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Gender Diversity for Friends

So your friend just came out to you with an identity you don’t fully understand. It seems important to them, but you’re not sure how to show them respect and feel a little embarrassed to ask them questions.

It’s okay to ask them questions!

There’s no one specific way to be gender diverse – a growing number of people are finding new ways to express themselves as something other than a man or a woman.  Language keeps evolving, so it can be confusing to keep up with. While your friend may have a label they use to describe themselves, it might mean something different to them personally. The best way to support them is to have a conversation about it.

Good questions to ask might be about what name or pronouns they’d like to use if it’s something they wish to change. If they’ve told other people yet, are they happy for you to tell other people, and is there anyone who they’re not comfortable to come out to yet? What would be a good time to check in again? It can also be helpful to ask what the label (if they are using one to describe their gender) means to them, as sometimes the same word means different things to different people. Less appropriate questions might be about physical transition or sexual attraction – things that aren’t necessarily changed by coming out as gender diverse.

If your friend is publicly out, there’s a good chance you are uniquely positioned to be one of their best advocates. When people choose to deliberately misname or misgender your friend, it might not be something they’re doing to their face. It’s appropriate to stand your ground and stick up for your friend.

Key Points

  • There’s no one way to be gender diverse, the best way to understand how to respect your friend’s gender diversity is to ask them.
  • This can be an ongoing conversation as some things, such as gender expression, may change over time, but it is important not to think about gender diversity as a ‘phase’ your friend is going through.
  • If your gender diverse friend isn’t out to other people yet, it’s important to respect their privacy. Ensure that you don’t ‘out’ them to others who may be hostile.
  • When your friend does decide to come out publicly, it’s your opportunity to stick up for them and become their best advocate. Ensure others respect them even when they’re out of the room.