Why can’t I say someone looks transgender? A short explanation.

Hi there. I’m trying to explain to my sister why it’s wrong to say that a cis woman “looks transgender”. She used worse language and I explained that to her, but she thinks that because we are in the privacy of our own home and no trans* people are around to hear it, it’s ok. Her other defence is that some trans* people are fine with it. Telling her that doesn’t make it ok doesn’t seem to cut it. What would you say is the best way to respond? I’m sorry if this is a silly question. I’m trying to call people out more when they say problematic things and sometimes I find that I can’t explain why it’s problematic, I just know that it is.

Answer:

Use something that she’ll understand as a reference point. Once she sees that the comparison is unfair at best and horrible at worst she might stop.

If you’re in the privacy of your own home, you still wouldn’t refer to black people as the N word or to jewish people as the K word. The only correct phrasing for that is “it looks like person x might have had a trans* medical history,” and even THAT isn’t entirely ok because you are then speculating about a person’s medical history, something very private and not something people want to share. And the reason a lot of people don’t want to share it is because that type of thing has resulted in people being assaulted, raped, and killed.

Considering how many trans people are definitively NOT fine with it, the handful that are (often the super-privileged and in several cases those who do not fit the modern definition of transgender) a handful of people saying it’s ok doesn’t make it ok.

I hope that helps.

Notes

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