Be Supportive – What you shouldn’t want us to know

Funny title? No, not really. Like many of these posts, this is as applicable to your friends as to trans people. There’s nothing special in what I’m saying other than I grew most aware of this as it affected me though a transgender lens.

There’s this concept in Judaism of Lashon Harah, evil gossip. Amongst the sins we ask forgiveness for on Yom Kippur is this one. It is easy to see why this is considered a seriously bad thing to do. You hurt the  person or people you are talking about, their reputation, perhaps their livelihood, you might break their relationships with others.

To ask that people not talk about others at all is probably not possible. But there is a good deal of difference between limiting such talk to innocent or helpful conversation; maybe a joke about someone’s well known habit, but where it is done in a kind way and not done for ridicule. Better, to talk about another’s problems to see how help can be given. I think back to the never say anything behind someone’s back you wouldn’t say to their face. I generally try to live by that – but I’m imperfect too.

If you support a friend, especially a transgender friend, you are bound to hear someone say something negative. My first piece of advice is this, if what you hear is not helpful for your friend to know, there is no point in telling them. You will only take a person who has enough reason to feel anxious and add another reason.

If you want to speak up for us that’s great, but you still should not tell us unless you are prepared to tell us who was saying these things and exactly what they were talking about. Being told that some people are unhappy about an ill defined transgression  involving something related to something I might have said clearly doesn’t help me avoid the problem in the future.

Telling me that James was upset because I talked about my surgery and his son overheard at least tells me who was upset and why and I can be more careful and considerate. Even if the person was left out, having something specific might be helpful.

However, the best thing to do is to say to the person with the problem, “I’m sure Rachel didn’t mean any harm, but she’d definitely want to know so she could avoid this in the future. Would you please have a chat with her?”

That is the best thing.

Ultimately though, before you tell us something, consider carefully whether we can do anything with the information – does it benefit us to know. Think carefully why you are passing it along. Is it for your sake, or ours.


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