As an ally, your support is essential in fostering a more inclusive and accepting society for transgender individuals. The importance of being an ally cannot be overstated, as your actions can help change the culture and make the world a safer place for everyone, regardless of their gender identity. It’s important to acknowledge that there is no one “right” way to be an ally, but by being open to learning and growing, you can make a significant impact.
Understanding Transgender Identities
You can’t determine if someone is transgender just by looking
It’s important to remember that you can’t determine if someone is transgender just by looking at them. Transgender people come from all backgrounds and appearances, and many don’t fit into a preconceived notion of what it means to be “visibly trans.” Always be aware that there may be transgender individuals in any gathering or space you occupy.
Don’t make assumptions about a transgender person’s sexual orientation
As an ally, it’s crucial to understand that a person’s gender identity and sexual orientation are separate aspects of their identity. Gender identity relates to one’s sense of being a man, woman, or neither, while sexual orientation is about who they’re attracted to. Transgender individuals, like cisgender people, can have any sexual orientation.
Respect the terminology a transgender person uses to describe their identity
Transgender people use various terms to describe their experiences and identities, such as transgender, transsexual, nonbinary, or genderqueer. As an ally, it’s essential to respect the terminology that a person uses to describe themselves. If someone is unsure of the term that best fits their gender, give them the space to figure it out and don’t attempt to define their identity for them.
Be patient with those who are questioning or exploring their gender identity
If someone you know is questioning or exploring their gender identity, be patient and supportive as they navigate their journey. They may change their name, pronouns, or other aspects of their identity as they discover what feels most authentic to them. Your understanding and respect during this process can make a world of difference.
Pronouns and Names
Listen first if you’re unsure of someone’s pronouns
If you’re uncertain about a person’s pronouns, pay attention to how others refer to them. Listening to how someone who knows the person well uses their pronouns can provide valuable insight. If you need to ask about pronouns, be respectful and share your own first. For example, “Hi, I’m Alex, and I use the pronouns he and him. What about you?” If you accidentally use the wrong pronoun, apologize sincerely, correct your mistake, and move on without making it a big deal.
Don’t ask a transgender person for their “real name”
Asking a transgender person for their “real name” can be hurtful and disrespectful. For some, their birth name is a source of anxiety or a part of their life they wish to leave behind. Always respect the name a person is currently using and avoid sharing any previous names or photos from before their transition without their explicit permission.
Understand that transition is different for every person
There is no “right” or “wrong” way for someone to transition. Every person’s experience is unique, and their transition process may involve various steps, including medical interventions, changes in clothing or appearance, or other personal choices. It’s essential to respect each person’s journey and understand that their gender is not dependent on how they look or the medical procedures they’ve undergone.
Privacy, Confidentiality, and Disclosure
Be cautious about confidentiality and “outing”
Some transgender individuals may feel comfortable sharing their gender history, while others may not. It’s important to respect their privacy and avoid sharing information about their gender history without their consent. Gossiping or speculating about a person’s gender identity can be harmful and may lead to negative consequences, such as job loss, housing discrimination, or even violence.
Understand the differences between “coming out” as LGB and transgender
“Coming out” as lesbian, gay, or bisexual is often seen as a process of revealing one’s authentic self. In contrast, “coming out” as transgender may not always feel empowering, as it can lead to others questioning the person’s authenticity. While some transgender individuals may choose to publicly discuss their gender history to raise awareness and promote cultural change, don’t assume that disclosure is necessary for them to feel happy and whole.
Don’t ask about a transgender person’s genitals, surgical status, or sex life
Inquiring about a person’s genitals, surgical status, or sex life is inappropriate and invasive, whether they are cisgender or transgender. Avoid asking questions about surgeries, pre-op or post-op status, or intimate details of their relationships. If a person wants to share this information with you, they will bring it up themselves.
Challenging Stereotypes and Bias
Avoid backhanded compliments and “helpful” tips
While your intentions may be supportive, certain comments can be hurtful or insulting. Be mindful of your words and avoid comments that could be perceived as backhanded compliments or unsolicited advice. Instead, focus on providing genuine, respectful compliments and encouragement.
