Follow the “Golden Rule” — Treat Trans and Nonbinary People How You Would Want to Be Treated
Trans activists and organizations continue to plead with social media platforms to combat the popular hateful practice of intentional misgendering and deadnaming of trans and nonbinary people by anti-LGBTQ figures and accounts (misgendering is the practice of intentionally referring to a transgender person with the wrong gender; deadnaming is referring to a trans person by a former name, usually one assigned to them prior to transitioning, without their consent).
Many of these companies push back though and refuse to see this as hate, often claiming there’s no “real world harm.” The array of harms currently being experienced by the trans community, in large part arising out of such hate, is unprecedented. For instance there’s this grim toll tabulated by the Human Rights Campaign: So far in 2022, at least 32 trans people have been murdered in the U.S. just for being who they are. Most of the victims were Black trans women, and other trans women of color.
Presented with such evidence, Netflix’s co-CEO Ted Sarandos had to walk back claims last year that “content on screen doesn’t directly translate to real-world harm.” More than 100 anti-trans bills have been introduced this year, eroding trans rights and creating an atmosphere of fear and hate. Another significant harm has been the increasing onslaught of threats and inflammatory false rhetoric, as extremists and politicians seek to prevent trans youth (and trans people in general) from receiving necessary gender affirming care.
Why don’t social media company executives take more meaningful action to protect trans people from dangerous, harmful hate speech like targeted misgendering and deadnaming?
Those at YouTube, Facebook and Instagram in particular, have refused to implement policies to expressly recognize intentional misgendering and deadnaming as hate speech; whereas Twitter and TikTok have policies that prohibit this hateful practice, even if their enforcement remains spotty.
Perhaps these companies will pay attention to the eloquent pleas of several influential LGBTQ people in the community and allies, speaking out about how important it is to protect trans and nonbinary people.
“If I met Jorge Mario Bergoglio, I would call him “Your Holiness the Pope;” if I met Cherilyn Sarkisian, I would call her “Cher.” Because those are the names they have chosen. There are a lot of good reasons for calling trans folks by their proper names and pronouns. But perhaps the most compelling is that it’s simply common decency. We could use more of that.” — Jennifer Finney Boylan, former member of the GLAAD Board of Directors, a Fellow at the Radcliffe Center for Advanced Study at Harvard University, and co-author of the forthcoming Mad Honey and 15 other books.
“When we honor a person’s chosen name and pronouns, we reveal our respect for them and our allyship with trans and nonbinary people. In that moment they are empowered to be exactly who they are, and they know that there is, at least, one more person in the room who has their back.” — Wilson Cruz, actor, activist and recipient of GLAAD’s 2022 Vito Russo Award.
“Addressing our fellow human beings with the pronouns and names they use is one of the simplest ways we can honor them as their fullest authentic selves. It requires just a little bit of extra consciousness on our part to pay attention to that detail, but it makes such a huge difference.” — Anthony Rapp, actor, singer, director and gamer.
“Getting someone’s proper pronouns is the right thing to do because in a way it’s like not asking what someone’s name is, and just assuming that because they look like a ‘Michael,’ that’s their name. Would you want someone to just go around without even bothering to ask what your name is and proceed to calling you ‘Patrick’ when your name is ‘Samantha?’” — Zoey Luna, actor and activist.
“Trans people are an excellent window into understanding yourself more. Everybody, including cisgender people, has an experience with gender. When I sit in front of you on a stage or on Zoom, or whatever, I say: ‘Here’s my story. I’m handing you my humanity. But I don’t do so with the intention of you holding my humanity; I do so with the intention of welcoming you into your own.’ What they really have is the opportunity to step more into themselves.” — Schuyler Bailar, first out trans Division I NCAA men’s athlete, NYC Pride 2022 Grand Marshal, activist and CEO of LaneChanger.
“When a person self-identifies,” says Black transgender icon and Stonewall Uprising veteran Miss Major, “it is very important to acknowledge and respect this decision, as often there are health, safety, and more importantly self-realization and self-acceptance. This is very important to wellbeing and social connections.”
“Every person deserves to be seen, to safely and proudly be their authentic self without fear of harassment or worse. Every person deserves to live their life to the fullest and find their joy. I am honored and grateful to use my privilege whenever I can to help make this a reality, for as long as it takes.” — Wil Wheaton, actor, author and ally.
“Using the pronouns a person tells you they use is an easy way to acknowledge and affirm someone’s identity. Using a person’s personal pronoun is a form of respect and validation. It makes us feel seen and embraced. It is a small but super impactful way to create a safer environment for anyone.” — Chris Mosier, first out trans athlete on men’s Team U.S.A., activist and educator, founder of transathlete.com
There’s a simple, unified theme here: Everyone should show respect for people’s names and pronouns, and social media platforms should not allow transgender people to be attacked with hate simply for being who they are. In a nutshell, just follow the lesson so many of us were taught in kindergarten, in Sunday School or in our houses of worship: “The Golden Rule,” according to our elders, is to treat others how you would like to be treated. We are all deserving of basic respect, consideration and kindness.
As the 2022 GLAAD Social Media Safety Index report puts it: “Trans, nonbinary and gender non-conforming people should not be targeted with anti-trans hate speech — including targeted misgendering and deadnaming. Period. And all social media platforms, forums and apps should recognize this harmful practice for what it is: Hate speech pure and simple. These companies must explicitly prohibit such practices in their hate speech policies and should consistently enforce those policies to protect their trans users and to deliver the safe and welcoming platform — for all of us — that they so proudly claim to offer.”