Today, 31 March is Trans Day of Visibility.
And although it’s great to shine a light on the Trans community, it is important that we remember that they do still need us to be Trans allies the other 364 days of the year.
An ally is usually a cisgender or heterosexual person who respects members of the LGBTQ+, often aligning themselves with the LGBTQ+ community when it comes to matters of equal rights, gender equality, and social movements. Just like we should all be feminists, we should all be allies too.
Here’s how to be a Trans ally to friends, family and complete strangers…
How To Be A Trans Ally
- Be a listener.
- Realise that you can’t tell if someone is transgender just by looking – Transgender people don’t look any certain way or come from any one background. Many transgender people do not appear “visibly trans,” meaning they are not perceived to be transgender by others.
- Have an open-mind.
- Don’t make assumptions about a transgender person’s sexual orientation.
Gender identity is different than sexual orientation. Sexual orientation is about who we’re attracted to. Gender identity is about our own personal sense of being a man or a woman, or outside that gender binary. Transgender people can be gay, lesbian, bisexual, or straight.
- Be open to education – educating yourself is key to being a good ally. So don’t be afraid to ask your LGBTQ-identifying friends and family questions, and have real, deep conversations about their experiences. It can be hard sometimes because you might find out you’ve been doing or thinking about something the wrong way.
- If you don’t know what pronouns to use, listen first.
- Do some research – being curious is a healthy and good thing, but there’s no reason you can’t do a little research on your own given all of the resources out there.
- Check your own privilege.
- Don’t ask a transgender person what their “real name” is.
- Don’t assume someone’s gender. Someone close to you could be looking for support in their transitioning process. Not making assumptions will give them the space they need.
- Anti-Trans comments and jokes are harmful. Let your friends, family and classmates know that you find them offensive.
- Confront your own prejudices and bias, even if it is uncomfortable to do so.
- Respect the terminology a transgender person uses to describe their identity.
Transgender people use many different terms to describe their experiences. Respect the term (transgender, transsexual, non-binary, genderqueer etc.) a person uses to describe themselves
- Be inclusive and invite LGBTQ+ friends to hang out with your friends and family.
- Don’t generalise or buy into stereotypes.
- Don’t refer to friends as your gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or queer best friend – pretty sure that they don’t refer to you as “my straight friend, *insert name*. Their sexuality and or gender does not define them as a person, just the same as it doesn’t with you.
- Understand there is no “right” or “wrong” way to transition, and that it is different for every person.
- Don’t out them to people they don’t know – just because your LGBTQ+ friends are comfortable sharing their identity with you, it doesn’t mean they are ready for everyone to know. As a general practice, unless they bring it up first, don’t talk about it with other people.
- Don’t ask about a transgender person’s genitals, surgical status, or sex life.
- Defend Trans people against discrimination – if you hear someone use an anti-transgender slur, Call. It. Out!
- Believe that all people, regardless of gender identity and sexual orientation, should be treated with dignity and respect.
- Recognise and appreciate difference – if you have more than one friend in the LGBTQ+ community, they are likely to have very different experiences. Don’t assume that just because you know one person’s journey that you know them all.
- Things have changed a lot in Ireland over the past 30 years, so sometimes there can be a big generational gap when it comes to LGBTQ+ issues – educate your parents and grandparents on the changes and current issues. Also challenge them if they have prejudices.
- Don’t ask invasive questions.
- Educate yourself on acceptable terms and language – you can read more about gender terms here.
- Support all-gender public restrooms.
- Know your own limits as an ally – don’t be afraid to admit when you don’t know something. It is better to admit you don’t know something than to make assumptions or say something that may be incorrect or hurtful. Seek out the appropriate resources that will help you learn more.
- Don’t forget queer people for the rest of the year!
Use your platform and privilege as a straight person to boost LGBTQ+ voices, without asking for a pat on the back for it.
To learn more about how to be an ally to trans person, check out PFLAG’s Straight for Equality site and their “Guide to being a trans ally” publication.