Supporting someone who is transitioning or questioning their gender can present a number of questions for cisgender parents, caregivers, and allies in general. We get a lot of those great questions sent in, here are some of the most common and our responses.
What does it mean to be transgender, nonbinary, or gender questioning?
Being transgender refers to a person whose gender identity differs from the sex they were assigned at birth. Nonbinary is a term that refers to people who do not identify as exclusively male or female. Gender questioning refers to people who are questioning their gender identity or who are exploring what it means to be a certain gender.
It's important to note that each person's experience with their gender identity is unique, and it is not necessary for someone to fit into a specific category or label in order to understand and express their gender. Some people may identify as transgender, nonbinary, or gender questioning, while others may use different terms or no terms at all to describe their gender identity. It is also important to recognize that gender is a complex and multifaceted aspect of a person's identity, and it is not always possible to fully understand or relate to someone's experience with their gender.
What are pronouns and why do we use them?
Pronouns are words that substitute for nouns or noun phrases and are common parts of speech. They allow us to avoid repeating the same nouns over and over again, which can make our language more efficient and easier to understand.
There are several types of pronouns, including personal pronouns (such as "I," "you," "he," "she," "it," "we," "they"), possessive pronouns (such as "mine," "yours," "his," "hers," "its," "ours," "theirs"), reflexive pronouns (such as "myself," "yourself," "himself," "herself," "itself," "ourselves," "themselves"), and relative pronouns (such as "who," "whom," "whose," "which," "that").
Pronouns can be used in a variety of ways, including to refer to people, places, or things, to show possession or ownership, to reflect back on the subject of the sentence, or to connect clauses or phrases in a sentence.
When talking about pronouns in regards to gender identity, being transparent about what pronouns an individual uses allows others to accurately refer to them without needing to guess.
Neopronouns are a set of pronouns that are used by some people as a way to describe themselves and others in a way that is more inclusive and respectful of their gender identity. Neopronouns can be used by people who do not identify as male or female, or who do not feel that traditional pronouns such as "he", "she", or "they" accurately reflect their gender. Some common neopronouns include "ze," "xe," "ey," and "fae." Using neopronouns is a way for people to assert their own gender identity and to be recognized and respected by others.
What questions are inappropriate to ask trans people?
It is generally considered inappropriate to ask a trans person about their genitals, surgery, or medical history. These questions are intrusive and can make a trans person feel uncomfortable or distressed. It is also important to remember that a person's gender identity and expression are deeply personal and private matters, and it is not appropriate to ask a trans person about their identity or expression without their permission.
Here are some examples of inappropriate questions to ask a trans person:
- "What surgery have you had?"
- "What was your name before you transitioned?"
- "How long have you been trans?"
Instead of asking personal or inappropriate questions, it is more respectful to simply use the pronouns and name that a person prefers and to treat them with the same dignity and respect that you would any other person. If you are unsure about how to address or refer to a trans person, it is always appropriate to simply ask them what they prefer.
How can I be supportive of someone who is transitioning their gender?
Being supportive of someone who is transitioning their gender can be a meaningful and important way to show care and acceptance. Here are some tips for how you can be supportive:
Use their preferred name and pronouns: It is important to respect the name and pronouns that a person chooses for themselves, as this is a fundamental part of their identity. If you are unsure what pronouns someone uses, it is okay to ask, but be sure to do so in a respectful and supportive way.
Educate yourself: It can be helpful to learn more about gender identity and the challenges that trans individuals may face. This can help you better understand and support your friend or loved one. There are many resources available online that can provide more information on this topic.
Be a good listener: Transitioning can be a challenging and emotional process, and it can be helpful for someone to have someone to talk to about their experiences. Offer a listening ear and be nonjudgmental.
Offer practical support: Depending on the person's needs, you may be able to offer practical support, such as helping them with tasks related to their transition, or offering emotional support and encouragement.
Be an ally: Show your support for the trans community by being an ally. This can involve speaking out against transphobia and discrimination, and standing up for the rights of trans individuals.
Remember, everyone is different and will have different needs and preferences when it comes to support. It is important to be respectful and open to listening to and learning from the person you are trying to support.
What are some good resources for learning more about being transgender?
There are many good resources available to learn more about being transgender. Here are a few options:
The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) is a national advocacy organization for transgender people in the United States. They have a wealth of information on their website, including resources for trans people and allies, as well as information on legal issues and policy.
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) is a national organization that works to advance LGBTQ rights, including for transgender people. They have a section of their website dedicated to transgender issues, with information on everything from transitioning to healthcare to workplace discrimination.
The Trevor Project is a national organization that provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ young people, including transgender youth. They have a section of their website with resources specifically for transgender and nonbinary young people.
GLAAD is a national organization that works to accelerate acceptance of LGBTQ people. They have a section of their website with resources for transgender people and their allies, including information on terminology, coming out, and transitioning.
It's also a good idea to seek out local resources and support groups in your area. Many communities have LGBTQ centers or organizations that can provide information and support to transgender individuals.