DEV Community

Cover image for 9 ways to be kinder to trans people
Nočnica Fee
Nočnica Fee

Posted on

9 ways to be kinder to trans people

Cover image of the Trans-Australia railway by Pavel Špindler

This article is for everyone who loves trans people and wants some guidance in treating trans friends and co-workers with kindness and respect.

Of course, trans people aren't all of one mind, this is just one trans woman's list of the things I wish every cis person knew.

1. Don't forward my hate mail

I work on camera. And in my voice and face are both immediately identifiable as gender-non-conforming. That means I get hateful messages in my stream chat. I get them during conferences and as comments on my video. Sometimes it's extremely rough to deal with.

What definitely doesn't help is sending me a screenshot and asking if I saw it. If I have or I haven't seen it, it's not going to cheer me up to see it. This is doubly true if the commenter is anonymous or works at another company. In those cases there's generally nothing to be done, so all that forwarding can do is ruin my day.

2. Do learn the word 'cis'

Did the word 'cis' in the intro trip you up? Learn it and use it! Based on the latin root that's the opposite of 'trans,' 'cis' is used to refer to anyone who isn't trans. It's not an insult or a derogatory term, no more than being called trans is an insult.

I use the term 'cis' it because, absent a term to describe a way of being, it defaults to just 'normal.' There's nothing more normal about cis people!

One side note: if someone is telling you that being called 'cis' is offensive, or some variation of the statement that "'cis' is a slur," be aware that you are probably talking to someone who's getting their talking points straight from websites and communities dedicated to excluding trans people from society.

3. Don't assume transphobia is isolated or rare

When a trans person talks to you about being excluded, discriminated against, or otherwise being the victim of transphobia; often it can feel natural to respond with something like:

"oh gosh that's awful! I never heard of anything like that! I'm shocked!!!"

And while it's clear that the intent is to be sympathetic, there's an underlying assumption to these comments that transphobia, while awful, is unusual and unexpected.

I'm not asking you to read every report by the Southern Poverty Law Center or read every transphobic article in The Guardian. I don't do that and neither should you! But realize that discrimination and hate for trans people is becoming the norm in our society.

4. Do talk behind my back

I don't want to have to tell people my pronouns. I don't want to explain that I have a deep voice but, yes, I am a woman. I want you to tell people that.

If you want to become my star ally of the year, send at least two people the following message on Slack

Hey! Our next meeting is with Nočnica (Nica to her friends), one of our best Dev Advocates. She had the number one partner talk at Re:Invent last year! Reminder that her pronouns are she/her. Hit me up if you want any background!

This little check in with people keeps me from having to have the same conversation. I appreciate it to no end! Some things about this script:

  • I'd rather be introduced as 'a woman' than 'a trans woman'
  • What I do and how good I am at it are more important than my gender

5. Don't talk to me about Drag Race

As popular culture has commodified queerness into something anyone can consume from their living room, awareness of drag has spread beyond the queer community. That might be a good thing, but it's led to some confusion.

Some drag performers may be trans, and many trans people do drag, but the two terms aren't synonymous. Add to that the fact that many of the catchphrases and terms used in shows like Queer Eye and Drag Race are AAVE that sound deeply odd when said by a white person (looking at you Jonathan Van Ness), and it's just, a mess tbh.

I really can't simplify the issue beyond this analogy:

  • Your jewish friend doesn't want to hear your rendition of tunes from 'Fiddler on the Roof'
  • your friend who grew up in the foster care system doesn't want to read 'Oliver Twist' with you

6. Do put your pronouns in your bio

This is just a courtesy thing that I appreciate from cis people. it means that it's not just trans people who are doing the work of communicating about gender.

7. Don't ask me to put my pronouns in my bio

Whose job is it to end transphobia? Is it trans peoples' job? I would suggest no. I try to put my pronouns out there, but doing so, especially when almost no cis people have, outs me as trans to strangers in a way that isn't always comfortable.

