The transgender community has more important things to worry about than correcting common misconceptions about their personal identity. Violent hate crimes and discrimination in healthcare and employment are just a few examples of the problems transgender people face. If you want to be an ally to transgender people, start by using their preferred pronouns.
If you want to ask which pronouns people prefer, “don’t ask questions out of nowhere,” said Kai Lassen, a 21-year-old Theatre Arts student at HSU.
The better thing to do is to listen. If they don’t reveal their pronouns and the topic of conversation is not relevant to gender identity, there’s no point in asking.
A well-intentioned mistake people often make is assuming that all transgender women prefer the pronouns “she,” “her” or “hers.” The same assumption applies to transgender men for “he,” “his” or “him.” Some transgender men and women prefer the singular “they,” “them” or “theirs.”
“If you’re unsure… it’s polite to use ‘they’ or ‘them’ than to hazard a guess and being rude,” said Wren Broekema, a 22-year-old Psychology student at HSU.
Also, if a trans person corrects your assumption about their identity, don’t take it personally. Remember that their identity is more important than your ego.
It’s also worth noting that not all transgender people are comfortable with disclosing their gender identity. If necessary, ask them which pronouns they prefer to use in private.
Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) says that publicly “outing” a transgender person can have a negative impact on their “… jobs, housing, friends, or even their lives when other people find out about their gender history.”
On a final note, your friends are more than just their gender. You wouldn’t introduce a friend to someone by mentioning their ethnicity. You would just say their name. You also wouldn’t say things like “my best friend is [fill in ethnicity].” That would make you smug, not holier-than-thou. The same idea applies to introducing or referencing transgender people.