Transgender terminology and how it was used as little as a decade ago can now be considered outdated, misinformed, or just plain offensive. That’s why it’s important to stay educated on how certain words and phrases affect different parts of the LGBTQ+ community.
You may think this isn't a big deal—they're just words, right? But remember, words have power! Those trying to tell you otherwise are people who probably don't have to worry about words like these being used against them.
Here's what not to say:
Transgender as a noun
Be mindful that using transgender as a noun or verb is often used as a means to dehumanize trans folx. Instead, transgender should only used as an adjective (e.g., trans woman or trans man)
"There are a lot of transgenders on the team."
"Is she a transgender?"
"He transgendered last year."
"There are a lot of transgender people on the team."
"Is she a trans woman?"
"He transitioned last year."
Using “sex change” or “sex reassignment surgery” implies that someone who is trans must have surgery in order to transition properly. Instead, talk about it in terms of “gender-affirming” surgery.
By the way, don’t outright ask a trans person if they have undergone surgery. It’s a private matter and should be treated with dignity.
“Transvestite” is an old term that often misrepresents trans people. Historically, it most commonly refers to cisgender men who dress in feminine clothing. Today, that community prefers the term “cross-dresser” and finds “transvestite” to be insulting.
Defamatory terms, including “tranny” and “she-male” are highly inappropriate slurs, used to discriminate against and dehumanize trans people.
“Transsexual” is a term used to describe a transgender person who has undergone gender-affirming medical procedures. However, “transsexual” is not an inclusive umbrella term like “transgender” is, as it only describes a trans person who has undergone a surgical procedure to transition.
Furthermore, it emphasizes "sex," or a person's genitals. But being trans is about gender, not sex, so "transgender" is far more appropriate.
Here's the bottom line:
Although some of the terminology mentioned may not be considered offensive to all trans people, it is important to understand the potential impact words may have. Discrimination is not defined by the intent of the speaker, but by the effect it has on the listener.
Change begins with you, and adapting your language is the first step to bringing about that change.