We’ll get through this together: A transgender guide for the non-transgendered

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It really won’t be so bad, I promise

If you’re a cisgendered person who only now has to seriously consider what it means to interact with a transgender, nonbinary, gender queer, or just non-cisgendered individual, you may feel overwhelmed. Maybe a coworker, close friend, or loved one has come out to you and you don’t know what to think or how to react. Suddenly, you’re in a whole new world you never really had to think all that much about. Sure, like most people in society today you support the idea of transgender rights, but suddenly what seemed remote and foreign — something that happened to someone else — has become your reality.

A new way to think

This post will be the first in a series to address common questions we have around how transgendered or non-binary individuals fit into society at large— How can we work toward a more inclusive society? How can we respect the basic human rights and dignity of transgendered individuals, but also acknowledge that for many people this may cause discomfort, anxiety, and even fear? We all deserve dignity and respect and hopefully this can bring you a little.

One of the guiding principles of this series is contained in a little secret I’m about to tell you: every question you could possibly have about a transgender individual has likely already been thought of by that person. Every little fear, every qualm, every “but what about?”, or “how do you?” has already been considered, stressed over, discussed and, if not fully resolved, at least moved several logical steps forward. I’m going to list some common questions in future posts, but lets start at an even more basic level: our common humanity. No one wants to get hurt, or to hurt anyone else. Don’t be afraid of the unknown. A certain amount of anxiety always accompanies societal changes.

As a teaser, I’m going to discuss a topic which always seems to bring a lot of anxiety: bathroom rights. I’m certainly going to discuss this more fully in the future, but for now consider this: if you’re not transgender, and have never had to consider the topic, it is perfectly normal to feel some level of anxiety or unease about this issue. As a trans woman I give you permission to feel uneasy. The bathroom is one of only a few places women can go in public to be away from men. It’s an incredibly vulnerable space which naturally magnifies any sense of discomfort or anxiety. If you are still working through your feelings about trans people, the idea of a trans woman in a bathroom with cisgender women may cause a sense of disquiet for reasons which are somewhat hard to pin down. But I’m here to tell you something which might blow your mind: TRANS WOMEN FEEL THE SAME WAY!! This is relatively new territory. Almost every trans woman I know, myself included, feels some level of anxiety entering a public restroom. And if other women are present, it can become downright terrifying. I want everyone to be as comfortable as possible, and if I sense anxiety or discomfort, it causes me anxiety and discomfort.

Your fears are my fears. Your hopes are my hopes.

Don’t worry, we’ll get through this together. It’s okay to be afraid, as long as we keep in mind that we’re all human beings. I don’t want to hurt you anymore than you want to hurt me. In the case of the bathroom, I just want to perform a basic human function with dignity. And in the case of society, I’m only asking for the right to exist. Fear is a normal human response that keeps us alive in times of danger, but can also short circuit our reasoning or grow to become unmanageable at other times. Acknowledging and naming a fear is an important step in taking away its power. It’s only when we push it away that it can find a different outlet — disgust, anger, or violence. I promise you my transgender sisters and brothers and I will respect your rights and your privacy as much as possible.

Written by

Transgender data scientist and parent to two children.

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