Confront anti-transgender remarks or jokes in public spaces, including LGB spaces
It’s important to challenge anti-transgender comments or jokes, regardless of who says them or where they’re expressed. As an ally, it’s your responsibility to create a safe and supportive environment for transgender people and help educate others about the importance of respect and inclusion.
Support all-gender public restrooms
Some transgender, nonbinary, and gender non-conforming people may feel uncomfortable using restrooms that are designated as male or female. Advocate for the implementation of single-user, unisex, or all-gender restrooms in schools, businesses, and other public spaces, and encourage their use by everyone.
Creating Inclusive Spaces and Policies
Ensure your company or group is truly trans-inclusive
If your organization claims to be LGBTQ-inclusive, make sure that it genuinely understands and addresses the unique needs and challenges faced by the transgender community. Work to create and implement policies and practices that promote true inclusion and support for transgender people.
Set an inclusive tone at meetings and events
When organizing meetings or events, take steps to create an inclusive environment. This may include using gender-neutral language, providing all-gender restroom options, or asking participants to introduce themselves with their names and pronouns.
Encourage the use of gender-neutral language
Promote the use of gender-neutral language in your daily life and within your organization. This can help create a more inclusive environment for transgender, nonbinary, and gender non-conforming individuals.
Advocate for policies that address the unique needs of the trans community
Support the implementation of policies that specifically address the unique challenges faced by transgender individuals, such as access to healthcare, housing, employment, and education.
Listening, Learning, and Education
Listen to transgender people and follow thought leaders in the community
One of the best ways to be an ally is to listen to transgender people speak for themselves. Follow transgender thought leaders, engage with their content, and learn from their experiences and perspectives.
Educate yourself about transgender history and culture
Take the initiative to learn about the history and culture of transgender people. This includes understanding the historical presence of transgender individuals across cultures and throughout time.
Watch documentaries like “Disclosure” to learn more about trans representation in media
To better understand the impact of media representation on transgender people, watch documentaries like “Disclosure,” which explores the history of trans representation in TV and film. This will help you become more informed and empathetic toward the transgender community.
Understand the historical and global context of transgender experiences
Recognize that transgender people have existed throughout history and across cultures. Educate yourself on the diverse experiences of transgender individuals around the world to gain a broader understanding of the community and its unique challenges.
Knowing Your Limits as an Ally
Admit when you don’t know something and seek out resources to learn
As an ally, it’s essential to recognize when you lack knowledge or understanding about a certain topic or issue. When you encounter such situations, admit your lack of knowledge and actively seek out resources to learn more. This demonstrates your commitment to being a better ally.
Remember that being an ally is an ongoing process, not a stagnant label
Being an ally is a lifelong commitment to learning and growth. Recognize that your understanding of transgender experiences and issues will evolve over time, and be prepared to adapt your actions and beliefs accordingly.
Be prepared to adapt and grow as you learn more about transgender experiences and issues
As you deepen your understanding of transgender issues and experiences, you’ll need to be flexible and adaptable. This means being open to new ideas, perspectives, and ways of supporting the transgender community.
Supporting Transgender Individuals
Offer emotional support and encouragement
Being an ally involves more than just standing up against discrimination. Offer emotional support and encouragement to transgender individuals in your life, and let them know that they are valued and respected.
Validate their experiences and identities
Acknowledge and validate the experiences and identities of transgender individuals. This involves listening to their stories, respecting their pronouns and names, and affirming the importance of their journeys.
Stand up against transphobia and discrimination in your daily life
Take action against transphobia and discrimination when you encounter it, whether in your personal or professional life. This might involve challenging prejudiced comments or advocating for inclusive policies and practices.
Engaging in Advocacy
Support transgender rights organizations and initiatives
Donate to or volunteer with organizations that advocate for transgender rights and work to improve the lives of transgender individuals. This can include legal, educational, and healthcare organizations, as well as grassroots initiatives.
Educate your friends, family, and colleagues about transgender issues
Share your knowledge about transgender issues with those around you, and work to create a more informed and empathetic society. Encourage your friends, family, and colleagues to educate themselves and become allies as well.
