Trans FAQ: Your questions about trans topics, answered

Trans FAQ: Your questions about trans topics, answered


Hey everyone! My name is Riley, and today I’m going to go over some frequently asked questions about trans people. Think of this as like a trans 101-kind of
video. I’ll go over some of the basics of the language
surrounding trans topics — like explaining what “trans woman” and “trans man”
mean — and then I’ll answer some questions from you all that I got from Twitter, like
how to talk about trans people in the past tense before they transitioned, how trans
people choose their names, what a gender-neutral version of sir or ma’am is, and other questions
like that. Hopefully this video will be helpful for anyone
who has trans friends or family members, or maybe folks who have had questions about these
topics for a while but have been afraid to ask them, or even for trans people who are
new to the community. I’ll also link to a bunch of my past videos
in the description for a more in-depth look at some of the topics that I’ll only cover
briefly here. Before I dive into the video though, I want
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this channel. So if you’d like to try out the $5 starter
set, you can go to dollarshaveclub.com/riley. Anyway, let’s get back to the video. So first off, I want to start really basic
and just define some of the terms that I’ll be using throughout this video. So, a trans woman is simply a woman who was
assigned male at birth. That means she was raised with people thinking
she was a boy and referring to her using “he and him” pronouns, but one day she realized that wasn’t who she was, so she came out as trans. I would not say that she “was a man” and
then “became a woman”, but she never really “was a man”, she just hadn’t yet figured
out that she’s a woman. It’s like, when someone comes out as gay. They don’t “become gay”, they just realize
that they were gay all along and didn’t know it. Or it’s like if you grow up thinking you’re
an only child, but then as an adult you find out you have a long lost sister. At that point, you didn’t just “become”
a sibling, you’ve been a sibling the whole time, you just became aware of it recently. So you wouldn’t say “back when I wasn’t
a sibling”, because you *were* a sibling — you would just say, “Back when I didn’t
yet know I was a sibling” — if that makes sense. That’s why for a trans woman, I would say “assigned male at birth” instead of “was a man”, because she was never a man,
that’s just what the world assigned to her. And the opposite is true for trans men. A trans man is a man who was assigned female
at birth. So, he was raised with people thinking he
was a girl and referring to him using “she and her” pronouns, but one day he realized
that wasn’t who he was, and so he came out as trans. And for the same reasons, I would not say
that he “was a girl”, instead, I would say he was “assigned female at birth”. The “trans” in “trans woman” or “trans
man” is simply an adjective describing the noun that comes after it, which is either
“woman” or “man”. So a trans woman could also just be called
a woman. Or a woman who happens to be trans. It also means that “trans woman” is two
different words, not one word, because it’s just an adjective, like “short woman”
or “strong woman”. You wouldn’t combine those into a single
word, so it doesn’t really make sense to do that for the word “trans”. And if you want to talk about people who are
not trans, the word you’re looking for is cisgender, or cis for short. Cis just means not trans. So if you’re a woman who is not trans, you’re
a cis woman. It’s just another adjective. Sometimes people who are new to learning about
trans topics will, for explain, say “trans women and real women” or “trans women
and biological women” to like distinguish between trans and cis women, but both of those
phrases can be very hurtful to trans women because it implies they’re somehow not real
women. In any case where you’re referring to women
who aren’t trans, it makes the most sense just to refer to them as cis women. If you want more information about why trans
women are biologically women, and trans men are biologically men, I’ll link to a video
in the description that explains more about that. The only other term I want to define here
before we move on to some questions is “nonbinary”. So a person who is nonbinary is somebody who
isn’t strictly a woman or a man. Often, this means that they’re not a man
or a woman at all. The easiest way I think to explain this is
by first thinking about a binary trans person, so a trans woman or a trans man. Let’s say there’s a trans woman who just
has this instinctual gut feeling that she is not a man, and then also she has this strong
innate feeling that she is a woman. That’s kind of the basic trans narrative
that people might know and be somewhat familiar with. Well, imagine that for a nonbinary person,
they feel that strong innate feeling of not being a man, but they also feel that for not
being a woman. And so their gender exists as something else. There are a lot of smaller identities underneath
the “nonbinary” umbrella, but to keep things simple, I won’t go into much detail
about all of those. The only thing I will say about those is that
some people can be a man and nonbinary, or a woman and nonbinary, because their gender exists as something that overlaps both of those things. Try to think of gender more as a spectrum,
where someone could land in just one of the categories, or they could land in a space
where two categories overlap, rather than thinking of gender as three solidly different
categories — because I think that would be an oversimplification. There will be in a video in the description
with more info on that. Now, I know nonbinary genders might be hard
to conceptualize if they’re not something you’ve ever run into before — and that’s
okay, you don’t need to totally get it right away — but nonbinary identities have been
around for a long time in all kinds of cultures around the world, and I’ll link to an article
