Chaz Bono spurs trans etiquette talk

Here is a great article on trans etiquette spurred by Chaz Bono’s coming out process. The article focuses on workplace issues, but it can be generalized to the everyday. Reposted from

It’s all over the news: Chaz Bono, the child of legendary entertainers Sonny and Cher, is in the early stages of changing his gender – transitioning from female to male.

But Bono is not alone. Shane Morgan reached a similar courageous decision several years ago. Here’s his story.

Shane Morgan is the founder of TransOhio, a Columbus, Ohio-based nonprofit that serves the state’s transgender and ally communities by providing services, education, support and advocacy.

If you were sitting next to me on a bus, you’d never know. If you were sitting across from me in a meeting, you’d never know. If we spoke on the phone, you’d never know. You would never know that I spent the first 24 years of my life with a female body that I never felt connected to. Now, post-transition from female to male, you’d never question my entering the men’s room or using male pronouns to describe myself. You’d never question my gender identity. To the world, I’m a short, balding, muscle-bound, mid-30s average Joe – and that’s what you should see.

I come out on a daily basis and share my personal story and experience whenever I can. Advocacy and education are in my blood. I began my physical transition in 2004. For me, blending into society was easy. Testosterone quickly masked the effects that estrogen had on the body. My voice dropped, facial hair came in and my body quickly became very masculine. Passing, for me, was easy. What’s more, my family, friends and coworkers were supportive.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case for many transgender individuals nationwide. That’s why, in 2005, I founded an organization called TransOhio, a nonprofit that serves the Ohio transgender and ally communities by providing services, education, support and advocacy. Our mission is to improve the health, safety and life experience of transgender individuals.

As a community leader and a transgender individual, I’m often asked about how businesses and employees can be supportive of an employee who’s going to be transitioning on the job. The most simplistic answer I can provide: Use common sense. How can employers and coworkers be supportive?

 Beyond educating yourself: 

· Use correct pronouns. The words you choose to describe a colleague should align with his or her gender identity. If you’re not sure which pronoun somebody prefers because they’re transitioning, ask respectfully. Never use the word “it” when referring to someone who is transgender – it’s disrespectful and insulting. Also, do not use the words “shim” or “she-male” or let others think that those types of remarks are acceptable at work.

· Ask workplace-appropriate questions only. Inquiring directly about a transgender colleague’s experience fosters open and affirming dialogue. But don’t get too personal or ask questions such as “Which bathroom do you use?” 

· Ensure privacy. Do not share the gender identity of individuals with others in the office without permission. It’s important to not assume that everyone in your office knows. Coming out is the transgender individual’s decision – not yours. Employees gossip, so make a conscious decision not to be a part of these types of conversations.

· Respect gender expressions. Although discussions about transgenderism are being held more openly and frequently in the workplace, don’t assume that the transgender person arrived at this conclusion overnight. He or she didn’t. Transgender people have often felt to be the opposite gender from a very early age. Be respectful of the person’s decision to express his or her gender, even if it doesn’t fit with your personal definition.

If you are genuine and sincere, transgender people will respond and share the most amazing stories with you. You’ll hear of wonderful highs and terrible lows. But you’ll also begin to understand what courage and clarity people have once they decide to transition. You’ll be introduced to a new way of thinking about gender and how people interact with one another in society. That kind of experience in the workplace doesn’t happen every day – it’s a reward. So if you have an opportunity to be an ally and to educate others, embrace it. Enjoy it.

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