6 Things Not to Say to A Transgender Person

It’s the 21st century and there still seems to be a lot of confusion regarding what is appropriate and what is inappropriate to say to a transgender person.

In fact, most people are unaware of what is considered offensive to trans people.

So, this article will look at a few such things you should never say to a trans person. If you are a cisgender person reading this article, please note that these statements range from inappropriate to outright offensive, so refrain from saying them.

If you are a transgender person and hear a cisgender make any of these statements from a place of ignorance, try to educate them instead of fighting with them, if you can help it.   


1.) Birth Gender

Firstly, we recommend never asking a trans person what gender they were born as or what gender they were assigned at birth.

Not only is this question invasive, it is also irrelevant in your interaction with them.

Furthermore, when you pose this question, the implication is that trans people change their genders, when in reality, they were born with a specific identity in the wrong body. 


2.) Backhanded Compliments

One statement that transgender women often hear is “you don’t look like a woman.” This is not the compliment that you might think it is and it also connotes a certain amount of generalization that is applied to all trans women.

Each transgender person is different, feels differently, and undergoes unique experiences and any form of generalization discounts their specific life stories and hardships.

Moreover, transgenderism is an umbrella term and to say that someone does not look like a trans woman is to put them in one box.

There is no one “look” anybody can attribute to transgenderism. 


Under backhanded compliments is another common statement- “you are very pretty for a transgender woman.” There is no inherent truth to imply that transgender people are less attractive than cisgender people.

With this one statement, you are also stating that you believe all transgender people to be unattractive, which is deeply offensive.

In fact, this statement has transphobic connotations and must be completely avoided. 


3.) Previous Name

Another question that many trans women encounter frequently is associated with their dead name or their birth name.

If you find yourself wondering what name they were assigned at birth, do not vocalize that question. Firstly, their dead name is no longer a part of their identity so it is irrelevant.

Moreover, for many transgender people, their dead name brings back a lot of memories from their past that can be extremely triggering. They have shed that identity for a reason, so it is best not to prod. 


 4.) Surgery-related Questions

It is unacceptable to ask a transgender person whether they underwent the bottom surgery.

This topic is deeply personal and sensitive, and highly invasive. Moreover, you would never go to a cisgender person and discuss their nether regions. It is best to apply the same rule in your interactions with transgender people.

Furthermore, not every transgender person wants to undergo medical procedures or surgeries or transition in any manner. That does not discount their identity in any manner.

There are also many surgery options available for transgender people to transition, and some may opt for surgeries other than the bottom surgery. Asking them regarding the surgeries they had or hope to have is also unnecessary.

These are all extremely personal topics that a trans person might not want to discuss with an acquaintance. Regardless of their decisions, it is crucial to not pose this specific question as it is offensive and can make your interlocutor extremely uncomfortable.

If you are a cisgender person who wants to learn more about the transgender life, there are many resources available online. 


5.) The Past

It is completely inappropriate to tell a trans person that they were attractive as a woman or a man before transitioning.

While your comment may seem harmless to you, it is also completely unnecessary. A trans person transitions to feel more in touch with their identity.

Therefore, it is important to not bring up their birth gender constantly, as it could be triggering and rooted in many traumatic memories. Focus on who they are now instead of their past.

Along the same lines, it is also important not to use their dead name or wrong pronouns as it is disrespectful and invalidates their identity.

If you are a close friend or family, it might take you some time to get used to their name and pronouns and honest mistakes happen, but refrain from purposely using their dead name and birth pronouns. 


6.) Matter of Choice

Finally, you should never ask a transgender person when they decided to become a transgender woman or man.

Being transgender is not a choice; everyone is born with a specific identity.

Nobody wakes up and chooses to be another gender. In particular, being a transgender person comes with many hurdles and hardships, so nobody would choose to “turn into” one.

Just like nobody chooses to be a cisgender person, no individual decides to be a transgender person. Trans people are born trans.              


So these are some things you should never say to a transgender person. If you are a cisgender person, we hope this article was helpful to you!