Let me set the scene.

You’re at some bar on Makdissi Street with a couple of friends, waiting for that one who’s always late. She finally arrives and there’s someone new with her. You don’t pay much attention at first, too distracted by the fact that she still hasn’t apologized for being late (rude).

When you do get a closer look at the person sitting across from you, you pause. Is it a guy? Girl? You want to ask your friend to avoid potential blunders, but she’s not looking your way. Sneakily, you let your eyes scan their bodies for any distinguishable features, to no avail (trust me, you’re never as subtle as you think you’re being). Their name isn’t very helpful either. Suddenly and with relevance, this person chooses to mention that they are transgender.

You’re interested to know more. You decide to take matters into your own hands and turn to the person in question to ask…well, hopefully none of the godawful items below.

Here is a list of four questions you should NOT be asking a trans person you’ve just met:

1. “Are you a boy or a girl?”

Unless you’re a confused child, asking a transgender adult whether they are a “boy” or “girl” is always off-putting.

2. “What’s your real name?”

Not all trans people change their legal names due to personal choice or the travails of bureaucracy, but many do for our own reasons. The name we present during introductions is the name you should use, no other strange questions asked.

3. “Do you have a penis or vagina?”

Yes, it does often escalate that quickly, and no, never is this an appropriate question to ask anybody.

4. “How/with whom do you have sex?”

If the person hasn’t brought their sexuality up for discussion, you definitely shouldn’t be the one initiating it.

Generally, it’s better not to ask a trans person any intrusive questions regarding their body or sexuality. You know, questions that you wouldn’t ask anyone else right off the bat. Try starting with more common and less antisocial questions regarding interests, hobbies, studies, etc. To respectfully learn the correct pronoun(s), simply ask, “How do you identify?” or “How should I address you?”

If questions like these two make you more uncomfortable than any of those listed above, it’s best to wait to be spoken to or avoid interaction altogether.


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