The Transgender Style Guide

The Radical Copyeditors produced an excellent "Transgender Style Guide" for writers. It truly does an outstanding job of illustrating appropriate use of terminology as well as excellent recommendations around the use of names and pronouns.

The Style Guide answers questions such as:

  • How do I describe someone who is transgender?
  • What does gender nonconforming mean?
  • What pronoun should I use when describing someone who is transgender?

and also digs into explanations of relationships to body, anatomy, birth sex and more. 

This is an outstanding resource for all of us, writers or not, to better understand how to communicate the diversity of our team members and guests.

Hey Guys

"Hey Guys!"

We've all heard it and most of us probably use it. And while "guys" generally doesn't literally mean "men", it's still important to consider language when greeting groups of people.

The greetings that follow are much more "gendered" than "guys" - and can be risky if one or more of the people in the group is transgender or gender nonconforming. 

  • "Hey Girls!"
  • "What can I get for you ladies?"
  • "How are you doing tonight, gentlemen?"

Imagine a situation where a group approaches a host stand at a restaurant and the host opens with, "Good evening, ladies!" - yet one of the group is a trans man or non-binary. That guest will probably feel quite uncomfortable. In fact, one of our survey respondents shared, "As a trans man, I've been called "ma'am" or included in a greeting of 'ladies' when with my wife, and it makes me want to never return to that establishment. Using gender-neutral terms can be more comfortable for everybody."

What's a more successful approach?

The best approach is to keep language neutral. Here are some better greetings in that same scenario where a group approaches a host stand:

  • "Hi everybody!"
  • "What can I get for you folks?"
  • "How can I help you?"

Language matters, and offending guests - even accidentally - can be a costly mistake. Training employees to make a simple change to use non-gendered language can immediately create an atmosphere where everyone feels welcome - and minimize the risk to your brand.

Defining Cisgender (and Why It Matters)

When our team leads a training, one of the things we address early on is language and terminology. Many people now know the very basic definition of what "transgender" means and thanks to Caitlyn Jenner, can name one trans person. However, a relatively new term that many are surprised to learn is "cisgender," a word now defined in most major dictionaries.

In short, cisgender is defined as someone whose gender identity matches the body they are born with. Most of the world is cisgender. Cisgender is used instead of simply saying "not transgender" because that implies that being transgender is abnormal.

Cisgender originated with biologist Dana Leland Defosse who first used it back in 1994. Etymologically speaking, "cisgender" is a direct antonym of "transgender. " Since both terms share Latin roots, they are quite clearly descriptive:

  • Cis (Latin for 'on this side of') gender
  • Trans (Latin for 'on the other side of') gender

Sometimes cisgender is shortened to "cis", so if you hear someone self-identify as a "cis female" you now know what that means. You might also hear someone referred to, or identify, as "cis het" which means cisgender and heterosexual.