Frequently Asked Questions
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- 1 I'm a journalist. What do I need to know?
- 2 But how do you know you're not just a man/woman?
- 3 So what are your genitals like? How do you have sex?
- 4 What's your real/birth name?
- 5 What does it say on your passport?
- 6 Is this just a step along the way to a binary sex change?
- 7 Should I call you he or she?
- 8 How about titles, like Mr or Ms?
I'm a journalist. What do I need to know?
Please take a look at this Guide for journalists!
But how do you know you're not just a man/woman?
How do you know what your gender is?
Most people respond by saying something like, "I just do." The same is true for us; we can cite as many clues in childhood and stylistic tendencies and desires to transition as binary gender folks, but at the end of the day, we just feel it in our bones.
So what are your genitals like? How do you have sex?
For questions like this, you have to ask yourself whether it would be appropriate to ask a binary person this question. It would be fair to say that there is a lot of variation.
What's your real/birth name?
Some trans and nonbinary people who've changed their name don't like to share this information. Often the names we were given at birth have gender connotations that we don't want people to know about, or we want to be known as our current name and leave the old identity behind. This question can be quite an uncomfortable one.
Of course, some people don't mind sharing, and plenty of us haven't even changed our names. Tread carefully, just in case.
What does it say on your passport?
This is a tricky business. Why do you want to know?
There are only a handful of countries that recognise that there are more than two sexes or genders. The UK and the US are not currently on the list, and do not issue passports with X on them as an alternative to M or F. For this reason, a passport issued in the vast majority of countries cannot represent our genders or sexes correctly. It's hard enough to change the sex marker on your passport when you're binary, but we don't even have legal recognition most of the time.
Is this just a step along the way to a binary sex change?
For some people, identifying as outside the binary is stage of self-discovery that ends in a binary transition (or not). Some people assume that they're binary trans before realising they're nonbinary so it's not always linear. But for many of us it's not, and we'll be genderqueer our whole lives.
It's important to respect people's identities regardless of whether or not you think it's permanent.
Should I call you he or she?
He and she are pronouns. Some nonbinary people are happy with the pronouns they've been called since birth. Some prefer the opposite to the one they have been called since birth.
Some people dislike being assigned gender in their pronouns, and ask people to use the more common gender-inclusive pronouns like singular they, or ze/hir. Some like the less common ones, or have invented new pronouns.
It varies a lot from person to person. If you're unsure it's totally okay to politely ask, "what are your pronouns?" But if for some reason you can't it's best to err on the side of caution and go with singular they, like the Rose City Rollers.
How about titles, like Mr or Ms?
As with the pronouns, it depends on the person. Some like Mr or Ms/Miss/Mrs, some like the gender-inclusive titles like Mx or Pr, some are Drs or Revs, and some prefer no title at all. It's good to ask. And remember: titles are not legally binding. Asking for evidence when you wouldn't ask it from a woman who's just got married, for example, is discrimination.