Ask Scott: Addressing Trans People In Restaurants


Dear Scott,

Do you have any tips on approaching someone who is possibly trans or just dressed in a certain fashion and you are unsure of their title preference?  As a waiter and bartender I usually am really good as I work in the LGBTQ community, but as all people do I have made mistakes — and it’s horrendous.

From Wondering Waiter

Dear Wondering,

I turned your question over to a few trans individuals who happened to work within the restaurant/service industry and here is what they have to say:

“So, use y’all/you guys/guests. So, ‘Hey, guys!’ ‘How are y’all doing?’ ‘Welcome guests.'”

And in a single situation, just avoid pronouns as much as possible.  Say ‘How are you?  What can I get you?  Of course I can do that for you.’

Also don’t greet them any different than you do any other person.  Greet everyone the same because if you show that you greeted them different they will feel singled out.”

In general, it’s best to not make any assumptions or guesses either. Gender-neutral language when addressing anybody is appreciated, especially if you are unsure.  As they outlined above, you definitely do not want to single somebody out.  

GLAAD (Gay Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) has a pretty good list of tips on how to be a strong ally to the trans community.  I would definitely give it a read.