With the explosion of interest over Caitlyn (born Bruce) Jenner, and the rise of trans celebrities like Laverne Cox and Janet Mock, transgender visibility is at an all-time high. But what happens when you encounter a transgender person? How should you act? What should you say? Are there questions you should never ask a transgender person? Is being trans the same thing as being a drag queen? Is being transgender the same as being a transvestite, or a transsexual? You've likely met many trans people and have never even realized it.
This list is here to help you out. There are plenty of things you should never say, words you should never use, and questions you should never ask when you're around a transgender person. Just because you don't know all the rules yet doesn't mean you're a jerk, but a little preparation goes a long way toward making sure you don't accidentally look like one in the future. The most important thing to remember is that trans people want to be treated and spoken to like anybody else — with friendliness, respect, and about subjects that don't constantly revolve around what their genitals look like, what plastic surgery they've had, or what medications they're currently taking.
Below are a few questions and topics of conversation you should probably avoid when speaking to a transgender person — especially someone you just met, or haven't had the chance to get to know very well.
Their "real" name is the one they just gave you. If they once had a different one once, that's their business.
Most people don't enjoy being pressured to talk to you about their genitals — trans folks especially.
Hey, guess what? Trans women are "real" women, and trans men are "real" men.
Trans people didn't just "decide to switch" — they were assigned the wrong gender at birth.