in the description that can give you more details about that. Nonbinary genders are gaining legal recognition
lately too, as several states in the US have added a third “X” option to driver’s licenses and birth certificates, instead of just M or F. Appearance-wise, trans women, trans men, and
nonbinary people can really look like anything. They might have more masculine features. They might have more feminine features. For example, some trans women “pass” extremely
well, which means that most strangers perceive them as cis women, while other trans women
who may not have access to transition-related care or might not want to physically transition
for whatever reason, might not “pass”, meaning they are generally perceived by strangers
as cis men. And some trans women might sometimes pass and sometimes not depending on a variety of factors. But regardless of their appearance, all of
those kinds of trans women are still women. Likewise, trans men are still men, and nonbinary people are still nonbinary, regardless of their appearance. I’ll link to a video in the description
with more information on “passing” and all of that. In terms of language, lots of nonbinary people
use singular “they/them” pronouns. So, for example, instead of saying, “She
just called because she forgot her keys,” you would say, “They just called because
they forgot their keys”. Singular they has a long history in the English
language, and with a little practice, it can be really easy to refer to someone that way. I’ll link to one of my videos with more
information on singular they in the description. But it’s also important to note that some
nonbinary people use he/him or she/her pronouns as well, for whatever reason. Pronouns don’t necessarily tell you what
someone’s gender is. Alright, so, let’s answer some questions. I asked you all on Twitter for some questions,
and I’ve gathered all of the ones that I felt I could answer well. Some of them were out of my area of expertise
or I didn’t know how to answer them, and I condensed some of them that were similar
into a single question. I also had to cut some good questions just
because this video was getting way too long. So I’m sorry if I didn’t get to your question,
but hopefully there’s a solid batch of frequently asked questions here. First off, “How do you refer to a trans
person when talking about them before they came out?” So for example, let’s say you have a friend. You’ve been friends for ten years, and about three years ago, they came out as trans. Before that point, they used “he/him”
pronouns and their name was John. But after they came out three years ago, they started using “she/her” pronouns and going by Jennifer. And so, in day to day conversations, you call her “Jennifer” and say “She” and “Her” and all of that. But then, you’re telling a story about the two of you from 6 years ago, so well before she came out. Since she wasn’t out at that time, do you
use her old name and old pronouns? I would say: absolutely not, and I think most
trans people would agree with me on that. It’s probably best to just retroactively apply her new name and pronouns to that old memory or story. The main reason for this is because for many
trans people, being referred to by their old name or old pronouns in any context can be
extremely hurtful, because it’s something they’ve worked so hard to get away from,
and it’s something that hateful people can use to try and insult them. So, to save your friend from feeling bad,
it doesn’t hurt to just use their current pronouns and name regardless of when the time
period is that you’re talking about. If the story uses their old name as an integral
part, you could say the phrase “her old name” or “her deadname” if you know
that that’s something she’s okay with you bringing up in that context, but I definitely
wouldn’t say the name itself. So in this hypothetical situation, even if
you’re talking about your friend from a time before she came out, you should still
refer to her as Jennifer and use she/her pronouns. The next question is: “How do you explain
transness without saying that someone was ‘born in the wrong body’”? Now this is a really good question because
I really hate that phrase and I know a lot of other trans people do too. I think the “born in the wrong body” narrative
has become the most prevalent mainstream trans narrative because it’s simple. It’s easy for a cis person to go, “Oh,
they just have the wrong body and they just need a new body and then the problem is solved.” It’s neat and tidy, and unfortunately, that’s
not how humans work. Sure, some trans people might feel that they
were born in the wrong body, and that’s a completely valid way to feel, but it’s
definitely not the way that all — or even most — trans people feel. For many trans people, they can be deeply
uncomfortable with certain aspects of their body but still feel like it’s their correct
body. They might want to make some changes to it, but that doesn’t mean that it’s the wrong body. For example, I have to wear glasses or contacts
to be able to see well. Does that mean I was born in the wrong body,
because this aspect of myself isn’t exactly how I might want it to be? I don’t think so. I think it means that this is still the right
body, I just need to work with what I was given and adapt by wearing glasses or contacts. Obviously it’s not a perfect analogy, but
I think it can get across my point. Wanting to change some part of yourself physically
to feel better in your body doesn’t automatically mean the whole body is the wrong one, it might
just have some not-so-ideal features. And so to explain transness without using
that phrase, I would say: Some people don’t feel comfortable with the gender they were
assigned at birth, and they feel much more comfortable with a different gender. That feeling is generally powerful and innate
and unable to changed by outside forces, and so it’s important that we help and support
these people in any way we can. That might be an oversimplification of things
as well, but, I think that’s the easiest, quickest way to explain what transness is