Use your platform and privilege to amplify transgender voices and experiences
Use your social media accounts, personal networks, and any other platforms you have access to, in order to amplify the voices and experiences of transgender individuals. This can help raise awareness about transgender issues and contribute to creating a more inclusive and supportive society.
Promoting Inclusive Healthcare
Advocate for accessible, affordable, and comprehensive healthcare for transgender individuals
Work to ensure that transgender individuals have access to affordable, high-quality healthcare services that address their unique needs. This includes advocating for comprehensive insurance coverage and promoting policies that prioritize transgender health.
Learn about and support mental health resources for the transgender community
Educate yourself about mental health resources specifically tailored to the transgender community. Support organizations and initiatives that provide these services and promote mental well-being for transgender individuals.
Encourage healthcare providers to adopt transgender-affirming practices
Urge healthcare providers to adopt practices that affirm and respect the identities of transgender patients. This includes using correct pronouns, respecting chosen names, and providing appropriate, inclusive care.
Educating Yourself on Intersectionality
Understand the intersecting identities and experiences of transgender individuals
Recognize that transgender individuals may have multiple, intersecting identities, such as race, disability, or socioeconomic status, that influence their experiences. Educate yourself about these intersections and how they can impact a person’s life.
Acknowledge the unique challenges faced by transgender people of color, disabled transgender people, and those from other marginalized backgrounds
Be aware of the unique challenges faced by transgender individuals from marginalized backgrounds, such as transgender people of color and disabled transgender people. Support policies and initiatives that address these intersecting forms of discrimination and marginalization.
Support policies and initiatives that address these intersecting forms of discrimination and marginalization
Advocate for policies and initiatives that work to dismantle the intersecting systems of oppression that affect transgender individuals from marginalized backgrounds. This includes promoting equitable opportunities and resources for all.
Inclusive Media Representation
Encourage positive and accurate portrayals of transgender people in media
Support media outlets that portray transgender individuals in a positive and accurate light. Encourage accurate, respectful, and nuanced representation that reflects the diversity of transgender experiences.
Support transgender artists, actors, writers, and content creators
Celebrate and promote the work of transgender artists, actors, writers, and content creators. By supporting their creative endeavours, you help amplify their voices and contribute to a more inclusive media landscape.
Challenge harmful stereotypes and tropes in media representation
When you encounter harmful stereotypes or tropes about transgender people in media, challenge and critique them. Encourage thoughtful and respectful representation that avoids perpetuating misinformation or reinforcing negative stereotypes.
Fostering Safe and Supportive Environments
Create safe spaces for transgender people in your community
Work towards creating safe and welcoming spaces for transgender individuals within your community. This may include supporting community centers, clubs, or organizations that cater to the needs of transgender people and provide a supportive environment.
Promote education and awareness within schools and workplaces
Encourage schools and workplaces to adopt policies and practices that promote understanding and inclusivity for transgender individuals. This may include providing training, resources, and support for staff and students to better understand transgender issues and experiences.
Encourage open dialogue and conversation around transgender issues
Foster open and honest conversations about transgender issues within your social circles, workplace, and community. Encourage respectful dialogue and understanding among people with differing perspectives and experiences.
Recap the importance of allyship for transgender people
As an ally, your support is crucial in helping to create a more inclusive and accepting society for transgender individuals. Your actions, advocacy, and understanding can make a significant difference in the lives of transgender people and the larger community.
Encourage continued learning and growth in your journey as an ally
Being an ally is an ongoing journey, and it’s essential to continue learning and growing in your understanding of transgender experiences and issues. Stay informed, be open to new perspectives, and remain committed to fostering inclusivity.
Emphasize the collective impact of allies in creating a more inclusive and accepting society for all
Finally, remember that the collective efforts of allies can create lasting change. By working together and supporting each other, we can create a more inclusive and accepting society where transgender people are treated with the respect, dignity, and equality they deserve.
Disclaimer: As a registered clinical counsellor and registered psychotherapist (qualifying), I'm sharing insights on my blog for informational purposes, not professional advice or treatment. My writing aims to inspire you to consult your own healthcare or mental health provider. Remember, your decisions based on the blog content are solely your responsibility. Please explore other resources if this understanding doesn't align with your expectations. Thank you.