3 things that I wish trans “allies” would stop saying
This is the listicle y’all didn’t get last week because I needed to rant about self care and community care. It’s also not an especially original listicle, but these are all mistakes that I’ve seen well-meaning allies make recently, not realising that these words and phrases are not trans inclusive. This isn’t a call out – twelve months ago I know that I was saying at least one of the things on this list! – but it is a gentle nudge for y’all to do better. Trans allies, I would really like you to stop saying these things.
Before you read any further I want to remind you that this post – like everything else I write on this blog – is intended as a resource for cis people. It’s not my intention to police the language trans folx use to talk about themselves, and cis people definitely should not use this post to police the language trans folx use about ourselves.
Most trans allies understand that they need to respect trans people’s pronouns, but not all of you have realised that you need to stop calling them “preferred” pronouns. Using “preferred” qualifies a trans person’s pronouns in a way that suggests that they’re shouldn’t actually be using them. A trans woman doesn’t “prefer” you to use she/her pronouns for her, she/her pronouns are the only acceptable way for you to prefer to her. My pronouns are not based on a preference or whim because I woke up one morning and decided that I wasn’t cis – they are just my pronouns, and you need to use them.
Instead you should say: pronouns.
Transgender isn’t a noun, it’s an adjective – which means that “transgenders” isn’t even a word. But even if it wasn’t grammatically incorrect (which it is), “transgenders” is incredibly disrespectful. It’s also a word used to dehumanise trans people – if you’re using it, I’m going to assume that you don’t see trans people as actual people who deserve respect. In the same way that you absolutely shouldn’t use “he’s a Black” to talk about a Black person, you should use “she’s a transgender” to talk about a trans person. It’s as absurd (and far more offensive) than saying “the wets” to describe a huddle of wet cats.
Instead, you should say: transgender people, the transgender community.
“Female bodied” or “male bodied”
When you’ve got your head around the idea that someone’s genitals might not match their gender identity, you might find yourself struggling to know how to refer to someone who has a vagina because you know they might not be a woman! “Female bodied” is not the way to do this – it implies both that a body is inherently gendered (they’re not!) and that no matter how a trans man or non-binary person identifies then they’re still inherently “female”. Body parts have no gender, and you cannot be “born a boy”, you can only have someone look at your genitals when you’re born and decide that what’s between your legs is a penis. By the way, what is cis people’s obsession with children’s genitalia?
Instead you should say: assigned female at birth (afab) and assigned male at birth (amab).
Did you find this post helpful? Do you have more questions about the language you should use as an ally to talk about trans folx? If you do, please support me on Patreon to help me keep creating advice on how not to be a dick to trans and non-binary people – and you get to ask me all the questions you’re not sure if you can ask trans people!
Quinn Rhodes (he/him) is a queer, trans, disabled sex writer. He’s a sex nerd with vaginismus who creates educational content about trans inclusivity. Quinn can usually be found wearing stomp-on-the-patriarchy boots and figuring out what it means to be a feminist who’s also a trans guy. For more explicit writing about his adventures in learning to fuck without fucking up, check out onqueerstreet.com.