How To Be A Trans Ally: Part II of II

By: Lilianna LaVeau-Corey

Continuing on from last week’s blog on How To Be A Trans Ally: Part I, read along to learn more about becoming a better ally…

Avoid backhanded compliments and “helpful” tips.

While you may intend to be supportive, comments like the following can be hurtful or even insulting:

“I would have never known you were transgender. You look so pretty.”

“You look just like a real woman.”

“She’s so gorgeous, I would have never guessed she was transgender.”

“He’s so hot. I’d date him even though he’s transgender.”

“You’re so brave.”

“You’d pass so much better if you wore less/more make-up, had a better wig, etc.”

“Have you considered a voice coach?”

Challenge anti-transgender remarks or jokes in public spaces, including LGB spaces.
You may hear anti-transgender comments from anti-LGBTQ activists, but you may also hear them from LGB people. Someone may think that because they’re gay, it’s ok for them to use certain words or tell jokes about transgender people. It’s important to challenge anti-transgender remarks or jokes whenever they’re said and no matter who says them.

Support all-gender public restrooms.

Some transgender, nonbinary, and gender non-conforming people may not feel like they match the signs on the restroom door. Encourage schools, businesses, and agencies to have single user, unisex and/or all-gender restroom options. Make it clear that trans, nonbinary, and gender non-conforming people are welcome to use whichever restroom they feel comfortable using.

Help make your company or group truly trans-inclusive.

“LGBTQ” is now a commonplace term that joins lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, and transgender people under the same acronym. If you are part of a company or group that says it’s LGBTQ-inclusive, remember that transgender people face unique challenges, and that being LGBTQ-inclusive means truly understanding the needs of the trans community and implementing policies that address them.

At meetings and events, set an inclusive tone.

In a group setting, identify people by articles of clothing instead of using gendered language. For example, the “person in the blue shirt,” instead of the “woman in the front.” Similarly, “Sir” and “Madam” are best avoided. If bathrooms in the space are not already all-gender, ask if it’s possible to put an all-gender sign on them. In some circumstances, where not everyone is known, consider asking people to introduce themselves with their names and pronouns. For example, “Hi, I’m Nick and I use he/him pronouns.” Start with yourself and use a serious tone that will discourage others from dismissing the activity with a joke. However, if you feel this practice will have the effect of singling out the trans people in the room or putting them on the spot, avoid it. Remember, it costs cisgender people nothing to share their pronouns, but for trans people it can mean they are sharing something very personal about their gender.

Listen to transgender people.
The best way to be an ally is to listen with an open mind to transgender people speaking for themselves. Follow thought leaders in the transgender community. Check out books, films, YouTube channels, and trans blogs to find out more about transgender people and the issues people within the community face. We recommend watching the documentary “Disclosure” on Netflix. Directed by Sam Feder and executive produced by Laverne Cox, “Disclosure” surveys the history of trans representation in TV and film using archival footage and interviews with 30 trans advocates and artists working in the entertainment industry. The film reveals how the media has created and perpetuated stereotypes about transgender people.

Learn that transgender people are not new.

Transgender people have existed across cultures and throughout history. What is new is the heightened awareness of gender diversity and the transgender community because of increased media attention in recent years. Seek out resources written by transgender people about how trans people existed in the past, and how the trans community exists in different countries around the world.

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. Remember being an ally is a sustained and persistent pattern of action; not an idle or stable noun.

Thanks for reading and learning with us. Stay tuned for more LGBTQ+-specific content and service offerings!

(Updated March 2021 / Adapted from MIT’s “Action Tips for Allies of Trans People.”)

Lilianna LaVeau-Corey (she/her) has been a teacher and an education administrator for over 8 years. She has assisted with families, overseen EDIA training, and developed curriculum. Lilianna will start providing services and classes specializing in LGBTQ & BIPOC clients starting in Summer 2023.

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