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Sep 18 2016
by Felix Lecocq

6 Things to Remember When Meeting a Transgender Student

By Felix Lecocq - Sep 18 2016
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As we've all heard countless times, college is the time and place to meet new people and make new relationships with people from entirely different backgrounds. However, a lot of students don't realize that this applies to meeting people of different genders, as well as from different hometowns.

According to the Williams Institute, 0.3% of the US population identifies as transgender (meaning that they identify as a gender different from the one they were designated at birth). This statistic may seem really insignificant, but studies conducted among young Americans have shown that a much higher percentage of young people identify as transgender, speculating a number as high as 1.3%. That means that, if you meet 100 people on your first week of college, there is around a 73% chance that you will meet a transgender person.

Obviously, you don't want to start your first semester at college by offending a fellow student, so here is a handy list of steps you can take to make sure that both you and your new trans friend have a comfortable freshman year!

1. DON'T assume that this is the first trans person you've met.

If you have 300 friends on Facebook, there is a 98% chance that one of them is transgender. Maybe they aren't out to you or anyone else, but trans people do exist pretty much everywhere. Don't make your new transgender friend uncomfortable by putting pressure on them to be a spokesperson or by reducing them to their gender identity.

2. DON'T ask them about their genitals and/or sex life.

This really ought to be obvious, but asking someone questions about their genitals is extremely rude and invasive. If you don't go up to every cis guy you meet and ask if he's circumcised, don't ask a trans woman if she has a penis or how she has sex. Unless you are planning on sleeping with your new trans friend any time soon, their sex life is none of your business.

3. DO ask them about their pronouns.

Your new trans friend might have already introduced themselves with their pronouns, but if they haven't, make sure to ask and then remember to use these pronouns whenever you talk about your new trans friend. It doesn't have to be awkward: just a quick, "Hey, by the way, what pronouns do you want me to use for you?" would suffice.

4. DON'T ask them about their "real" name.

There's a reason that a lot of trans people refer to their birth name as their "deadname." Even hearing their deadname can make trans people feel uncomfortable and dysphoric, and there are very few situations in which you would actually need to know your friend's deadname. Just use the name that they introduced themselves with and you ought to be fine.

5. DON'T tell them that they're hot/pretty/handsome...for a trans person.

It's not a real compliment if you're demeaning their entire demographic in the process. Also don't compare a trans person's looks to your own with surprise. For example: "Wow! My new trans friend Lucy looks better in dark red lipstick than ME!" Why is it so shocking that a trans person can look good? Spoiler alert: it's not.

6. DO treat them like a real person.

Top tip: trans people are people too! As trite as it might sound, we're just as nervous and excited and eager to make friends as any other anxious freshman on their first semester. 

As long as you treat us with respect and kindness and avoid asking awkward questions about our genitals, you should be fine.

Lead Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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Felix Lecocq - University of Chicago

Felix is an international student from London about to start his freshman year at University of Chicago. In his spare time, he enjoys writing spoken word poetry about LGBT issues, and watching cartoons based on comic books. Instagram: aliengender; twitter: @felixthepoet.

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