and why we should support trans people rather than deny their existence. Next up, “Do trans people want to be referred to as trans or just by the larger category of their gender. For example, would a trans woman want to be
called a trans woman, or just a woman?” I think this one actually depends on the situation. So generally I would say, if the fact that
the person is trans is relevant to what’s being talked about, then say they’re trans. Otherwise just refer to them as their gender,
like a woman or a man. For instance, I’m making this video about
trans topics, so the fact that I’m trans is relevant. So if you tell someone about this video and
say, “This trans woman made a video answering all these questions,” that totally makes
sense. But if I just make some travel video with
my girlfriend and never mention being trans in that, it’d be a little weird if you were like, “Hey look at the travel vlog this trans girl made.” Because, why in that situation is it relevant
that I’m trans? At that point, it can feel like I’m being pigeonholed, like you’re only allowing me to be “that trans girl” and not allowing me to just
be a person making a travel video. Obviously there could be reasons for it, like
you’re recommending it to your trans friend who also wants to get into travel vlogging
or something, but in general I would definitely refer to trans women simply as women, trans
men simply as men, and nonbinary people simply as people — unless you specifically have
a relevant reason for identifying them as trans or nonbinary in that context. Speaking of which, the next question is, “How
do you conceptualize nonbinary people who don’t place themselves under the trans umbrella?” So for me, by my definition of trans, I generally include nonbinary people when talking about trans stuff. Because if being trans is not identifying
as the gender you were assigned at birth, then all nonbinary people are trans because
no one was assigned nonbinary at birth. That doesn’t mean that nonbinary people
and binary trans people are identical in every way, it just means that we all exist under
the same large umbrella term. But, there are definitely nonbinary people who don’t identify as trans, and that’s completely okay. I would never force a label on anyone, so
if a nonbinary person doesn’t feel like that label fits them, that’s fine. In fact, I usually say “trans and nonbinary
people” when talking about trans stuff, not to say that nonbinary people are separate
from trans people, but kind of as a reminder that nonbinary people are in this community
too and affected by a lot of the same things that affect binary trans people. So for me, I see us all as one community of
people who are not cis, and then within that, people can identify however they want to. I don’t think there’s any point in being
pedantic and nitpicky and being like, “Well you’re ‘this’ so you have to be ‘that’”,
because sometimes a certain label just doesn’t resonate for someone even if their own identity might have some overlap with it, and that’s okay. It doesn’t hurt anybody for them to identify
the way they feel the most comfortable. Next, the question is, “With language continuously evolving, how do we do our best to use trans inclusive language?” And that’s a great question because the
language around this stuff evolves so fast. Words that were commonplace 20 years ago can
be extremely hurtful today, and new words for things are constantly being made to describe things that we previously just didn’t have a word for. The best thing you can do, as a person not
trying to hurt the feelings of trans people, is just do your research. That can include this video or other videos
by trans people, or articles written by trans people. Because there’s no governing body for trans
people that decides what the “right” language is, we all just kind of collectively come
to a general understanding of what’s what, and not everyone agrees with each other. So you’ll absolutely find trans people who
disagree with each other, but the important part is trying to understand what the overall
general consensus is for what words are helpful and which are hurtful. Usually, large trans or LGBT+ organizations
will have decent guides, like GLAAD or the National Center for Transgender Equality. Planned Parenthood even has a decent glossary of terms, and I’ll link to all three of those below. If you’re talking to a specific trans person
and the situation arises where you need to describe them, it’s probably best to ask
them what words they like for themself. Because at the end of the day, we try to use trans inclusive language so that trans people feel included. So it couldn’t hurt to bring them into the
conversation about it. And if a trans person asks you not to use
a certain word to describe them, then listen to them. Or if a word falls out of use, learn to be
okay with that change and with letting go of that word, even if it’s something you’ve
used without a problem in the past. Alright, “How can people best support closeted trans folks? For example, your trans friend is in the closet, and you want to affirm them without outing them. What are some ways to strike that balance?” I would say that the best thing you can do
is talk to them about how they want you to refer to them around people they’re not
out to, then stick to that so that you don’t accidentally out them, but then in private,
do everything you can to reassure them that you really do see them as the gender they
are, not the one everyone else thinks they are. Let them know that you’re there for them
if they want to try out a new name or pronouns in private, help them access things that they
might be afraid to reach out for, like a binder for trans men or women’s clothes for a trans
woman. Every little thing you can do to affirm them
in private and let them know that you’re on their side is going to help, because being
stuck in the closet is probably going to suck, but it can suck a little bit less with a good
friend there with you through all of it. Someone else asked, “Do you need dysphoria
to be trans?” And I know this is a big controversial topic
