Challenging Transphobia: A Guide for Families, Allies, and Advocates

Two people talking while seated on a park bench

Transphobia is a pervasive issue that targets transgender, nonbinary, and gender-nonconforming individuals. It’s crucial for allies to recognize and address transphobia when they encounter it. In this blog post, we’ll discuss what transphobia is, how to recognize it and provide practical advice on how to confront transphobic attitudes and actions.

Understanding Transphobia

Transphobia involves any feelings, attitudes, or behaviours that stigmatize, deny the identities of, or treat transgender individuals as less than human. It can be learned from parents, peers, educators, or religious teachings, and it isn’t always openly hostile or derogatory. Even skepticism about the concept of gender being a spectrum can contribute to transphobia.

Distinguishing Transphobia from Cissexism

Cissexism is based on the belief that there are only two genders, male and female, which align with a person’s sex assigned at birth. It doesn’t necessarily express hatred toward transgender, nonbinary, or gender-nonconforming individuals, but it does deny their existence. Cissexism manifests in various ways, such as insisting that a nonbinary person is just seeking attention or refusing to use nonbinary pronouns.

Recognizing Transphobic Behaviors and Scenarios

Transphobia can manifest in many forms, from overt discrimination to subtle invalidation or negative judgments about someone’s gender identity. Examples of transphobic behaviours include:

  • Asking invasive personal questions
  • Fetishizing trans people
  • Acting as an authority on someone else’s gender identity
  • Making comments like, “You don’t look like a real man (or woman)”
  • Deadnaming, or asking for someone’s birth name

Transphobia in Pop Culture and Society

Transphobia is also evident in various aspects of society, such as bathroom discrimination, cis actors playing trans characters, and restrictions on trans athletes in sports. These instances further perpetuate harmful stereotypes and discrimination against transgender individuals.

The Impact of Transphobia

Transphobia can lead to serious consequences, including emotional distress, isolation, and increased mental health issues like anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts. Systemic transphobia can also prevent access to necessary medical treatment, compounding existing health issues and even becoming life-threatening.

Handling Transphobic Situations

If someone points out that your words or actions were transphobic, it’s crucial to take them seriously and apologize sincerely. Commit to learning more about transphobia and avoiding hurtful comments or assumptions in the future.

Standing Up for Trans Rights as an Ally

As an ally, it’s crucial to not only recognize transphobia but also to actively address it when encountered. Transphobic comments or actions can be harmful and perpetuate discrimination against transgender individuals. Here’s how to address transphobia and support the person being targeted:

Addressing the Issue in the Moment

If you feel safe and comfortable doing so, you can directly address the transphobic behavior as it occurs. Some tips for addressing the issue in the moment include:

  • Remaining calm and composed, as reacting with anger or aggression might escalate the situation
  • Using “I” statements to express your feelings and thoughts without blaming or accusing the person making the transphobic comments
  • Reframing the situation or challenging the stereotypes being perpetuated
  • Providing accurate information or correcting any misinformation

Addressing the Issue Privately Later

Sometimes, it might be more effective or safer to address the issue privately at a later time. This could be through a one-on-one conversation, a letter, or a message. When addressing the issue privately:

  • Be respectful and non-confrontational in your approach
  • Share how the transphobic comments or actions made you feel or how they can be harmful to transgender individuals
  • Offer resources or information that can help educate the person about transgender issues and why their comments or actions were offensive

Supporting the Person Being Targeted

In any situation where someone is being targeted by transphobic comments or actions, it’s important to prioritize the safety and well-being of the targeted individual. Here’s how to support them:

  • Ask if they are okay and if they need any assistance
  • Offer to accompany them to a safer location or help them leave the situation if they feel threatened or uncomfortable
  • Listen to their feelings and experiences, and validate their emotions
  • Encourage them to report the incident to the appropriate authorities, if applicable

Helping Them Leave the Situation Safely

If the targeted individual feels threatened or unsafe, help them leave the situation as discreetly and safely as possible. Some steps you can take include:

  • Offering to walk with them to a safer location or to their vehicle
  • Calling a trusted friend or family member to pick them up
  • If the situation escalates, contact security or law enforcement for assistance
  • Following up with the targeted individual after the incident to ensure they are safe and to offer any further support they might need

By addressing transphobia and supporting targeted individuals, you are actively standing up against discrimination and promoting a more inclusive and accepting society. Remember, being an ally means using your voice and actions to make a difference.

Becoming a Better Ally: Educating Yourself and Others

There is always more to learn when it comes to being a better ally. Let’s discuss how to further educate yourself and others about transphobia and transgender issues.

Educate Yourself

To become a better ally, it’s essential to continuously educate yourself about transgender issues, experiences, and the history of the trans community. Here are some suggestions to expand your knowledge:

  • Read books, articles, and research studies about transgender issues
  • Follow trans activists and organizations on social media
  • Attend webinars, conferences, and workshops related to transgender rights and experiences
  • Watch documentaries, movies, or TV shows that accurately portray trans individuals and their stories

Educate Others

Sharing your knowledge with others is an important part of combating transphobia. Here are some ways you can help educate others:

  • Share educational resources, articles, or videos on social media
  • Start conversations with friends and family members about transgender issues
  • Correct misinformation or challenge stereotypes when you encounter them
  • Host or organize events, workshops, or discussions in your community to raise awareness

Promote Inclusivity in Your Environment

Creating a more inclusive environment for transgender, nonbinary, and gender-nonconforming individuals is an important aspect of being an ally. Here are some steps you can take:

  • Use gender-neutral language and pronouns when addressing groups or individuals
  • Encourage your workplace, school, or community organizations to implement inclusive policies and practices, such as gender-neutral restrooms and anti-discrimination policies
  • Support businesses that openly support trans rights and inclusivity

Offer Support to Transgender Individuals

Finally, remember to be there for the transgender individuals in your life. Offer your support and understanding, and let them know they can count on you as an ally. Some ways to show your support include:

  • Being empathetic and listening to their experiences
  • Offering a safe space for them to express themselves
  • Helping them access resources or support services, if needed
  • Celebrating their accomplishments and milestones


The fight against transphobia requires continuous learning and understanding of transgender, nonbinary, and gender-nonconforming experiences. As an ally, you play a vital role in promoting a more inclusive and accepting society.

Disclaimer: This blog shares general information only, not professional advice or recommendations. Consult healthcare providers for personal guidance. Decisions based on content are the reader's responsibility. Thank you.

Clayre runs a group practice of three queer and trans therapists, including youth therapist Audrey Wolfe, RCC, LGBT therapist Camber Giberson, RCC, CCC, and gender-affirming therapist Clayre Sessoms, RP, RCT, RCC, CCC, ATR-P. Work with us: book a session.