Do you remember those books that were popular in the 70s and 80s – with titles like “The Vegetable and Herb Expert”? They taught us how to nurture our plants and help them grow into strong, beautiful things. I wanted to make this something similar, but thought “The Trans Expert” might be overreaching myself a little. Besides, I’m no expert.

There’s a million and one issues involved in living with another person – be they your partner, child, parent, sibling, house-mate, etc., let alone when that person identifies very differently to you. Personally, I find other people quite ‘tricky’, and frankly, it’s a miracle that my partner has put up with me as long as she has. But she has, which is all that counts.

There’s an assumption, when someone comes out as being trans, that suddenly there will be a lot of drama, upheaval and heartache. I’m going to be looking at the impact of this on personal relationships sometime around Valentines Day, so won’t go into that side of things too heavily now. However, it needn’t all be about drama. Here are a few things to help you look after the trans person in your life:

1) Don’t assume ANYthing. Sure, read about trans people, watch the documentaries, check out Chaz Bono’s book/TV programme/etc. if that does it for you, but please don’t assume that YOUR trans loved one will necessarily conform to all, or any, of the things you read/see/expect. We are all individuals, and just as (say) every person with blonde hair is different, so is every trans person. Despite the jokes made about both groups of people.

2) Don’t call us ‘brave’. I’ve talked about this before, but really, I’m just me and I can’t say I’m particularly brave. Going to the dentist last week practically made me wee myself, and I’ve never rescued a small child from a burning building, so no, no bravery here. Feel free to focus on your loved one’s specific acts of bravery (eg: coming out to a family member who has traditionally had an issue with LGBT people, for instance) but please don’t call us brave just for being who we are. And on a related note…

3) Don’t call us ‘inspiring’. I’d love to think I’m inspiring, perhaps through my writing, or my YouTube videos, or because someone I know has found me helpful at some point. But please don’t call me ‘inspiring’ just because I’m trans. Focus on someone’s actions, specifically what they have done or said that you admire, not just the fact of their existence. Trans people just exist.

4) Appreciate that if we are taking testosterone we are going through a lot of changes, but that we are still basically the same old people. Don’t let people get away with sh*t because they’re transitioning, but at the same time, be prepared to accept that life can be a bit roller-coastery for us at times. And remember that, like anyone, sometimes we need a big hug, and sometimes we need space. Talk to us if you want to know which.

5) As much as you want to be involved in helping us match up our outsides with our insides, be very wary of giving us advice on “how to be more like” the gender with which we identify. Just because I ask you whether my new shirt makes me look manly or not doesn’t mean I’m giving you free rein to say “well, whilst I’m at it, you look really girly when you stand like that”. Sometimes I do ask my partner for pointers, but this is negotiated, and you won’t make your trans loved one happy by pointing out to them on a regular basis how UNlike the gender with which they identify they currently look/act.

Most of all, though, please do what Elisha Lim and Rae Spoon sing in this video. And yes, the first few seconds are minus sound…don’t adjust your sets.

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