The Dos and Don’ts of Writing a Transgender or Non-Binary Character

Okay, all you novelists, here’s some advice on writing a a realistic transgender or non-binary character.

The Story and its Writer


Terms to Know

  • Trans: an inclusive term that includes all who are transgender, non-binary, or otherwise gender-nonconforming
  • Cis/Cisgender: someone who is not trans
  • AMAB: Assigned male at birth – someone who was marked as male on their original birth certificate
  • AFAB: Assigned female at birth – someone who was marked as female on their original birth certificate
  • Gender Binary: the one-or-the-other way that most Western societies view gender; one is either a girl, or a boy
  • Non-Binary: Someone who doesn’t identify as either male or female. They can identify as both, neither, fluctuating, or somewhere in between
  • To Pass/Passing: Appearing outwardly as the gender one identifies with. This can include clothing, voice, and mannerisms, and it implies that any stranger who comes across them will see them as the gender they identify with without question.
  • Misgendering: Calling someone by the pronouns (he/she/they/etc) of the gender that they do not identify…

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About Fairy JerBear

A disabled, trans/agender fairy bear living in the American Southwest and passionate about social justice, the environment, Trans/ LGBTQIA+ equality and combating bullying.
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3 Responses to The Dos and Don’ts of Writing a Transgender or Non-Binary Character

  1. vicromero says:

    I’m still unsure about how to refer to a trans person before coming out as u use their preferred pronouns when telling stories about them before they came out? Or do u use the pronouns they used at the time?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I guess it depends on how your setting the story up if it’s like a flashback then you might use the former pronoun if it in the third person like say we’re talking about Sue who was formerly called Sam you might say, “Joe was calling him.” Otherwise you might say “back when Sue was know as Sam she felt uncomfortable with her name.” It would depend on the context. For me as I use they/them/their pronouns I prefer they unless it’s talking in third person about the past like say you were talking about an old friend named Marc talking about me in the past he would call me he back then. Otherwise just use they; “My friend Jerry as been out as Agender for over a year before that they still used Jerry but that’s because Jerry is a gender neutral name.”


  2. Thomas says:

    Thank you for sharing this thought-provoking post as well as many others!


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