Let's talk about being transgender.
Sometimes, even when you're among the closest of your friends, there are topics that are hard to broach. You support your pals 100 percent, but you don't want to say the wrong thing, offend anyone or hurt any feelings.
But just because you may feel uncomfortable, or don't know how to broach the topic doesn't mean you should avoid talking to your friend. In the spirit of Spirit Day and ahead of MTV and Logo's "Laverne Cox Presents: The T Word," MTV has gathered helpful tips that might help you know what's OK and what's not when it comes to talking to your transgender friends about their identity. GLAAD's Tiq Milan, a trans man, offered up his advice.
DON'T: Ask "what's going on in your pants?"
It's natural to be curious, but that doesn't mean you should ask. After all, nobody is coming up to you and asking you about your genitalia. "As a common sense and common courtesy, we don't going around asking people about their private parts," Milan says. "You don't ask me, I don't ask you. Just because a person's trans doesn't mean that you can ask them. They're still a human being, they're still a person, they're still a person that lives by the same etiquette standards that we all do, you don't just ask a person about their genitals. It's just rude. Don't do it."
DO: Wait for your friend to tell you about any future medical or transitional plans.
There are many different options for a trans person's transition, whether that means hormones, surgeries, or nothing at all. The best thing to do is to wait for your pal to fill you in if they so choose. "If someone's on medications or if someone's had surgery, that's someone's basic, private medical history. That's not my business," Milan said. "But it depends on the individual and the context of the conversation. If someone wants to talk about surgeries or hormones they can, but I don't think it's a place that anyone should initiate."
DON'T: Ask if they're "a boy or a girl."
"That's the wrong way to phrase it," Milan says. "If someone is unsure about someone's gender identity or they're unsure of what pronouns someone is using, they can just ask. A nice way to ask is 'which pronoun do you prefer?' And they'll tell you." And they may not even identify on the gender binary -- their preferred pronoun could be "they."
Likewise, it's important not to make assumptions about sexuality. "There are trans people who are LGB, there are trans women who are lesbians, and there are trans men who are gay," Milan says. "Don't assume that because someone is transgender that they are attracted to someone of their opposite gender, that's not necessarily true."
DO: Call them by their chosen name.
This one should be an easy one, but it's tough for some to wrap their heads around. And if you're meeting someone new, it's not cool to ask what name they might have been born with. "It doesn't matter what a person's former name was, it matters who the person is in front of you, who you see and who they identify as now," Milan says.
DON'T: Freak out about the bathroom issue. Really.
Trans people face the same social stigma surrounding bathrooms and locker rooms that gay, lesbian and bisexual people do. Namely, there's always going to be someone insisting that a person is their to check them out. No way, says Milan.
"I would tell people don't believe the hype, basically," he says. "Trans women are not in the ladies rooms to do anything malicious, they're using the ladies rooms for the same thing everyone else does. They do their business and get out. Trans men are just going to the bathroom to take care of their business and leave. It's really just that simple. It's a safety issue for the trans person in question. I'm not going to walk into the ladies room and get accosted by security because someone doesn't think that I deserve to use the men's room. Trans people, we're not like special unicorns. We're not going to do anything magical or weird or anything, we're just everyday people trying to do everyday stuff." So relax.
DO: Let your friend speak for themselves.
In any social circle, there's bound to be sidetalk and gossip about what's going down in friends' lives. When it comes to your transgender friend, it's important to be an advocate. Refer to your friend by their preferred name and pronoun, and be respectful of them. Milan says to think of potentially harmful, gossipy conversations as a "teachable moment."
"People need to be accountable for themselves and also hold their friends accountable," he says. And if someone's asking about "down there" or any physical plans your friend has, "I think it would be important for someone to say in that moment, that doesn't matter, that's not important, and that's not an appropriate question to ask."
DON'T: Out a transgender person.
This is a big one. Not only is it not your place to share someone's trans identity, but you could be putting them in danger. "You don't know, there's lots of trans people who can be very low or no disclosure, and they can choose who to disclose to at their own discretion," Milan says. "It's no one's place to do that for them. It may also put people's safety in jeopardy, put their jobs in jeopardy or their relationships. You don't know what people's stories are, so it's important not to out people or tell other people that a person is trans."
Be sure to tune in to "Laverne Cox Presents: The T Word" on Friday, October 17 at 7 p.m. ET on MTV. Then catch up with Laverne and the cast on the MTV.com aftershow immediately ater the special airs.