Bruce Jenner, the patriarch of the Kardashian family, recently admitted to being a woman and made a much-awaited debut as Caitlyn Jenner in the latest issue of Vanity Fair magazine. In the photos, shot by world-renowned photographer Annie Leibovitz, Caitlyn looks absolutely stunning.
The transition from an ex-Olympian athlete and male head of the controversial Kardashian clan to a gorgeous, confident woman has not been easy—what with the media closely monitoring and commenting on the process. Yet Jenner, who proclaims “call me Caitlyn” on the magazine cover, is the happiest she’s ever been. In the accompanying article, she says, “If I was lying on my deathbed and had kept this secret, I’d feel like I blew my entire life.” Family, friends, fellow celebrities and media personalities seem to be rallying around her with praise and support, while her Twitter account has hit two million followers, and counting.
Jenner is not alone, though. Several transgender personalities have been blazing a path for gender equality in the harsh glare of the public spotlight. Some, who have achieved celebrity status, include Laverne Cox, singer Charice, former male model Andrej Pejic, Sonny and Cher’s offspring Chaz Bono, New York-based French model Ines Rau, and Lana Wachowski, who was formerly known as Laurence Wachowski and was the maker of the Matrix films with brother, Andy.
With the world finally realizing that you are not defined by the gender you were born with, we give you a short orientation of how to conduct yourself when interacting with transgender folks. Read on, for tips on what to say, and what never to say:
- Calling Them Fake: Acting as though they’re playing dress up or trying to pretend is wrong and hurtful, because it implies they are not real people with real feelings. Even when said with the best of intentions, blurting out something like “I never would have known you were a guy before” is undermining them. They don’t need to affirm their gender to you, or anybody else.
- Probing Their Sex Lives: It would not be taken well if you were asked about your sexual practices by a random stranger, since it’s none of their business, right? The same goes for transgender people too.
- Fearing Or Labeling: To act as if transgender people are anything other than regular people who have the same human desires and impulses as everyone else, is to be a weirdo. They are just normal people, so treat them that way.
- Using The Right Pronouns: Nobody cares if you knew the person before they chose to become the gender they prefer. If they wish to be known as a woman, respect that, and refer to them as ‘she’. If they are now known by a different name, please use that one. Don’t ask them what their real name is, either.
- Reminding Them Of Their Vulnerability: Transgender individuals are painfully aware of how susceptible they are to being victimized by bigots from all walks of life, sometimes facing actual physical danger, so why would you bring that up?
- Outing Them Sans Permission: Introducing them to others needs to be done with courtesy, respect and elegance, instead of blurting out that they used to be a different gender. Don’t do this without their permission. Instead, simply present them like you would anyone else, with their chosen name.
- Questioning Their Sexual Preferences: It’s a different matter if they choose to share this privileged information with you. But honestly, is it of any importance whether they are gay, straight, bisexual, asexual, or pansexual? Sexuality and gender identity are not directly linked, difficult as this may be for you to comprehend. All people should be free to express themselves the way they see fit.
- Rants About Pants: This might sound a bit harsh, but do you really need to be familiar with the state of a person’s genitalia to understand, interact with, or relate to them? Don’t go about asking a transgender person if they’ve had surgery, or whether their privates are male or female, because well, they’re private!
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