I hate to bump and I hate to double post, so I really hate to do both at the same time but there is a good reason for this one. I don't think it would be appropriate to edit it in to my last post either, but someone asked me a pretty good question, which has been coming up a lot in real life too. I don't remember if we covered this in-depth yet, but seeing how people on the forums have been speaking on this subject else where, it couldn't hurt to cover it in detail here and now.
What happens when a friend or family member comes out, also dealing with trans people in a respectful manner: Something very important all too many people are ignorant on, or just plain ignoring.
My friend or a family member came out. Should I refer to them to as the opposite gender now?:
The short answer is yes. I hear the argument against doing this a lot, but none of them hold water, not a single one. The line "I'm not going to play along with someone's game of pretend," is one I hear a lot, as is; "they're just putting on a mask." Well guess what, you're not only wrong, you're intentionally being cruel to someone who has more than their fair share of trouble being themselves. Being trans means spending a lot of time hiding your true self, it means we have to pretend to be something we're not for a large portion of our lives, it means we have to pretend to make other people happy. You want know what is the best feeling in the world for a trans person? It's being accepted for who we are, being treated like the person we feel we are in the inside, it's especially good the first someone accepts us for who we are, it's an unimaginably good and heart warming feeling when it happens.
Another argument I see a lot is that using someone's preferred gender pronouns is some how impinging on your freedom of speech, well guess what, it's not. You have the freedom to disagree and personally not see your trans friend, or family member as how they present and identify. But using free speech as an argument for trying to invalidate someone else's self expression and self determination is a violation of their freedoms and it makes you a hypocrite. Besides this is not an argument of legality, this is not a legal restriction on you, you're not being censored against the constitution. What is happening here is you're being asked to be nice to someone and respect their identity and wishes, not respecting those wishes is being a jerk, no ifs, ands, or buts.
Those arguments are the weakest, most petty and childish excuses you can put up to not respect a transgender persons wishes and identity, or in other words there is no excuse for it. I understand that it might be hard for you to do this, it might even be against your personal beliefs, but try and think about how much harder it is for us on a daily basis just to be ourselves. Even on the biological and phenotype argument, doing these sort of things isn't right, it's damaging to the other person and you're being obstinate in a way that hurts some one else. The last argument is not coddling other people, or someone's being too sensitive. Well you know what? If I did something similar to you it'd hurt you too, it's a double standard to ignore it with a trans person. Besides when someone is asking you to do something that costs you literally nothing to make someone else happy, there is no reason not to do it.
Now that all applies to people who flatly refuse to acknowledge our struggles, if you just don't know weather or not it's right to refer to your friend or family member as the gender they're transitioning to, that's understandable. Again if a friend/family member comes out to you and is a transwoman, refer to them as if they were a female, or if they come out as a transman, refer to them as a male. It'll make them really happy to have the support.
What if I screw up their gender pronouns, even though I am trying really hard not to?:
This is a problem and it can be a little disheartening for us, but if it's an honest mistake, it's also really easy for us to forgive. Simply put admitting the screw up and apologizing is usually all it takes to rectify the issue. I understand that it can be difficult, especially if you're used to someone as their birth sex, it's in all honestly quite a change to process, and takes time to get used to, if you ever do. Still if you're working with us and being patient, then we'll do the same for you.
The only time this is ever a real serious problem is when you misgender a trans person is when you do it in front of someone who doesn't know that your friend/family member is trans. That's because this is outing the trans person and it's never okay to out someone is trans, or gay against their will. This is especially true for trans people, because it is dangerous to be outed, as a really disturbingly large number of people become violent when when presented with a trans person. Though it's more likely that they just become hostile and mean about the whole thing. To be honest, even if things get ugly, it can and usually will be forgiven, we know you're not trying to out us and do appreciate the effort to use the correct words for us.
My friend/family member changed their name, the only problem is that another friend/family member to us both has the same name... What now? Do I use their old name?:
Yes, this is confusing, not to mention it's really frustrating on all sides; for you, any other friends, the trans person in question, and the person who has the same name. The easiest solutions are to do one of a few things: agree on a nickname that's not offensive, agree on a shortened version on one, or the other person's names(usually the trans persons), or if possible the easiest is to do is to add their last, or middle initial after the name. In all of the latter cases since the trans person is the one who changed their name, it'll usually be us who gets the last initial, shortened name, or nick name, which is usually fine. The one thing you don't want to do at any costs is go back to our given name. Seriously most trans people hate our given names, it's a reminder of the hardships we faced while in the closet, and it's the same as misgendering, as it can also out us. Not only that, but it's also confusing as hell for everyone involved and can lead to misgendering because it kind of reinforces the correctness of the past, while invalidating the present and future, which is a backwards step. Also asking for a entirely new name change isn't good either, because generally the names we pick are ones we feel an attachment to. So nicknames, shortened names, or a initial tacked to the end of the name is the easiest, along with being basically inoffensive and not personally damaging.
Anyways I hope that all really does help, and I hope it helps get certain people off their bad habits.