Q: How can I understand transgender people?

Note: I've been searching for writing prompts for my blog and found Quora, where people can ask questions about a variety of topics, and other people write answers. I've answered a lot of questions on the site, and realized that many of my answers might be worth sharing here.

How can I understand transgender people?

If you aren’t transgender and/or haven’t experienced gender incongruence / dysphoria, the likelihood is you won’t be able to understand the transgender experience.

But all is not lost!

You can learn about what it means to be transgender, and you can do mental exercises to try to get an idea of what it might be like. You can talk to transgender people (please don’t out them or ask intrusive questions unless they invite you to) and listen to their experiences. You can read books and blogs written by trans people. You can watch YouTube videos made by trans people. You can read studies of trans people which seek to identify common experiences and patterns. You can attend transgender conferences which happen throughout the year in cities across the United States and around the world. You can ask more (specific) questions here.

And…

You can believe what transgender people tell you. You can believe that when we say that gender dysphoria hurts, it really does. And when we say we didn’t choose to be transgender, it really wasn’t a choice. You can learn that being transgender isn’t a mental illness, but that the ways in which we are treated by some people in the world causes us to be more at risk for depression, anxiety and other disorders. You can pay attention to the news where every week (if not every day), there’s a report of yet another trans person being killed, another policy coming down from the federal government excluding trans people from another facet of citizenship, another legislature voting on where trans people are allowed to go to the bathroom. You can look in your social media and see where other people are constantly attacking us for simply having the audacity to ask for the things which everyone else takes for granted. You can care for us in homeless shelters where we are much more likely to be living because in most states, it is still legal to discriminate against us for jobs, housing, and access to public services; oh wait, you’ll have a harder time finding trans people in homeless shelters because the federal government recently issued guidance to shelters signaling that its alright for them to discriminate against trans people!

You can call us the names and the pronouns we tell you, because every person deserves at least that shred of dignity. You can use those names and pronouns even when we aren’t around, because that’s who we really are.

But really, the big thing is to just believe us when we tell you who and what we are. The outsides might not match the insides very well, but looks can be deceiving.

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