8. If you make a mistake: apologize and move on

Are you worried that you've insulted someone trans? In these situations it's common to feel some embarrassment. If you want to get in touch with me to apologize, that's fine and I might even appreciate that you noticed.

But if we do have a conversation and you want to apologize, I cannot emphasize this enough: keep it short.

I get misgendered almost every day. If I had to have a whole conversation every time, it would bum me out! I don't want to spend all day talking about being trans.

9. Do talk to me about your feelings about your gender

In point 4 above I said I didn't want to be the one who had to explain my gender to everybody. It's a drain on my time and energy and I'd rather not talk about gender all day.

But there is a big exception to that rule: If you have questions about your gender, of course I want to talk about it.

Feeling like your gender doesn't "fit" can be such a lonely experience. And I feel a responsibility to make sure that others don't go through it alone. So if you have questions, of course reach out.


Thank you for taking the time to read this list. If you have questions, or if you're trans and want to add to this list, add a comment below!

Discussion (48)

Collapse
michaeltharrington profile image
Michael Tharrington

This article is for everyone who loves trans people and wants some guidance in treating trans friends and co-workers with kindness and respect.

What an awesome beginning to a seriously great post. Really appreciate you sharing this advice, Nica!

Collapse
ellativity profile image
Ella (she/her/elle)

This is such a helpful list for everyone! I love how you have found 9 of the easiest things that we can all do, even if we're already feeling stressed, busy, or otherwise put-upon.

It's especially relevant to our community of devs, who are increasingly working with diverse, international colleagues. Some of us don't come from cultures where these conversations take place openly, so it's posts like these in spaces like DEV that allow us to engage and learn - and grow professionally as well as personally.

Thanks, Nica, for taking the time to share your experiences so we can all benefit and be better coworkers, collaborators, and friends.

Collapse
ben profile image
Ben Halpern

Thank you for this Nočnica. Bookmarking as material I can offer to others as needed.

Collapse
xomiamoore profile image
Mia Moore

Thanks for writing this, friend. I especially love your intro you wrote, totally stealing that and writing one for myself. :)

Collapse
jess profile image
Jess Lee (she/her)

Thank you for this 💜

Collapse
andy profile image
Andy Zhao (he/him)

Thank you for sharing this :)

Collapse
joransen profile image
joransen

I’ve become a fan of your direct, open, and comprehensive views on tech and now life. After reading this, I changed my Twitter profile for the first time in over a decade. Thanks for sharing.

Collapse
jcolag profile image
John Colagioia (he/him)

I want to thank you specifically for:

it means that it's not just trans people who are doing the work of communicating about gender.

When people have been receptive to advising, I've occasionally attempted to get clarity of the utility, multiple times, because this feels to me like a combination of trying to center myself in the conversation and "misappropriating" a tool that other people need for important reasons. Unfortunately, the existing advice is just passive-aggressive "do it, unless you don't want to."

So, thanks very much for being open about the actual use of my involvement to the people who are actually affected.

Collapse
robencom profile image
robencom

Thanks for this article. It surely is the healthy way of sharing knowledge.

While we do know our own suffering and all that offends us, others have their own issues and they do not know about ours...So, it is always beneficial for all to listen to each other and understand each other.

Understanding demands calmness and dialogue. Sadly, some people like to force their perspective on others, which is why we have so much trouble in the world today.

We need less emotion/principles and more reason/logic.

Collapse
endorama profile image
Edoardo Tenani

Thank you for writing this, is just so spot on and appreciated. Just added to my "go to" article list on the subject.

Collapse
cannedice profile image
Candice Thomas

Super appreciate this! I was talking a cis friend through ways to be more inclusive towards trans people and I've shared this article with them.

nocnica profile image
Nočnica Fee Author • Edited on

And in that you'd be wrong! This post was in the top 7 posts this week and was featured in the dev.to newsletter. Remember that your guess or 'bet' isn't a substitute for data :)

Collapse
felipperegazio profile image
Felippe Regazio

awesome, thank you. it helped a lot!

