This should come as no surprise, but language is a very strong tool. You can use to make someone feel great about themselves… or you can use it to break them. Most of the time, you may do the latter without even realising it.
This is especially true for people with gender identity disorder, also known as gender dysphoria.
Let’s take someone who was born biologically female and thus raised that way, but who does not identify as female. This person may identify as male, or non-binary or whatever. It doesn’t really matter at this point. The point is that that person’s gender identity does not correspond with the identity people keep trying shove down that person’s throat. [from here on I will use ‘she’ as a pronoun for simplicity’s sake]
And here I expect people to gasp and say, ‘I don’t do that!’ or ‘I’m very accepting!’ Well I’m sure you are. But say this person, for some reason or other, cannot be open about her identity. So instead, she tries to keep dysphoria at bay by dressing as androgynously as possible without people realising the truth about her gender.
So instead of binding, she cuts her hair short, she wears baggy pants and baggy shirts to cover up the curves she hates so much. And all is ok for a while. Until:
‘You would look so pretty in a dress!’
BAM! dysphoria. People are imagining her in a dress, she ends up imagining herself in a dress…and it’s awkward, and uncomfortable, and wrong.
She laughs it off and says ‘No, I prefer my pants’.
‘Why don’t you wear make up?? You’d look so pretty!’
Again, dysphoria strikes back, and she wonders, why don’t I have facial hair? Why do people want me to wear make up? Isn’t the way I look enough?
‘You should let your hair grow out, it would suit you more!’
She touches her shaved hair, and reminds herself why she doesn’t let it grow. Because long hair, flying in the wind makes her feel feminine, makes her look feminine.
You may be saying these things innocently. Maybe you *Care* about her, and you want her to look ‘pretty’. The thing is, you’re assuming that your view of what would make her attractive is the same as hers. Every time you ask her to wear a dress, or put on make up, you’re saying ‘you are not enough, the way you look is not something I like. Please change’.
You may not realise it, but every time you make a person feel inadequate, not only is that verbal bullying, but if it’s a trans* person then you’re basically triggering off dysphoria. Stop obsessing over these makeover shows, you have no right to dictate how a person looks.
So the question is, but how will I know if I’m going to cross the line ? Fair question. You’ll know if you pay attention. Is your friend always in pants? then assume that they’re not gonna wear a dress. If they want to wear a dress, then they will. They don’t need you to tell them.
Same with make up, same with skirts, same with contacts vs. glasses, same with hair length.
Unless the person comes to you for advice, don’t give it.