Accidental transphobic phrases
-Check your cis gendered privilege at the door. Let’s learn to be respectful of all people.
This information offers a chance for us to get a little more inclusive and intentional with what we say. It’s an opportunity that, for allies, is as essential as it is complicated.
We should be critical of language which is used. By using ‘judging words’ without taking intent into account we isolate and offend others. Here are some suggestions to fix common issues.
- Using the phrase “preferred pronoun.”
Using “preferred” to qualify someone’s pronouns suggests that terms they are claiming don’t really belong to them — they are just preferred over their “true” pronouns. In reality, a transman using “he” as a pronoun doesn’t just prefer that word over “she” — that is the only pronoun that is acceptable to use in reference to him. Keep in mind that for many trans people, being correctly pronouned is an incredibly important part of feeling safe and respected in a space.
The fix: Instead of asking someone’s preferred pronouns, ask, “What pronouns do you use?” Or, ask if they use pronouns. It’s a small yet substantial difference.
2. Saying someone was “born a boy/girl.”
No matter how old a transgender person is when they come out, it’s important to acknowledge they may feel their gender has always been the same one they are just now publicly claiming. One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman for instance. Nobody is truly born a boy or a girl; rather, we evolve to truly claim gender markers as our own. Saying someone was born a boy or girl suggests they were inherently one gender, but chose to be another. We are all assigned a gender at birth, and become the people we are irrespective of that assignment.
The fix: Use the phrase “assigned male/female at birth” instead. This phrasing respects the true gender of a trans person while simultaneously pointing out flaws in how we assign gender in society.
- Using “he or she” as a catch-all.
When attempting to be inclusive of all people, we often use the term “he or she.” But when trying to be inclusive of all people under the transgender umbrella, it’s important to remember that binary pronouns don’t fit all genders and excludes people not with those gender identities. Non-binary and genderqueer individuals sometimes use pronouns like they/them and ze/hir.
The fix: The limitations of our language make it challenging to correct this problem. Intentionally using “they” as a term to deliberately be inclusive to all genders works well. Or, just rework the sentence using the person’s name. It’s worth the trouble.
- Using the term “self-identified” to qualify a trans person’s gender.
Qualifying gender with the term “self-identified” may inadvertently suggest that a trans person’s identity isn’t actually valid. It’s not ok to say ‘a self-identified man’ for a trans man because that would imply they were only a man to themselves, not others. Think of how silly it would sound to call a non-trans man a “self-identified man,” since no qualifier is needed. Trans people deserve the same consideration of having their gender respected.
The fix: Just drop the “self-identified” part.
- Saying someone is “female-bodied” or “male-bodied.”
Well-meaning allies will use the terms “female-bodied” or “male-bodied” while trying to be inclusive of trans people, which can be a problem. When someone uses the term “female-bodied,” for instance, they are trying to address non-trans women and trans men. But the way they’re using language to gender body parts actually suggests a trans man’s body isn’t truly that of a man. It’s important to remember that a trans person’s body, no matter their transition or surgery status, is the body of their gender.
The fix: Just say what you mean. For example, if you want to specifically address non-trans women, just say “non-trans women.”
Common Terms used in PFLAG
In Re: Sexual Orientation
In Re: Gender Identity
Transgender/ FTM / MTF