Q: How can you respect a trans friend if you disagree?

How can you respect a trans friend if you disagree? If you don’t believe a lifelong friend has a new gender, how can you respect your friend and retain your integrity?

When someone transitions or tells you about their gender, here’s something important to remember: it isn’t about you.

If a friend tells you they have pain in their back, whether you believe that they have pain in their back is irrelevant. You can’t prove they don’t, any more than they can prove that they do – this is an individual experience, and you aren’t able to feel the things that they feel.

I can hear the argument: but the friend can have an MRI which shows a bulging disc or degeneration of bones in their back, which shows the source of the back pain. Yes. Sometimes medicine can find sources for the things we feel. But not always. Sometimes back pain just can’t be explained with x-rays, ct scans and MRIs. And so it is with gender incongruence and dysphoria. Medicine hasn’t yet (and may never) found a root cause for gender incongruence, yet all the major reputable medical, psychological and psychiatric professional associations agree that being transgender is a real thing and it’s not a mental illness.

Getting back to your question: how can you respect your friend? Even if you have a difficult time believing that your friend is a gender different than what you have known their gender to be, try believing that your friend is experiencing what they are telling you that they are experiencing, and that the appropriate treatment for the way that they are feeling is for them to live in the gender that they experience.

As far as your integrity goes, remember that what is in question isn’t your integrity in what you believe, but your integrity in being a true friend. Your friend has made themselves vulnerable by sharing this information with you; are you going to be a true friend and love and support them as they make their way through this challenging time? Or are you going to compromise your integrity as a friend out of some misplaced sense of needing to always be right? Because if you think that you are right about your friend’s gender, you really aren’t — your friend is the only person who is capable of determining what their gender is.

You can be a good friend, respect them, and maintain your integrity, all at the same time. Just remember that your friend’s gender identity is not about you.

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