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Minerva's Breakdown: A Hairy Situation

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A Hairy Situation

Dear Minerva:

Recently, I met a lovely trans woman. I thought she was so pretty and very interesting. We started talking and I couldn't help but compliment her on her look and makeup. I seemed to upset her though. I told her that I liked her wig and she looked at me funny and then walked away. I don't know why she did that. I'm not sure what I did wrong.

—Sincerely,

Foot-In-My-Mouth

Dear Foot:

So many in our world have forgotten the art of polite interaction. While complimenting someone isn't necessarily incorrect behavior, as with everything in life, it isn't what you do, but how you do it. You drew attention to her wig. By referring to her hair as a wig, you were conveying that her hair was an article of clothing rather than a part of who she is. Wigs are worn for various reasons. Hair loss due to chemotherapy or alopecia, hereditary-pattern baldness, convenience, and fashion—all reasons someone might wear a wig. Never assume that wigs are merely accessories. Hair is of major importance to a person's perception of themselves. Just as you'd be unlikely to comment on a cancer patient's wig, you shouldn't comment on a trans person's hair as if it weren't a part of who they are. Wigs are a prosthetic (and often very expensive). Treat them as an intimate part of their body, as you would a prosthetic limb or post-mastectomy breast form. Kindness sees the forest before it sees the trees.