One of the challenges for any script writer is getting the subject matter correct and real world. In order to help writers we have put together a non exhaustive FAQ about the trans experience and how to present it in an affirming and accurate way.
This list is however just a list and always open to interpretation from other people’s point of view, so please see it in the spirit it was written.
- All characters should use the correct pronouns in-line with the character’s gender they identify with. This can be played with however if you are exploring the complexities of pronouns and how people have become use to using one for many years and now have to change to a different pronoun. One character deliberately calling another the wrong pronoun or the word “IT” in a pejorative sense is best left alone.
- It is worth repeating again here that the watchword is stereotypes. Up till now a large percentage of portrayal of transgendered characters have used the themes of sex workers, sex, murder, mental health and drug abuse. This does not represent the trans community. Every walk of life has a transgendered representative and the best stories are often in their interaction with friends, family and colleagues.
- Not all trans people get on with each other or frequent trans centric environments.
- Very few trans are fortunate enough to look absolutely fabulous and pass 100%, most who transition late in life never pass.
- Being trans is related to what gender identity you identify with. It is not a sexual preference. These two are often represented as the same in that if you are a male to female you must also be gay. The confusion isn’t helped because of the T on the end of LGBT, the first three being variations on sexual preference. Indeed a trans person can be LGB or H (Heterosexual in-line with their gender identity)
- Being a transsexual has no bearing on whether they had Gender Reassignment Surgery or even if they desire to.
- The following is a non exhaustive list of terms that are seen as misleading and or inappropriate.
- Gender Bender
- Sex Change
- She Male
- Transgender people do not refer to themselves as Tranny (unless used in an inclusive way, much the same way as black people use the “N” word), and would never say things like “I used to be a man”
- The average age for a transsexual to transition is 42 and many may be married already in a seemingly outward heterosexual relationship. Only a very small percentage of marriages stay together once the trans person has come out and/or fully transitioned.
- Children are a lot less phased about parents being trans than people would assume. Often the negativity is transferred from adults. We have all heard the expression I’m not prejudiced but what about the children. This is a classic case of transference. In truth, children often respond in one of two classic ways when they are introduced to a trans person (assuming they have not already had their perceptions set by others), that is “Do I like you and do I trust you”. Children are not idiots and will process the concept of transgendered people quite readily. All they want are the details in child friendly language. They respect you a lot more when your honest with them. If it’s not mad an issue, neither will they and they very quickly move onto more important topics like, “I’m hungry, what can I have to eat”.
- There are some great resources on the internet regarding the transgendered and we encourage you to research thoroughly.
- How trans people choose their names: -Having the ability to change you name and have a choice is a wonderful and some say quite a liberating experience.All the same considerations come into play as if you were naming a new baby.
- Can it be shortened
- Will it go out of fashion
- What are the current popular Girl/Boy names (Lily and Oliver)
- Is there someone we already know with the same name
- Does it feel right
There is one caveat to the above list. A smart person will choose a name from one popular in the year they were born. So if your 45 and your name is Britney, Tulisa or Barrack then this may raise questions.
Also people may ask their parents what they would have been called had they been born in a differently gendered body.
Of course social background will come into play as there are trans people in all walks of life and social classes. Take the names Marmaduke and Gary or Sharron and Hyacinth for instance and ask yourself what social strata would they portray.
It does however get interesting when names become derivative of a previous gender in the case of David to Davina or Michelle to Michael. I cannot say why some people choose this or how prevalent it is but it may be that they want to keep a reminder of what they were originally called for sentiment. It may even be a nod of respect towards their friends and family who may have had many years using the old name.
Surnames or family names are of course not gendered and many choose to keep them although a complete name change will hide you more effectively from public records and as has become more prevalent recently social media.
Of course some people want to completely disappear, so a surname change helps do that as well. All of which can be done by DeedPoll who have some useful notes on name changing.
Lastly there are a small section of people who use the opportunity to change their name into something unusual or demonstrably different like Sparkle Colon Tractor or Fluffy Booster Seat. These are very much in the minority and are probably reserved for people who want the world to know they are different and love the attention it draws, so probably leaning more towards show business.
Many trans people play around with names to start with before settling down with one, which can be most annoying for friends and family if it is done too often.
- It would also be useful to set up a line of communication with a transgendered person and if possible get a second opinion on what you are writing.
- Join the www.transcomedyaward.org forum and ask questions and we will post the most useful and encourage discussion