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Now that we have covered some terminology, let’s talk about etiquette. If you’re like me, you want to show fellow people the respect you want from them. It’s ok to mess up. You can’t absorb all the rules at once. However, as long as you are trying, the person you are interacting with will pick up on that and help you along. This *short* list is intended for relatives, friends, and allies, and I am going to be quite frank here. I may add to it as I find necessary:

  1. Don’t assume to know a person’s gender or prefered pronouns. If you are in doubt, wait and observe interactions or ask. The individual will appreciate your attention.

  2. Don’t assume that a gay or lesbian individual calls their significant other “partner.” Many people have worked hard for many years to be able to have a real marriage instead of a civil union, and to be able to call their significant other “wife” or “husband”. And whatever you do, don’t ask a homosexual couple which one is the husband or the wife. That implies that relationships only work if a couple ascribe to strict gender norms and, to some, may also imply that there is a dominant/submissive relationship between them.

  3. Don’t ask a gay man if he is a top or bottom. Really?! Why are you so interested?

  4. If a person has a prefered name that differs from their legal name, use their prefered name. People often go by nicknames and we have no problem with that. So the least you can do is show this person a little respect by affirming their identity.

  5. When encountering a trans person, don’t say “Oh, I never would have guessed you were born a female/male” or “BUT you’re so pretty/handsome.” It displays that you are making assumptions about what a trans person should look like, and this person somehow exceeds your expectations. It may sound like a compliment, but it’s actually degrading to the transgender community.

  6. Don’t be nervous if you have to share a public restroom with a trans person. They just want to do their business and are likely far more uncomfortable than you. Don’t flatter yourself into thinking that they are going to want to sneak a peek. If you have to share a public restroom with a congressman on the other hand, you should be nervous.

  7. Don’t be apprehensive about letting LGBTQ+ people spend time with your kids. They’re not preditors and they’re not bad influences. You can’t catch it.

  8. Don’t assume that a homosexual/bisexual person of the same gender as you has any interest in sweeping you off your feet in a dramatic romantic gesture.

  9. Don’t assume that a person identifies as entirely male or female, or entirely homosexual or heterosexual. Remember those spectrums above and listen for clues from the individual.

  10. Don’t think that just because a lesbian may look butch that she saw the most recent ball game, or that an effeminate gay man knows how Emily Post would set the table. Loosen your idea of gender roles.

  11. Don’t say this - “Don’t let Timmy play with dolls. You’re going to make him gay.” It doesn’t work like that.

  12. Don’t be afraid to shake a gay man’s hand because you think he has HIV. Stop assuming he has HIV.

  13. It’s “transgender,” not “transgendered.” It’s an adjective, something that I am. Not something that was done to me.

  14. The following are bad words. Just believe me. Only a person who identifies as such can say them: tranny, faggot, fag, homo, homosexual (This is indicative of disease, instead say gay or lesbian. It is ok, however, to define same sex love as homosexuality, but an individual is not homosexual), sexual preference or lifestyle (This implies there is a choice, which there is not. Say orientation or life.). See more about this here:

  15. If you are saying things like pervert, sodomite, pedophile, beastiality, etc. to an LGBT person...I think you are going to need more help than I can offer here.

  16. Don’t call a transgender person or transexual person a transvestite. They are very different things.

  17. These are questionable words. Think about how you are using them: dyke, queer. Some lesbian or queer women are empowered by the word dyke because they identify on the masculine side of the gender spectrum. Others take offense. Queer is a valid identifier, but, like dyke, can often be used to harass a person. If you are using it to describe a negative trait, stop. Here is a rather derogatory list of LGBT slang. These words should never be uttered by an allie. If they are spoken by someone within the community, that’s their business. Some of them may even get convoluted into terms of friendship or endearment as a kind of inside joke.

  18. Don’t quote the Bible as a reason why a person should not be gay, lesbian, bi or trans. The individual did not choose to be that way. No one would choose to be ostracized by society and their family. If you believe in a god, believe that he chose to make people the way they are for a reason.

  19. If you are introducing two gay men to a group, do not say “This is Bill and his friend.” Even something like “This is Bill and his partner” leaves some ambiguity. Are they business partners? Say “This is Bill and his significant other/husband.” Better yet, ask before hand how they want to be introduced.

  20. If you are introducing a trans, queer, asexual, etc. individual to a group, again find out their preferences. They may or may not be ready to be out. Their name and pronouns may differ from what you anticipate.

  21. Don’t ask a trans person how they have sex or how they pee. Do they ask you? They are not a freak show attraction, so don’t treat them like one.

  22. Don’t ask a lesbian how she has sex or if she is ok with three-somes. Yes this question happens. A lot.

  23. Don’t ask a trans person if they’ve had “The Surgery.” Why yes, my throat healed up quite nicely after that tonsillectomy. There is no “The Surgery.” There are a multitude of surgeries, and some trans people never have any. Asking about them invades a person’s privacy and agitates gender dysphoria. If you are really curious, get online and learn about the different surgeries.

  24. General rule: keep all questions above the belt and out of the bedroom/bathroom.

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