first things first: language is important. while I write trans below, I mean all trans people: trans girls and boys, trans women and men, nonbinary folx, genderqueer folx, and anyone else who does not identify with their assigned gender at birth.
secondly, I write this with personal experience, passion, and a broken heart. I've been seeing some things on Twitter that are just... not okay. so without further ado, let's get you educated!
let's start with Frequently Asked Questions.
01. what genders are there? what are the terms?
trans, nonbinary, and genderqueer are all umbrella terms that can include the following identities:
trans girl/woman = someone who identifies as a girl, not their assigned gender at birth
trans boy/man = someone who identifies as a boy, not their assigned gender at birth
nonbinary (also shortened as enby) = someone who does not identify as their assigned gender at birth, can be an identity in itself
genderqueer = someone who does not identify as their assigned gender at birth, can be an identity in itself
genderfluid = the experience of moving between genders
agender = someone who identifies as having no gender at all
bigender = someone who identifies with two or more genders
demi girl/boy/enby/trans = someone who identifies partially as a girl/boy/enby/trans but not all the time
pangender = someone who identifies with two or more genders, may experience all genders
cisgender = someone who identifies with their assigned gender at birth
AFAB = assigned female at birth
AGAB = assigned gender at birth
AMAB = assigned male at birth
gender expression = how one expresses their gender through clothing and other identifers
click here for a full list on different genders & terminology
02. pronouns 101.
pronouns are she/her, he/him, they/them, or other neo-pronouns (like ze/hir/hirs, xe/xem/xyrs).
they/them is grammatically correct to describe one person. jane austen used them in her books before she died in 1817.
there's no excuse to not use them. for example, you have a party. there's an umbrella sitting at your doorstep after everyone's gone. you turn to your friend and say, "someone left their umbrella here."
boom. you've used singular they/them pronouns. it's already in your vocabulary, now you just have to apply it to someone you love, know, respect, and are talking about.
pronouns can change. sometimes she/her suits a person better than he/him or they/them. all you have to do is ask what someone wants to use.
people can have multiple pronouns. you might see that someone uses she/they in their twitter bio, for example. when someone has pronouns like this, use them all. say, "oh, she's going to be late to the party. i'll make sure to put some food aside for them."
people know you're going to mess up. don't worry. we're used to it. mess up, sure. but correct yourself swiftly and move on. don't give us a major apology where we have to tell you it's fine. then we're comforting you, instead of having you acknowledge that you messed up and correcting yourself.
03. dead names and chosen names.
dead names are names that people no longer use.
chosen names are names that people currently use.
dead names are for legal documents only until the person has chosen to go through a legal name change. and even on legal documents, you can put "deadname (chosen name) lastname" to be inclusive.
dead names are dead for a reason. there should be no reason to ever use them, except for legal things.
chosen names may change. so when someone says, "hey, I don't feel like XYZ suits me anymore. can you call me by ABC?" say yes.
when you mess up, correct yourself and move on swiftly. again, you don't want to make it about you. you don't want to put a trans person in the position of comforting you.
04. what is an appropriate age for someone to know?
there's no age limit on knowing. I could've told you something was wrong with my assigned gender at birth when I was four, had I had the knowledge and education. I felt something was wrong with me, but I didn't have the words to describe it. I knew something was wrong at twelve, at fifteen, at seventeen, at twenty. I didn't come out until I had been educated on different genders outside of the binary. it was an emotional day when I learned that nonbinary was a thing I could be; because finally, finally, something felt right to me. the day I asked my friends to start using they/them pronouns for me was a big deal. I was terrified they'd reject me. they, being the wonderful and supportive people they are, did not. instead, they embraced me fully and let me have a special space to be.
it doesn't matter what age you find those magic words that make everything fit into place like a missing puzzle piece you've been searching for. you can be 4, 7, 12, 15, 19, 23, 34, 46, 58, 63, 78, 81, or 99 years old.
when you find those words that describe how you're feeling, how you've been feeling, it feels like a light has come on in a pitch black place in your heart. and suddenly, you don't feel so scared and alone. you find yourself a community, a group of people who know exactly what you're going through, and how you're feeling, and it matters.
05. what if it's just a phase?
so what if it is? you know what people are going to remember? how you treated them during that "phase," how you loved them during that "phase," and how you supported them. they'll remember and hold onto that for the rest of their lives. so if it's just a "phase" - how are you going to react is important.
embrace them. love them. give them space to learn what it means to be themselves, in their body.
and if it's just a "phase," what's wrong with a person exploring their gender?
also, what if it's not a "phase," because if it isn't, they won't want to keep you around if you treat them like it is.
06. what if I mess up? what if I ask the wrong questions?
first and foremost, all trans people accept that people are going to f*ck up. it's just part of the package. they're understanding...to a point. as long as you're trying and you're doing your best, they will understand. it's when you don't do your best to acknowledge and affirm who they are, that it becomes a problem.
if you have to ask questions, make sure you're taking the time to consider what you're asking. if your question is about how you will tell other people or how you will explain it to other people, then you're not asking the right questions. the right questions are about how you can make them feel better, safer, loved, and comfortable to be themselves. your job is to create and foster an environment that allows them a safe place to explore themselves.
07. what if someone else messes up?
if they are in the know, then correct them! it's important that trans folx are talked about with their name, pronouns, and gender identity at the forefront of your mind when we are not around! respect us at all times, please!
if they are not in the know, avoid outing your loved one! ask your trans loved one who knows and who doesn't. and only correct people who you have permission to correct. some trans people do not feel comfortable coming out to everyone, all at once. you have to go at their pace.
if you don't know if they're in the know or not, ask your trans loved one later for direction on how to handle future situations with said person.
08. what are other resources? I still have questions!
being a great ally means educating yourselves, acknowledging that other genders exist, and standing up for us when we're not around - and when we are and our voices aren't loud enough to be heard. it means supporting us on our gender journey, because trust me, it's not always an easy, straight-forward path. sometimes it's messy, but that's okay when we're given the space to learn about ourselves and how we want to express ourselves.
being a great ally means that you trust us when we say who we are.
being a great ally means that you don't expect a trans person to hold your hand and educate you on everything. it means looking up resources, reaching out, and making the effort.
being a great ally means that you understand we're just people, trying to figure out the confusing emotions rushing through us.
support us. embrace us. love us. and accept that it's going to be a little messy.
and if that's not enough, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @mxronnieriley with any questions. I promise to answer them within the best of my ability, or direct you to someone/a source who knows better.