I was in some awkward social situations this weekend and thought I'd post a little something about trans-etiquette...
Pronouns: Using the preferred pronoun for a trans person is a must – it shows acceptance and respect. It is generally okay to ask a trans person, respectfully, what pronouns he/she uses if it’s not obvious. People are normally very appreciative of this gesture. The standard rule is to use the pronoun of the gender the person is presenting (how they appear to be dressing).
Pronoun Slips: Everyone slips up. Though, these mistakes can be handled easily. If the wrong name or pronoun slips out when speaking one-on-one with a trans person, the best response is usually: “I’m sorry. I’m meant (pronoun/name).” Then move on. When in the company of others, especially those who don’t know that the person is trans, it is best to let the mistake go and use the correct pronoun/name then next time it arises. Most people won’t notice a slip up in a large group, though drawing attention to the mistake can make things worse. Continuous apologies are uncomfortable for everyone and make the trans person the center of attention.
Drawing Attention: Perchance you are doing business or interacting with a stranger who appears to be trans and you’d like to express your support for their trans identity. The most supportive thing you can do is nothing at all. Like stated previously drawing attention to a certain situation can make things uncomfortable. If the person is obviously trans, he/she is usually aware that it’s obvious to others and will appreciate the signs of respect and acceptance that go with a normal interaction.
Forbidden Question #1: NEVER ask a trans person this question: “Have you had the operation?” The question is synonymous with “Are you done?” Both of these assume an incompleteness, a partial human being. There is no such thing as the operation; trans people all evolve differently, some going through operations and others never desiring any. This question many times is also a reference to genital surgery. If this is something one wants to know, the question needs to be asked directly. The person asking also needs to consider whether he or she would ask a non-trans person about genitalia in the same situation.
Forbidden Question #2: NEVER ask a trans person this question: “Why did you do it?” This question assumes that there are a multitude of reasons (why they transitioned) that have nothing to do with gender incongruity, or that the trans person thought that living as the opposite sex would be fun or interesting. Trans people transition because they need to resolve gender issues that have no other resolution. The majority of trans people transition because they will otherwise die or live such a miserable life that it would be like death. Trans people transition to live.