A final checklist to ensure trans people’s experience of your organisation is a positive one:
- A trans person in your place of business is there do business with you, not to educate you, even if this is your first encounter with a trans person
- Never ask personal questions about their body or medical treatment – a good rule of thumb is ‘don’t ask a question you wouldn’t ask of any other customer’
- Always address people using the name they prefer, even if this doesn’t match their legal documents
- If someone dresses or presents as female, assume she would prefer to be addressed as “she” or “her” (and the opposite for someone who presents as male) unless she tells you otherwise
- If you aren’t sure whether a person identifies as male or female, you can first of all listen to people they are with to get a sense of how they prefer to be referred to. Until you are sure how somebody prefers to be referred to, you may find it helpful to refer to them in neutral terms such as “they” or “them”. Never refer to a person as “it” or “he/she”
- If you are in doubt, you could ask which title the person prefers. This might also give you a good idea about whether they would prefer you to use “he” or “she” (this shouldn’t usually be necessary)
- Don’t make assumptions about which toilet or changing room customers wish to use. Make sure they are allowed to use the facilities they feel is most appropriate to their gender – it is not a crime for a person to use facilities which don’t correspond to their sex at birth!
- Don’t make assumptions about someone’s sexual orientation because you know or suspect them to be trans. trans people can be gay, lesbian, bisexual or straight, just like anyone else
- If you use the wrong pronoun or say the wrong thing, apologise sincerely and move on – don’t dwell on it or make it into a big deal (this will be more embarrassing for both of you!)
- Remember that being trans is just one aspect of a person’s personality – treat them with exactly the same courtesy, respect and friendliness as any other customer and you will be fine!
“Trans” or “transgender” are used as umbrella terms to describe a wide range of people whose experience of their gender differs in some way from the expectations and assumptions that society makes based on their sex at birth. This includes:
- People who transition to live permanently in the opposite gender to their sex at birth
- Non-binary people who do not identify simply as men or as women but instead find that either they are somewhere on a spectrum in-between the two or they don’t have a definable gender. (This is different to being born with an intersex biological sex variation.)
- People who cross-dress occasionally or more regularly without any wish to transition
This is a vast simplification and there are many trans people who wouldn’t feel that their identity fits within these descriptions. For more information about trans identities and how you can support trans staff and services users, please see our help and advice pages. You can also contact the Scottish Transgender Alliance for more help and support, or see their “Into to Trans Terms” for more information about different trans identities.