in the trans community, and I’m sure I’ve talked about it before on some form of social media. But my answer is pretty simple: No, I don’t
think you need dysphoria to be trans. And I find all of the gatekeeping and the “no you’re not trans enough” stuff really really disheartening. The trans community is meant to be a place
that non-cis people can turn to when the cis people don’t understand them or won’t
accept them, and instead it sometimes becomes a competition for who’s suffered the most. Some trans people who’ve faced debilitating
dysphoria and horrific barriers to care then want others to have to suffer that much too,
so that it’s “fair”, while some other folks are just unable to empathize with any
narrative that doesn’t perfectly match their own. We’re an enormous, diverse community with
a million different stories, and while my experience as a trans person might be similar
to a lot of other trans people’s, it won’t be exactly the same, and that’s okay. I can accept that we’ve all arrived here
in different ways, as different people, and I think that’s important to keep in mind
whenever any sort of gatekeeping like this happens. Letting more non-cis people into the community
doesn’t in any way diminish what you have, but it does help those people immensely. And so, specifically with this dysphoria thing,
the best explanation I’ve heard is this: Being trans is simply not identifying as the
gender you were assigned at birth. Gender dysphoria is an intense feeling of
discomfort with the gender you were assigned at birth, both in terms of physical and social
aspects. Now those things obviously have a ton of overlap,
but they’re not identical definitions. Maybe you can’t imagine why someone would
identify as trans if they don’t feel strong dysphoria, but the world doesn’t solely
exist through what you can imagine. People can have different experiences and
their own reasons. For example, the opposite of gender dysphoria
is often described as gender euphoria. So, someone could never experience gender
dysphoria, but then experience something that causes intense gender euphoria, and they realize
that actually, they could be much happier. Should we say that they can’t be trans just
because, what, they aren’t suffering? If they can be happier by transitioning and
experiencing that gender euphoria, what right does anyone have to deny them of that? That’s why I think it’s important to leave
room for experiences that are different from your own, because different paths can lead to the same place, even if you don’t really understand the path. And I personally don’t want to define transness
based solely on suffering, and feeling bad. Because what if someone only has social dysphoria
and not body dysphoria? If they’re raised in a loving, trans-inclusive
society, are they no longer trans because they’re not being forced to confront that
dysphoria on a daily basis? I just think that defining transness based
on how we identify, how we truly feel about our gender, is important, because it prevents
people from saying, “You’re not trans because you didn’t do this, that, and the
other thing.” If you start setting up all these barriers
and requirements, you force people to stay in the closet out of a fear that they won’t
qualify or that they’ll be scrutinized super intensely. I’d rather have an open, inclusive trans
community. Okay, so how about a more light-hearted question. “I’m writing a fictional trans character and I was wondering, how do trans folks choose their names? Are their new names often connected to their
old names, like Felix to Felicity?” In my experience, most trans people I know
have chosen a name that is as far away from their old name as possible. Obviously, everyone is different and I’m
sure some folks have definitely just chosen like the female or male version of their old
name, but I think by and large the trend is to get away from the old name and choose something
completely new. For how they choose their names, I think baby
name generators are a pretty common tool. Some folks will try to find something that
was popular in their birth year so that it’s like it *could* have been their name from
the start. There are also just some names that are super
popular for trans men or trans women, like lots of trans guys are named Aiden, and lots
of trans girls are named Zoey — but I honestly think it’s great that there’s like a set
of more popular names for trans people because it’s cute and fun and allows for some great
memes to pop up. Alright, real quick, I want to recommend some
of my other videos. There were three seperate questions about
how to have sex with a trans woman, what Hormone Replacement Therapy is like for trans women,
and what the difference is between Gender Identity and Gender Expression — and luckily
I’ve done videos on all three of those topics, so I’ll link them all below. Next, “What’s a gender neutral version
of sir or ma’am?” There are a lot of great joke answers to this,
but in all serious, there isn’t a good widely-recognized gender-neutral version of sir or ma’am. However, in most cases where you need to say
that, you can usually either say nothing at all, if you’re just tacking it onto the
end of a sentence, or say “Excuse me”, if you’re trying to get someone’s attention. Because while it can be affirming as a trans
person to go out and get gendered correctly like that, you also run the risk of misgendering
someone if you judge them wrong based on their appearance, and that could make them feel
really bad, which hopefully isn’t how you want to make them feel. So, I think that’s all we’re gonna have
time for today. If you have any other questions, feel free
to leave them in the comments, and I may potentially answer them in a future video if I feel like
there’s enough to make a decent Part 2 for this video. I do hope you enjoyed this video though and
that it answered at least some of your questions about trans stuff. Also, don’t forget to use the link in the
description to go to dollarshaveclub.com/riley and get started on improving your shaving
routine. Thanks so much for watching, and I’ll see
you next time.

