (seriously, not even cisgender women like that).

But even if this guy was a perfect gentleman about all the above, it wouldn’t have mattered because he broke the number one rule…

Don’t ask people personal questions when they’re on the clock

I’ve noticed that this is a problem that mostly plagues the men that enter my business rather than the women; girls will often wait until I’m out shopping or walking in the park to ask questions and make passes at me (yes, I’ve been flirted with by women as often as – if not more often then men *blush*).  And it’s not like I don’t enjoy the compliments, the attention, or the chance to inform people because I do. It’s just that timing and situation makes all of the difference.

So, I’m going to spell this out to everyone as plainly as possible: Regardless of whether a person is trans, cis, or otherwise, DON’T GET PERSONAL WHILE WE ARE WORKING. We can actually get in a lot of trouble for discussing personal lives on the job. Plus, our responses are very limited due to the level decorum we’re forced to maintain. Waiting until we’re working to ask personal questions or make passes at us has the effect, whether you intend it or not, of making you seem opportunistic and cowardly by forcing us to speak to you in a time and place where we can’t tell you off without being punished for it.

In short, don’t treat us like women, men, or something off the binary; just treat us like people.

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The Agent On ‘Toxic Fandoms’ and How to Keep a Community Positive

I can no longer stand idly by while everything I love is being destroyed!
Source: Amino

So, over the last month, I had to come to terms with a very sad truth – many of the things I love have terrible people that love them too.

It’s one of those facts that you know in your sub-conscious mind; the law of averages just ensures that at least a few undesirables make their way into the flock. But you really don’t think about it until a clutch of them jump out of the woodwork to make you and everyone else look bad.

Over the last month though, I’ve seen a rise in discussions on so-called ‘Toxic Fandoms’ and I won’t lie – it’s actually a little frustrating. So, I just want to give a quick step-by-step guide to how to deal with unsavory elements in the world of entertainment media fans in hopes of quelling the outrage and (admittedly) leveling some criticism on fandoms I consider myself a part of.

Step one: Make sure YOU aren’t part of the problem

I feel a lot of issues could be resolved if more people took a critical eye to themselves. It seems most people aren’t even aware that they might be helping to perpetuate a lot of the negative stereotypes around a fanbase.

Take my beloved Steven Universe for example. You’d think I show that is LITERALLY about love, acceptance and friendship would spawn and attract large scores of similar people – people who believe in respecting the diverse nature of the world and recognizing the value in differing visions and opinions. And for the most part, you would be right…

… Until you get to the kind of  s***lords that go on witch hunts for people they feel aren’t being PC enough and bullied a fan artist until she nearly attempted suicide.

Now, you may not be THAT terrible; in fact, I’m willing to bet most of you probably aren’t. But, are you the sort of person with a knee-jerk reaction perceived bigotry without questioning the context first? Well then, you may be perpetuating the stereotype without even knowing it.

Take some time to reflect on the ‘toxic’ aspects of your fandom, see where you and they are similar and take steps to put distance between the two of you. Not only will this help you identify the problem, but you will better yourself in the process.

Step two: Recognize them as the minority

Let’s state the obvious here because it seems surprisingly easy to forget; these a-holes that are making it hard to enjoy nice things are the exception, not the standard.

If these fandoms – massive as they are – really were full-to-bursting with these kinds of anti-social numbnuts, there would be absolute chaos. In fact, these fanbases likely wouldn’t get as big as they are if people thought there was a legitimate threat.

It’s important to remember that the majority of fans aren’t insufferable douchebags, but normal folks like you and me. Painting the whole fandom with a wide brush like that throws a lot of decent people under the bus that could help you regain the peace.

So remember, they are the minority – a vocal minority just large enough to screw things up for the rest of us, but a minority none the less.

Step three: Ask yourself, “How bad are they, really?”

The old saying goes that, “You need to choose your battles.” So ask yourself honestly, how many ‘toxic fandoms’ are ACTUALLY a problem and not just super annoying?

Are just creepy and weird folks that can be easily ignored like the Cuphead fan artists that draw Rule 34 incest slash art? Or are they legitimately socially disruptive like the Rick and Morty fans that made life miserable for underpaid McDonald’s employees?

If you’re going to start policing fandoms, you need to understand that there’s a line and not all ‘toxic fans’ cross it. Focus your energy on actual problems instead of minor grievances.

Step four: Deny the problem people entry

When you get down to it, fandom is a club. It’s a place where like-minded people can gather to converse with one another and network in a civil manner.

And like any club, occasionally, the bouncer needs to tell a few slimy-looking creeps that they aren’t on the list.

The biggest insult you can lay on a ‘toxic fan’ is the shame of knowing that the rest of the fandom has rejected you – that you so obviously missed the point of your fandom, that they refuse to let you associate them. That’s why I’ve been using the sarcastic air quotes whenever I use the term ‘toxic fandom’ or toxic fan.’ There are no ‘toxic fans.’ There are just people that miss the point of the story or art and make a mockery of real fans through their inexcusable behavior.

If you bully people for not acquiescing to your worldview, you aren’t a ‘toxic Steven Universe fan’ – you’re a narrow-minded jackass so concerned with the cosmetic aspects of bigotry that you fail to see it within yourself.

If you think it’s cool to get belligerent with a clerk because they don’t have what you want, you aren’t a ‘toxic Rick and Morty fan’ – you’re a self-important, entitled brat that thinks the world owes you something just for existing.

So if you see someone claiming to be a fan of something – even if it’s something you don’t particularly care for – acting out in a disgusting manner, don’t be afraid to call them out on their poor behavior. Don’t bully them into submission, but make it clear that they aren’t welcome here and don’t deserve to associate with you until they shape up and start acting like an adult. Remember, there are no ‘toxic fandoms’ – only terrible, ill-tempered, and reprehensible human beings that the world can do without.