Ashleigh Talbot is a musician and activist with the LGBT Foundation and Action for Trans Health, who has been “out" as a trans woman for nearly six years.
Sharing her experience with coming out, she admits that most of her friends “were not even a little bit surprised”.
Six years ago, Talbot had made an appointment with her GP, who referred her to a gender clinic. Since then, she’s been on hormone therapy and laser hair removal, though she’s still “waiting for anything surgical to happen”.
Although conversations about LGBT+ rights are happening more in the public arena, there are often still problematic interactions that trans people have to endure.
Speaking to indy100, Talbot shares some things cis people can do to better communicate with and respect trans people.
Most of these are common sense stuff, but you’d be surprised how often common sense is suspended.
Basically, be kind.
Step one is to listen to us. It really is that simple.
When I’ve spoken to the media about [using the phrase ‘born in the wrong body’] before and made a specific point of saying ‘Please don’t use this phrase to describe me, and here’s why…’ this request has been ignored, as that phrase is so culturally ingrained now as to be the go-to shorthand, but it’s a long way from the full story and I think it’s time we moved on.
2. Think about the questions you ask: If it's not socially appropriate ot ask a cis person, it's probably not appropriate to ask a trans person.
I started a temp role at the end of July last year and on the very first day, at the very first break time and after I’d known [my new team leader] for a grand total of two hours, she asked me –in front of several other people- if I’d had "the op". She even made a “down there” gesture with her hands.
So I then had to explain as politely as I could (first day, remember) that actually that’s a really personal question. Do you ask everyone you meet about their genitals?
3. If you're not sure, ask politely about pronouns.
Please try not to make any assumptions and if you’re unsure of someone’s pronoun, it’s usually considered polite to ask ‘"What pronoun do you use?’" Everyone has their own way of expressing and dealing with being trans and there are as many different experiences as there are trans people.
4. Don't assume every trans person's experiences are the same.
Saying to a trans person –who has almost certainly lost sleep, thought long and hard about gender dysphoria and may well have thought of or attempted suicide; who has spent every waking moment for many many years dealing with having these feelings and has in all likelihood tried various ways of making it stop, from drink & drug abuse to putting a lot of effort into being a 'manly masculine manly straight man' even though deep down you know that’s not going to fix it – “Oh. I just don’t think you’ve thought about it enough. I mean, how do you know you’re sure…?”
5. Don't get defensive if a trans person corrects you.
There's a relative of mine who regularly gets my name wrong and/or pronoun wrong, but then when I try to correct them, the response is a haughty "Well it's difficult for us too, you know!" Is it. Is it really. Fascinating.
See also; RuPaul. It’s really disheartening to see so many gay men supporting RuPaul after several years of transphobic comments. When people point out how offensive this is, he doubles down and insists he isn’t being transphobic, when really that’s not a judgement he gets to make.
I wouldn’t insult a gay man in a similar way and then tell him it’s not homophobic. It’s not my place to do that, I don’t get to make that decision. So you, Ru, don’t get to decide what is and isn’t offensive to the trans community.