What Not To Say to a Trans Person

we have some questions

It’s an odd thing, I know, hearing that someone you’ve always known as male or female has decided to flip the script and now wants you to refer to them in other ways.

It’s an odd thing, I know, when you’ve grown up in a binary world – which we all have – and now you have to come to grips with people who do not fit into those two binary slots. Which the vast majority of humans do not.

I know it’s an odd thing, an uncomfortable thing for some, and I can imagine for a lot of us it’s difficult to know what to say. So mostly we don’t say anything. At least that’s been my experience.

Well, more accurately, my experience has broken down like so:

  1. People who say, “Good for you, I know what you’re doing is difficult, congratulations.”
  2. People who don’t say anything.
  3. People who say thoughtless and hurtful things.

Now the thoughtless and hurtful things, I don’t think they’re always intentional. Or maybe I want to believe that so I don’t have to come to grips with the possibility that some people I thought were friends and family are just garden variety assholes. So let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and say it’s unintentional.

But your intention doesn’t matter.

What matters is how the thoughtless and hurtful things make me feel, which is terrible. As you might imagine. And I don’t want to speak for all trans people, because no one thing applies to all trans people, but I’d wager that these kinds of things hurt us all across the board.

So what are they? What are the things you shouldn’t say to a trans person or the questions you might not want to ask? I’ve provided you with this handy list of a few of them, along with my thoughtful, informative answers.

“Why now?”

Why now? Because it wasn’t really feasible when I was five years old.

“Well, I can still call you [old name] though, right?”


“I respect your choice.”

It’s not a choice. If you want to respect something, respect the hell we go through just to be. Something most people take for granted and never think about.

“I’m really upset by what you’re doing/saying/being.”

Way to make my struggle about you. Nice work. Congratulations. And just so you know, I don’t care how I make you feel.

“Have you had the surgery?” Or, “So what’s going on ‘down there?'”

How about you take off your shirt and pull down your pants so I can see what you consider “normal,” then I’ll let you know what I’m up to. Or not.

“You don’t look any different.”

Neither do you. And I have to say it’s a little disappointing.

“Are you sure this is what you want to do?”

Now that you mention it, I guess it was kind of a spur-of-the-moment decision to turn my god damned life upside down and make everything exponentially more difficult. I really should have thought it through.

“When did you decide you were transgender?”

Right around the time that you decided you weren’t. What’s that? You didn’t decide? Same.

“So are you gay now, or how does that work?”

How does your sex life work? Details, please.

“Why would you want o give up being a man (or a woman)? There are so many advantages!”

Hmm, well, why do you want to be a man? Or a woman? Oh, you don’t want, you just are? Same. And for the record, there’s no advantage to being miserable for most of your life.

“What does this mean about our relationship in the past, was it all a lie?”

Yes, it was a lie. Because I thought you were cool.


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