Collapse
auraswap profile image
Liz Wait

This is wonderful Nočnica! Definitely bookmarking this.

nocnica profile image
Nočnica Fee Author

I think that, being new, you don't really know the goals of the site :) See if there are some context clues about why this content is part of Dev.to's mission.

Collapse
sarlacpit profile image
McParty

This has educated me for the better. Thanks for the post.
Twitter profile adjusted.

Collapse
jdhinvicara profile image
John Harding

Just adding my "Thank you - this helps."

Much of it is common-sense / common-courtesy but it helps to hear it directly and in the context of your experiences.

I read Dune a million years ago. Now I have to go and find the pug reference. Sheesh.

Collapse
deadlockone profile image
Dead Lock One (they/them)

I loved this article. And loved the way you express your feelings.
Can I translate it to portuguese and republish?
I'll give you full credits and link back, of course.
I think that are so many people I know that should read this.

Collapse
nocnica profile image
Nočnica Fee Author

Sorry i missed this at the time. That would be lovely!

Collapse
graciegregory profile image
Gracie Gregory (she/her)

Truly can't tell you how much I appreciate you, friend. Thanks for sharing this ❤️

Collapse
gregatgit profile image
Greg Duncan

Thanks for the insight. Hopefully it won't be too long till society doesn't need these reminders.

Collapse
phongduong profile image
Phong Duong

Thank you

Collapse
vedtam profile image
Edmond Varga

Very true!

Collapse
nocnica profile image
Nočnica Fee Author • Edited on

Surprising that two of you would come to complain about this article being on dev.to, a community site you each joined quite recently and to which you have collectively contributed zero posts.

Collapse
justjenu profile image
Jennifer Hooper

Hey Nica - I really loved this article - thanks for writing it!

Collapse
mrdanielschwarz profile image
Daniel Schwarz • Edited on

Nočnica, thanks for sharing!

Regardless of the community niché, this topic is always welcome.

Number 6 is an odd one though. I think it's really attention-seeking when those with conforming genders put their pronouns in their bio. In my opinion, if one's sex is [x] and they look like [x] and nobody's ever going to think that they're [y] or [z], be quiet.

Trans people who announce their pronouns are brave and those piggybacking off of their courage to elevate their own public image makes me cringe. At least, that's how those people come off to me.

Collapse
ellativity profile image
Ella (she/her/elle)

Hey Daniel, I thought I'd take a moment to share why I personally have my pronouns in my bio (clue: it's not actually about me at all). The word I like to use is "solidarity".

Using the word "brave" to describe trans people asking to have their appropriate pronouns applied to them says it all, really. Let's not assume that all trans people want to be "brave", nor that they should have to be to simply be given the respect of appropriate pronouns. When cis gender people stand alongside our trans friends/family/coworkers by specifying our own gender, whether or not it appears obvious, we "normalize" the act of specifying gender; if only trans people specify their gender in their bios, anyone who specifies their gender is immediately assumed to be trans.

I have the privilege of not having to care if someone misgenders me, but not everyone shares that privilege. It's a small thing I can do to make life that bit easier on and safer for other people, for whom life can be complex and unsafe in ways I'll never experience. If trans people are asking me to, as in Nočnica's post, why not take this small step to reduce prejudice in society?

Collapse
mrdanielschwarz profile image
Daniel Schwarz

Thanks for sharing your perspective. I stand by what I said, but I'll definitely be more open-minded in the future. I guess I was generalizing when I shouldn't have.

Thread Thread
ellativity profile image
Ella (she/her/elle)

Thanks for the thoughtful exchange, @mrdanielschwarz

Collapse
darkwiiplayer profile image
DarkWiiPlayer
  1. Do put your pronouns in your bio [...]
  2. Don't ask me to put my pronouns in my bio

That point 6 is the only one I will have to disagree with. I'm not putting my gender in any bio. It's just not something I want to waste space on.

