I came out as non-binary about two months ago and have slowly begun the process of socially transitioning. My pronouns have changed from female to neutral (they/them) and I have made efforts to dress and present myself in a more androgynous way. A compression shirt that will effectively bind my breasts is currently being made and will hopefully arrive in the next few weeks. My partner has been an incredible support and has loved me unconditionally. My friends have rejoiced with me and backed me every step of the way. I am progressing towards contentment with myself and with who God has created me to be. Others seem weird about it.
I’ve been chatting with other trans friends about their experiences transitioning, whether the change has been in name or dress or pronouns or body. While some stories are happier than others, each friend who has shared their life with me has experienced a degree of pushback and lack of acceptance from people who love them. I get that it’s difficult for many people to understand why someone in their life might be transgendered. The normalization of gender binary in nearly every facet of our culture does not mesh with individuals who are outside of it. We cling so tightly to the dichotomy of male and female that anything other is ‘unnatural’, ‘wrong’, and ‘freakish’. Being confronted with this head-on is an uncomfortable thought because it means that you might have to step outside of your comfort zone.
I come to you today, readers of my blog and people of the internet, with a guide of sorts. It is by no means definitive, but I hope it helps you. I hope the people who love me and who love trans people read this. We would all feel a little safer, I think. So, if you love a trans person…
1) Their Gender Identity is Not About You
Believe it or not, the way in which someone identifies actually has nothing to do with you. It does not impact you, it is not up for debate, and it is not just a phase. If you tell a trans person that their personal gender identity offends you or contradicts your personal beliefs or causes them pain, what that person hears is that they don’t matter. They hear that your comfort is more important than their perception of self, safety, and health. Feel free to express your emotions in a healthy way, but please don’t make it about you. If you still believe that another person’s individual self-expression is harming you, ask yourself why you think that and what the personal cost of loving someone who is different is to you.
2) Shut Up and Listen
This is closely tied with point one. Your trans loved one probably has a lot they want to share with you and explain. There’s probably a lot you have to learn and there’s no better way to learn than to listen to the person you love. Learn about what makes them uncomfortable/dysphoric. Learn their pronouns and USE THEM. Learn the difference between sex, gender, and orientation and don’t make assumptions about any of those things as they apply to your trans friend. Listening and implementing what you’ve learned through listening does wonders to make trans people feel safe and loved. You don’t have to become an expert on sexuality and gender theory, but you should care enough to listen and learn from your loved one and get to know their experience.
3) They’re Still the Same Person
There’s this notion that a trans person’s personality will be totally different and altered if they decide to transition, socially or medically. This couldn’t be further from true. In fact, they’ll probably be more themselves than ever before because their outward presentation reflects their inner perception of self. Their interests, passions, and sense of humour will remain the same. Their funny little idiosyncrasies will be ever present and they will still be the person you’ve grown to love and care for. My partner said to me last night that gender is the least and most important thing at the same time. Acknowledging and respecting someone’s gender is essential to their well-being but, they are not defined by it. Gender is a piece of the puzzle, not the whole picture.
4) They Need Your Love
Numerous trans people are rejected by their families and this rejection takes many forms. Whether it’s a refusal to use the correct name and pronouns or a full disownment, rejection is painful and has the ability to cause lasting harm. Despite recent cultural progress, the world is still a dangerous place to be trans. Violence, street harassment, rape and assault, discrimination, and media stigmatization of non-binary identities are a part of everyday life (if you don’t believe me, I highly encourage you do some research; there are tons of resources out there). Trans people need love and support from the people they care for because it is not guaranteed anywhere else. Allyship, support, and love speak volumes to your trans friend and helps to combat transphobia at every turn.
There is much more that I could write on the subject of loving a trans person that I will delve into at a later time. But to the people who love me who are reading this, I want to clarify some things that I feel were a bit unclear when I initially came out:
- I am not a woman, lady, girl, etc. Neither am I a man. I am a person.
- My pronouns are they/their/them. This is correct (grammatically as well) and not up for questioning, neither are they optional. If you forget or mess up, that’s okay. And if you need further clarification, just ask!
- Please use gender neutral relational terms (ie. child, sibling, friend, sibling in Christ, and so on). I accept dude, bro, and homie as completely acceptable gender neutral terms of endearment as well.
- If you need to talk about anything, please don’t hesitate to get a hold of me personally. Do not discuss amongst yourselves or in whisper behind my back. I’m ready to talk and will gladly welcome any positive discussion.