Switch On Your HIV Smarts.

6 easy ways to affirm transgender and non-binary people

, by San Francisco AIDS Foundation

Celebrate diversity

Our world is filled with people who identify across the gender spectrum. Celebrate the diversity possible that includes so much more than male and female!

genderqueer agender nonbinary bigender transman transwoman transgender transmasculine transfeminine trans MtF FtM transmale transfemale (not an inclusive list)

trans rightsHonor a person’s right to decide 

Each person has the right to define their OWN gender identity. If you’re not sure how to refer to a person, just ask! (politely and privately.) Keep in mind that some people may not want to identify as a specific gender.

What’s your preferred gender pronoun?

Use gender neutral pronouns if you’re unsure 

Most trans people identify with a gender, but not all. If you’re unsure or confused, you can use the neutral “they” or “their” pronouns. Never refer to a person as “it.”

They are here for their 10 am appointment with the nurse.


Let others know your preferred gender pronouns. Many people do so in their email signature lines, at the start of a meeting with new people, and in other situations where they meet people for the first time.

Jane Doe, Research Associate / Preferred Pronouns: She, her

Check your curiosity

Respect people’s right to privacy about medical or health-related issues. Not all trans people choose surgery—and even if they do, is it your business to know about it?

WRONG: Have you had surgery yet?

WRONG: Are your breasts real?

WRONG: How did you grow a beard?  

RIGHT: I noticed you’ve been out of the office for a couple of weeks. Our team has been thinking about you and we hope you are doing OK! Let us know if there’s anything we can do to support you when you’re ready to come back to work. 

Educate yourself

Find out about why it can be difficult for gender non-binary  people to live healthy lives, and about the shared challenges transgender and gender non-binary  people may face.

Get more information about transgender health services in San Francisco, PrEP access for transgender women, and how well PrEP works for transgender women on BETA.

Read commentary about sexual health care and other transgender-specific issues from author Brandyn Gallagher. Find out how to join TransLife or get information about other transgender health services available from the San Francisco Department of Public Health.    


Developed for BETA in collaboration with TransLife, a program of San Francisco AIDS Foundation, and JoAnne Keatley, MSW from the Center of Excellence for Transgender Health.



3 Responses to 6 easy ways to affirm transgender and non-binary people

  1. Jeffrey says:

    Nice list, although I disagree with the wording of the phrase “What’s your *preferred* gender pronoun?” I prefer to ask (at an appropriate time) “What (gender) pronouns do you use? Mine are he/him/his. What are yours?”

    By taking “preferred” out of the equation, it implies that gender is simply just a preference. Gender pronouns aren’t just words that somebody “prefers” – they are pronouns that they use!

  2. Jeffrey says:

    Oops, had a typo. I meant:

    By taking “preferred” out of the equation, it shows that gender is *more than* just a preference. Gender pronouns aren’t just words that somebody “prefers” – they are pronouns that they use!

  3. Emily says:

    Hi Jeffrey,
    Thank you for your comment. Great insight–thank you for sharing with our readers!
    – Emily