10 Backhanded Compliments You Should Never Give Trans Folks

10 Backhanded Compliments You Should Never Give Trans Folks
Raquel Willis

Photo: Thinkstock

Despite the rise in awareness of trans issues, people still say some pretty offensive things. Trans people shouldn’t have to reassure people that it’s OK to wear bright pink lipstick, combat boots and have visible body hair all at the same time.

Here are 10 things you just shouldn’t say to us:

1. "I never would have known you were trans."

Well, clearly. There’s not just one way for a trans person to look. It’s also not necessarily a compliment to comment on how well someone “passes,” because it insinuates that if you had known you might have treated me differently. (And if that’s the case … get your stuff together!)

2. "Of course, you’re trans! I always knew. It all makes so much sense now!"

Thanks, but what all makes sense now? Chances are the things that you are assuming “made” me trans or should have been "told" you about my gender identity are stereotypical and offensive. The idea that you know me better than I know myself is also pretty dismissive. Just be supportive!

3. "Oh wow, you’re trans? But you’re so pretty/handsome though."


I mean, you’re right on one hand. I am absolutely flawless. But on the other hand, you’re saying trans people aren’t capable of being attractive. That ain’t right!

4. "You’re more attractive than most 'regular' men/women."

You’re insinuating that I’m atypical and inherently different from other men and women. Yes, my past may be different from others’ but literally every person is different in some way. Also, you’re still saying that it’s an anomaly for a trans person to be attractive.

5. “You look so good! How long have you been doing it [transitioning]?”

It’s almost like I’m some scientific experiment to you when you say this. Also, it’s like you’re trying to understand why I could be attractive or pass and how long it took me to get there. News flash: trans people don’t have to “transition’ to be attractive or even passable.

6. "You’d pass better if you did this … [insert gendered standard here]."

Thanks, but no thanks. I get that you think you’re trying to help, but chances are you’re pointing out something that I’m already dysphoric and/or insecure about. If I need advice I’ll ask. Don’t call me, I’ll call you.

7. "You’re definitely attractive, but I only like people with [insert genitalia of choice]."

No one really asked you, in particular, why you weren’t interested. These comments are even worse when you assert the idea of a “real man” or “real woman”. Just say you’re not interested and I’ll be on my way.

8. "I mean I’m for trans rights, but I don’t know if I could date one."

Look, I’m not going to completely call you out on how you’re probably not as accepting of trans folk as you think, but again this is unnecessary information especially if we’re not even talking. Also, I am one of those “things” you wouldn’t date.

9. "You’re not like other trans people."

Again with the stereotypes. Just because you didn’t mesh with another trans person you met previously doesn’t mean we’re all the same.

10. "You’re just like a real [insert gender here]."

Well, no shit. Of course, I really am “like” what I say I am. You’re just solidifying the fact that you don’t completely respect my identity.

All in all, these are just a few backhanded compliments that make up the trans experience. Just remember, trans folk are just like anyone else; we just want to be respected and valued. Be understanding and considerate, so I don’t have to completely read you for filth again.

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