Not everybody cares about pronouns and personally I just couldn't care less what you call me.

As for the other points, they all seem like common sense to me; if you find out a person is trans and your first thought is to talk to them about drag, I'd say you have some thorough introspection to be doing.

Collapse
lifelongthinker profile image
Sebastian

Mostly valid and good points, but I entirely disagree with the language (2) and pronoun aspects (6) -- though entirely on formal, linguistic grounds.

I agree that society needs to be inclusive of all, but forcing a language change from above is something that has factually never been met with success in the history of language and languages (not as far as authentic everyday language use is concerned).

Language change comes from the bottom, the speakers, and not from the top. If they feel a need to change their way of talking, they will change it.

So, instead of telling people to learn/use language in a specific way, I believe we are all better advised to make people want to change their diction, make them feel the need to do so. Seeing the world through someone else's eyes is certainly a good starting point.

We will see in a few years if "cis" will leave its current, rather technical register (chemistry, medical terminology, gender studies, ...) and make it into more general domains of everyday language use.

Collapse
egilhuber profile image
erica (she/her)

I don't think OP is asking cis folks to include 'cis' in their bio. OP seems to be looking to normalize having 'she/her', 'he/him', 'they/them' in their bios so it's not an automatic outing. Similar to encouraging people in any type of relationship to use terminology such as 'significant other' to normalize it across the board.

Collapse
lifelongthinker profile image
Sebastian

Yes, absolutely. I was referring to "learn it", "use it" (cis) and "put your pronouns in your bio" as a way to enforce a proper/certain use of language, which I think is misguided for the linguistic reasons stated.

I do, however, agree with the mindset and goal, just not the way how to go about it regarding these two instances.

Collapse
nocnica profile image
Nočnica Fee Author

Funny you should mention language confusion: this article's intro makes clear it's etiquette recommendations from a single trans person to cis people who are interested. How on earth is advice on politeness 'forcing' you to do anything?

Collapse
lifelongthinker profile image
Sebastian

Thanks for your reply. I didn't mean to say you force anyone. Sorry if I came across like that.

I was not relating to myself, I was merely observing your language recommendations and giving my linguistic point of view.

It's a common theme in language-related discussions to tell people how to use language. My point is: Telling people why is more fruitful in bringing about language change, let speakers figure out the how themselves.

I feel like you misunderstood my stance, I'm sorry if I have not made it clear enough.

Collapse
sylwiavargas profile image
Sylwia Vargas

I’m a bit shocked by the level of your confidence in this sentence:

forcing a language change from above is something that has factually never been met with success in the history of language and languages

Think hate speech laws in Europe. Think language reforms in Lithuania or Poland that made some forms (foreign terms, feminatives) illegal under the threat of losing a job if you’re a teacher. Think about introduction of the gender-neutral pronoun “hen” in Sweden to the kindergarten books and education system. Think about Ex nihilo vocabulary coinage in Estonian, or similarly in Hebrew. Or, on the more gruesome note, there’s a vast body of the research that indicates that any genocide begins with changes in national discourse, oftentimes codified, or that many nationalistic forms of discrimination start with language policies (think colonization practices).

Yes, language politics has existed for centuries and has informed how people speak, think and relate to each other. And yes, there have been plenty success in the history in enforcing from the top how everyday people speak. Sometimes it takes a few years, sometimes a few decades.

Collapse
lifelongthinker profile image
Sebastian

Hi Sylwia, thanks for your input.
Don't feel shocked, let's discuss it.

I believe we are not talking about the same thing when we refer to "success". A top-down force of language change is fruitless as long as people don't feel the need to change how they use language. Sure, in official language use they may follow orders, but that is not the kind of success I was talking about.

Regarding your hate speech laws, I believe these have opened people's eyes to discussion and made them aware of language-related problems. That is the kind of "success" I was proposing: To make people understand why there is a need for change. But that then is no longer a top-down force.