38 thoughts on “Trans FAQ: Your questions about trans topics, answered

  1. 💛💙💜💚❤ 💠🌺⚪🌺💠
    Thanks for the vid and all the info you give for those that need to know.

  2. Great video. For the person asking about how Trans people choose a new name for themselves. Since you using that for a fictional character, it would be a good idea to take what the character is as an individual and couple that with the different ways Riley has described to choose how that character chooses a new name, since gender is just one part of a miriad of things that makes up an individual.

  3. Preach Riley! The gatekeeping and the no you're not trans enough are more than disheartening to me, they're toxic af. And don't get me started on Terf lesbians not wanting us at 'their' pride events… ❤️❤️

  4. Thank you for this. My girlfriend is trans and I'm always trying to learn more about how to support and affirm her

  5. hey all! thanks for watching this video, and thanks to Dollar Shave Club for sponsoring it 😄 remember that you can go to http://dollarshaveclub.com/riley to get your starter set for only $5 🎉

  6. Honest question: is it OK if my Trans Woman Hero has a phallic weapon …?

    (You know, like a Sword..or a Spear..or a Gun, etc)

  7. Just want to point people to behindthename.com for finding names 😀 It's a great resource for writing, and I figure it'd awesome for trans people that want to choose their name. :3 <3

  8. Thank you for this video! I'm adding it to my list of videos to share if someone wants to learn more about being transgender.

  9. Thank you so much for this video! I am a trans non binary person who does not experience body disphoria. I love how you talk about being trans and shed light on controversial issues. Thank you for validating my existence and others.

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