Written by a Partner;
With transgender people and issues coming into light, it is natural to wonder how to best be gender inclusive. Transgender is an umbrella term for people whose gender identity or expression does not correlate with their assigned sex. Transgender people include trans men, trans women, and can include genderfluid people whose identities are not strictly masculine or feminine. A leader in the field of human sexuality, Barbara Carrellas says “Gender is like a rainbow spectrum along which everyone can find the particular shade of color that looks best on them.” That is a beautiful and useful way to think about gender. Ways to be gender inclusive are to educate yourself, practice inclusive language, and become a transgender partner.
When discussing a population as marginalized as transgender people, it is important to educate yourself on the most important aspects of the community to demonstrate your level of commitment to being respectful and inclusive. The terminology in the transgender community is ever evolving, but doing your best to stay current is important. Please note that some terms are readily accepted by trans people, while the same terms may not be appreciated by other members of the trans community. Passing refers to a trans person looking masculine or feminine enough to be considered cisgender* by an onlooker. A point of controversy with passing is that not all trans people want to pass as a binary gender. Transition is when a person begins living as the gender they identify with rather than the gender they were assigned at birth. Transitioning often includes changing one’s first name and dressing differently. Some trans people, usually referred to as transsexual, pursue hormonal and/or surgical changes. Hormone Replacement Therapy enhances one’s secondary sex characteristics through fat distribution to places like the chest, buttocks, and thighs, and can enhance one’s energy levels, mood and appetite. Gender Confirmation Surgery refers to surgical procedures, including those sometimes referred to as “top surgery” which is breast augmentation or removal, or “bottom surgery” which refers to altering genitals. Sexual orientation describes who a person is attracted to. It is separate from gender identity, which is one’s self-concept of being a man, woman, or transgender. Queer is an in-group term sometimes used in the LGBTQA community to refer to the entire LGBT community.
Language is a clear way to demonstrate your support for one’s gender expression. Rather than referring to individuals as “he” or “she” it is good idea to learn how they refer to themselves. You may broach the topic by sharing your pronouns, which may be she, her and hers, he, him and his, they, them and theirs or ze, hir and hirs. Then you may ask what pronouns they use. It is best to be mindful that within the transgender community, passing may be a sensitive topic. You should spend adequate time practicing talking about someone using the pronouns they, them, theirs and/or ze, hir, hirs. Using such inclusive language is a signal to people that you want to be gender inclusive and that you are making an effort to create a safe space for transgender people. All that being said, do not be afraid to make a mistake. If you do, acknowledge it and take responsibility for it.
Because the dominant discourse in our society is one of transphobia, expressing oneself as anything other than the assigned binary mainstream accepted genders of male and female is brave, affirming and sometimes dangerous. Varying worldviews mean people offer different levels of acceptance, comfort and encouragement. It is important to be a partner to transgender and gender nonconforming people. Through educating yourself and paying attention to your language you are taking the right steps toward becoming a transgender partner. As a partner you help fight transphobia, marginalization and violence against transgender people.
Being gender inclusive means continuing to educate yourself on transgender topics, including staying current with terminology. It means being open and respectful with language. It means being vigilant in an effort to support transgender people as a partner.
*Cisgender: is a term for people who have a gender identity, or gender expression, that matches their assigned sex (opposite of the term transgender).
Sexology International, like all of our work, is for people of all sexual preferences and all forms of gender expression, including people whose identity is something other than male or female. As such, we like to use gender-neutral pronouns. More recently accepted alternatives include words like “ze” and “hir” or the universal pronoun “they.” Throughout our work, we will be doing our best to use alternative pronouns, such as “they,” whenever gender or plurality is unimportant. In doing so we hope it helps everyone to feel included in the discussion and that it inspires you to think outside of traditional sex and gender binaries.