As far as my choice of words is concerned in relation to the original post, I have already mentioned that I should have been less aggressive.

Hope this cleared things up.

Thread Thread
sylwiavargas profile image
Sylwia Vargas

Sure — but you see that I’ve given you plenty examples (and these are only from the top of my head) that did start with the top-down approach. Sure, they were later accepted by the wider public but there was always a significant pushback. People in general feel a level of stress when it comes to changes that pertain to their identity and a change in how we speak is one of them. Of course there will be a pushback but history has shown that oftentimes, a normative approach to changes in language result in these changes being widely used and accepted, contrary to your strong stance (“has never”, “factually”). I’m focusing on this part because phrasing your argument this way may come across as downplaying the DEI efforts in different companies and countries, even though there’s plenty evidence that l language policies and legislations contribute to making culture more inclusive in the long run.

Thread Thread
lifelongthinker profile image
Sebastian

As I stated, I am not objecting to any DEI efforts or goals, I see these as essential. But I am objecting to normative language regulation in general (no matter who proposes it).

"history has shown that oftentimes, a normative approach to changes in language result in these changes being widely used and accepted" -- certainly, in some cases it does. But I believe those where the cases where people were made aware of problems and then chose to adapt.

As you said yourself, such an approach can take decades or generations. I don't think we want (or can afford) to wait for so long. Hence, instead of proposing a normative language use, I believe the better way to go about this is to make people aware and convince them why language is important. Let the speakers figure out the "how" themselves, let's make them a part of this to mitigate such "pushbacks".

Collapse
peppesilletti_4 profile image
Giuseppe Silletti

Isn't this article a bit off-topic to be on Dev.to?

Collapse
nocnica profile image
Nočnica Fee Author

Nope!

Collapse
michaeltharrington profile image
Michael Tharrington • Edited on

I think it definitely fits — this advice is broadly applicable in life, but as for tech, it's particularly helpful for folks working with trans people. Also, why call out someone for sharing helpful advice about being more empathetic and kind towards other people? You didn't have to say this; you could've just read another article. This article's title is extremely clear about its topic and it's tagged appropriately. Also, I don't think it's ever helpful to comment to someone that their post doesn't fit for the site... if you think that's the case, you can privately report an article to us. To be clear perfectly clear, DEV promotes kindness, diversity, and inclusivity and this post gives people advice for being all of the above; this post definitely fits.

Collapse
peppesilletti_4 profile image
Giuseppe Silletti

Thank you for your insight, I get it. I would have preferred to read some things to consider doing for trans people, rather than being told do's and don'ts. I feel "policed" rather than being given the opportunity to learn.

The points are very valid, even though a few things are not strictly tech related. For example using the pronouns in our bio.

I hope this explains a little better.

Thread Thread
sylwiavargas profile image
Sylwia Vargas

Well, the good news is that you decide which content you engage with 🙂 You can easily find other resources that don’t come in the form of do’s and don’t’s.

To your point that some ideas/suggestions in the article are not strictly tech-related... they are very much so given how unsafe this industry is for marginalized/minoritized communities and tech as a field needs to have better culture standards in place. So, this is as much a tech issue as are conversations about interviews, salaries, benefits and role progresssions.

Please also notice that none of the categories this post is in are code-related.

Collapse
alec profile image
Info Comment hidden by post author - thread only accessible via permalink
Alexey Poimtsev (sith/lord)

yep, agree with you! because dev is about development, but not about LGBT+ - there are a lot of sites, related to this topic, but we're here to talk about development, technologies, methodologies, etc, but not about self-identification and sexual preferences.

Collapse
Sloan, the sloth mascot
Comment deleted
Collapse
vedtam profile image
Comment marked as low quality/non-constructive by the community. View Code of Conduct
Info Comment hidden by post author - thread only accessible via permalink
Edmond Varga

This is so off topic that it hurts.

Some comments have been hidden by the post's author - find out more