How To Be a Trans Ally
In the past weeks, the New York Times has revealed that officials in the Trump administration are working towards a definition of the word “sex” in Federal Civil Right Law. This measure would rid transgender individuals of protection from discrimination. In light of the Trump Administration’s most recent attack on the trans community, allies need to be more supportive and active than ever. Below is a how-to guide created for the needs of the trans community.
1. Educate Yourself! This can be as simple as picking up a memoir or following some awesome trans people on Instagram! The basis of educating yourself is listening to the trans community.
Here are some cool people to check out:
2. Educate Others Around You: Share educational posts about trans people on social media and let your friends know when something they’ve said is transphobic.
3. Erase Gendered Language: This means not using he/him as the default gender. Acknowledge that there are different pronouns. Stop addressing groups of people as “guys” or “dudes” as the default. Instead, use Y'all to refer to groups. Not everyone has the pronouns you think they might have.
4. Normalize Gender-Neutral Pronouns: Not sure about someone’s pronouns? Instead of assuming, use they/them, or better yet, ask (in a polite way; don’t be a dickhead). There are people who don’t identify as trans but do use gender-neutral pronouns. In English, this can be done through using they/them pronouns, but in other gendered languages, such as French, it’s quite difficult, because there are no options besides femme and homme. There are also people who identify as genderqueer or non-binary who might use gender-neutral pronouns. It’s not only trans people who you should ask about their pronouns.
5. Do NOT out trans people. In 2017, 29 trans people were murdered in the US for being trans. You never know who is transphobic and could possibly cause harm to a trans individual. If someone isn’t out yet, let them be.
6. Include trans women in your feminism! Trans women are real women and should be included in feminism. Stop using language such as “she’s not a real woman.” This language is transphobic and dangerous! For example, I was talking with my roommate who was recalling an encounter with someone when they said, “I think maybe a trans woman, not a real woman.” Cis-women, for the love of god, stop devaluing trans women. In conversations about feminism, trans women are often left out solely because cis women cling to their exclusive meaning of what it means to be a woman, i.e. having a vagina. If you would like to explore this subject further I highly recommend the book Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity, by Julia Serano.
7. Do NOT ask someone what genitals they have or how they have sex. This should be obvious, but it happens frequently. It is none of your business! Stay in your lane.
8. Don’t assume that all trans people are on hormones and have had/are going to have surgery.
9. Do NOT leave queer trans-POC out of the conversation. This means that when learning about issues the trans communities faces, don’t forget to educate yourself on what trans-POC are going through. Trans-POC are in a state of emergency. The life expectancy of a trans woman of color in the US is 35 years. This is unacceptable.
10. Understand the following definitions:
Sexual orientation: who you’re attracted to and want to have a relationship with/bang.
Gender: who you identify as. (Ex: she/her, he/him, they/them.)
Transgender: someone whose gender identity is not the same as the sex they were assigned at birth.
Cisgender: someone whose gender identity is the same as the sex they were assigned at birth.
11. Use your privilege not only to support trans people but to help create and maintain a space for trans people to exist safely. Hear someone talking shit about trans people? Step up! Use your privilege for good. It takes a hot second for people to recognize what they’re hearing and what they’re saying is damaging and transphobic. Recognizing the language is the first step and then educating yourself and others around you will follow.
Trans people are under attack in the US and all over the world. In 2018 alone, 22 trans people have been murdered in the US. Stay informed on recent news affecting trans people. Show up for trans people. While posting your support online is great, there is also a significant amount of work to be done outside of the internet. Hold yourself accountable. Trans people have often been used as the target of crude comedy, and transphobia is ingrained in media and language. An example is when women use the word “tranny” as an insult. I’ve often heard it used when one does not like their appearance and goes “oh, I look like a tranny.” Or when people see someone who they think is trans, it’s common for them to say “oh look it’s a tranny.” While these are obvious examples, there are other, more subtle ones. Maybe you’re talking about a friend who uses they/them pronouns to someone who is unfamiliar with this. They become confused and then frustrated and blurt out “well, what’s in their pants?” In my experience, I’ve found it to be more constructive to take the time to gently explain why that isn’t okay rather than to tell them off. Recognize this in the language you use and the language you hear. Understanding comes from listening to the oppressed group.