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A Trans Advice Column

This addition to the About Trans section is designed to aid in the spread of information about transgender-related topics. All questions are welcome from all walks of life. This includes cisgender, transgender, and non-conforming people. Questions may be edited for content, and all names are changed to protect anonymity.

Please submit your questions to ian@about-online.com


Q: I’ve met some people recently who are transgender, and they use acronyms that I have never heard. I want to be a better friend to them, and I’m a little uncomfortable asking them what they mean when they use these terms. Can you give me a breakdown of the most common phrases used that could help me follow these conversations with them?

Mark

A: I’m so happy that you are interested in taking the time to learn! This goes to show that you are a great friend, and a welcome ally to the transgender community! The following are the terms most commonly used, with their definitions:

FTM – female to male

MTF – male to female

HRT – hormone replacement therapy

SRS – sex reassignment surgery

Top Surgery – the chest or breast reconstruction for a trans person

FFS – facial feminization surgery

TG – transgender

Cis/cisgender – the opposite of transgender (not an insult)

T/E – testosterone or estrogen, also called HRT

I hope this helps! There are many more, but as long as you’re respectful, you should feel comfortable asking your friends to clarify certain terms for you. Keep up the great work in educating yourself!


Q: I’m a little confused on what it means when a person says “trans man” or “trans woman”. Which is which? Can you help clarify for me?

Angela

A: You’re right. Many of the things that we as trans people say regularly can be confusing. Thank you for taking the time to ask.

A ‘trans man” is a person assigned female at birth, but who lives or identifies as male. This is a man, regardless of appearance or hormones, and should be addressed by male pronouns.

A “trans woman” is a person assigned male at birth, but who lives or identifies as female. Just like trans men, their pronouns should be female, regardless of how they may appear to you.

The easiest way to think of it is that once a person reveals their transgender identity to you, they should never be referred to as their “birth sex”. So, trans men are men and trans women are women! Anytime you’re in doubt, you should always respectfully ask.


Q: My friend recently came out to me as transgender, but I’ve known him his entire life. Now he says he’s a woman. How do I know this isn’t just him trying to get attention? I mean, we played baseball together in school. He always seemed so normal. What do I do?

Eddie

A: Let’s start at the beginning. Shall we?

If your friend came out to you, that is a huge sign of trust. It’s not easy admitting to yourself who you really are, let alone other people! It is not our place to question anyone’s identity. So, from here on out, we will refer to your friend with female pronouns, as is appropriate.

It’s important to remember that transgender people are normal! There are many ways that a person can bend gender roles. Many cisgender women play sports! Many cisgender men dance. That isn’t a sign that she is seeking attention. It can be hard to accept that someone you’ve known your entire life is not who you thought they were, but it is your job as a friend to accept what she says as truth, and to be there for her in any way that you can.

As far as what you need to do, that’s simple! Use the pronouns that she identifies with. Use the name that she has chosen for herself. Be the friend you have always been to her. Above all, treat her no different than you would anyone else. Living as a transgender person is not easy, and she will need all the support she can get.


Q: Ok, so I came out recently and I haven’t started hormones yet, but I’m trying to look more male. Like, clothes and binding and stuff. Well, I had to go to the store and the lady scanning my stuff called me ‘ma’am.’ She was nice and all, but it really bothered me a lot. What should I do if I’m in that situation again?

Lucas

A: This is one of the hard ones brother. In situations like this, there isn’t a lot you can do. When you are misgendered by someone that you know, it’s appropriate to correct them on your pronouns, as long as you are firm but polite. It’s not likely that you’ll ever see that cashier again, and outing yourself to strangers can be dangerous. You must pick your battles for a while, because transitioning takes time, and requires a lot of patience. When you feel badly because you are misgendered, surround yourself with people that understand and support you. Join a group or a club with others like yourself so that those feelings don’t fester and cause you issues like depression later on. No matter where you are in your transition, even if you decide that hormones and surgeries are not for you, remember that your identity is valid. No one can tell you who you really are. I’ve been there my friend, and you are not alone.

 

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