In honor of Trans Remembrance Month, it’s not only important to honor those who are no longer walking this plane, but also to be a stand for those who are still with us. You can be an ally for the community by taking stand against oppression, harassment, and violence of trans people by doing a few simple things that will help create and foster more inclusive safe spaces.
Who or what is a trans ally? A trans ally is a non-trans person who is committed to being open-minded and respectful to people who present their gender in a different way from what is stereotypically accepted.
Trans allies are important in dispelling the ignorance that fuels transphobia, which is the fear, aversion, hatred, violence, anger, or discomfort felt or expressed towards people who do not conform to society’s gender expectations.
The fact is, Trans rights are human rights, yet the community is subject to much higher rates of homelessness, mental illness or trauma, and violence based on their gender non-conformity.
As you dive in to the do’s and don’ts the ultimate pro tip is really very simple, just accord transgender people the same credibility, privacy, respect and courtesy that you would desire and all of a sudden you won’t have to worry about making any inadvertent faux pas while firmly securing yourself as a possible ally.
Do Listen and have an open mind
Listening is half the battle. Not only does it give you insight into a trans person’s preferred pronouns by mirroring their language and self-identification, but it will also likely anchor you as someone they can be expressive around. Whenever you are unsure about which pronouns to use, start by using your own e.g. “Hi, I’m Eric and I use the pronouns she or her. How about you?”
And before you think that you’ll automatically be able to identify someone who is trans based on existing damaging stereotypes, take that as a cue that you need to educate yourself. Trans identifying individuals do not have ‘a look’ or profile of characteristics that define them.
The worst thing you can do is make any assumptions about the trans community. Educating yourself and attempting to have informative conversations wherever possible, while noble, comes with the danger of adopting singular ideas on what it is to be trans. Just because you’ve heard one trans person’s story doesn’t mean that’s all there is.
Being trans in today’s world is a trying and often violent experience. A study from the University of Arizona in Tucson cited by Reuters details that 42 percent of adolescents who don’t identify exclusively as male or female have at least one prior suicide attempt.
“For transgender youth, we know, for example, that peer, school, community, and family-based rejection, discrimination, and victimization are associated with greater risk for suicidal behaviours,” study leader Russell Toomey noted. “Transgender youth might respond to these experiences by internalizing this rejection (e.g., shame), feeling like a burden to others, or perceiving that they do not belong.”
Outside of physical violence, people tend to neglect that language can be violent. This includes insensitive phrases meant as ‘compliments’ such as, “You look just like a real woman/man” or “She’s so gorgeous/handsome, I would have never guessed she/he was transgender.”
The cornerstone of allyship is having people in your corner despite the differences that exist among you. Trans lives and experiences are regularly invalidated because of biases in society. Add your voice to issues or instances in support or defense of trans people. This can be by routing for gender-neutral public restrooms in the spaces you frequent or by calling out transphobia even when it is veiled in bigoted humour.
We’ll breeze through the don’ts because hopefully, you’ve been paying attention thus far.
Don’t ask about a trans person’s genitalia, surgical status, or sex life
This applies to anyone. It’s unacceptable to ask a trans person what steps they have taken/are taking in their transition or anything around that. Partially because a trans person’s identity is not dependent on medical procedures or their physicality. Accept that if someone tells you they are transgender, they are and move on.
Don’t out transgender people directly or casually
A transgender person’s gender history is personal information and it is up to them to share it with others. Do not casually share this information, speculate, or gossip about a person you know, or think is trans. Finding pleasure in ‘clocking’ a trans person is not okay.
Don’t make assumptions about a transgender person’s sexual orientation
Gender identity is different from sexual orientation and trans people can be gay, lesbian, bisexual, or straight. The two things are completely autonomous of each other.
Overall know your limits as an ally and don’t be afraid to admit when you don’t know something.