Gender & Identity,Politics & Lifestyle

How to show up for your trans loves: On Being A Good Trans Ally

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On Nov 20, 2023

Loving and living with your trans loves takes intention, knowledge and love and focus. There are so many ways in which folx can show up as allies for their trans friend/family/colleagues/ lovers/partners. We know the world can be an unsafe space for people, littered with TERFs, transphobic opinions and wild levels of violence.  

So, in light of that here are some tips for being a better trans ally.

Do not use their dead name:  A dead name is the name a transgender person used to go by. That is not their name any more.  Also do not ask a trans person what their real name is. For some transgender people, being associated with their birth name is a deep source of pain and anxiety and they are not about that anymore. Some folx are trying to leave that behind. This also links to the idea of asking trans folx what their ‘real’ name is. The name they give you is their real name, any other name is either their dead name or not their name.

Listen Listen Listen to transgender people: Trans folx know their own experience far better – One of the best ways to be an ally to trans folx is to listen, follow thought leaders on X and Instagram, check out books, films, academic papers and social media channels of trans folx. Educate yourself. Know that you cant tell is someone is trans at a glance: You can’t tell is someone is transgender by looking at them and you cannot assume someone is trans. Also why are you busy going around guessing anyway?

Don’t make assumptions about trans folx sexual orientation. Gender identity is different from 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 neither of those binary genders. Trans folx can be gay, lesbian, straight, bisexual, pansexual, asexual and everything in between.

Use the proper pronouns: Using a trans persons pronouns is important, it is not about what you think they are. If you do not know, listen to people who know them well and try and pick up their pronouns. We also live in a world where people *should* be asking each others pronouns anyway.

Understand the differences between coming out as ‘queer’ and coming out as ‘trans’: Although for some coming out as queer can be a great and freeing experience this may not be the case when ‘coming out’ as trans.  For some trans folx disclosing can be a disempowering experience. Some trans folx may choose to tell you their history and some may not, but you cannot assume that a trans person must feel the need to say they are trans to feel that they are their authentic self.  This means that you must be careful about outing folx who are trans or speaking on their personal history, this is personal information and it is up to them to share it.

Do not ask about trans genitals, surgical status, or sex life: This is a no-go zone, this information is personal and intimate and folx have no right to it. Poking and prying about this is no cool and invasive. If they want to have any of these convos with you, they will. It also is just super rude, no one asks cis folx about what’s between their legs so why would you do that to someone else?

You can’t tell if someone is transgender just by looking: There is no way to ‘look trans’. Trans folx  don’t look any certain way or come from any one background. Folx do not automatically look “visibly trans,” and you can’t peep a room and “see” if there are any transgender people in there.  Do not simply assume.

Side note: It is not about asking either, if folx want to share that they are trans then they will.

Respect whatever terms transgender folx use to describe their identity: Transgender folx use a bunch of different terms to describe their identity such as transgender, transsexual, nonbinary or genderqueer.

Be careful about confidentiality, disclosure, and “outing.”: Some transgender folx feel coming out and speaking about  their gender history and some don’t. A trans person’s gender history is personal info and it’s up to them to share it with others. This is not info that is yours to throw around. This is not a ‘this is my trans friend’ moment. There is never a moment like that. Do not share, speculate, or gossip about a person you know, or think, is transgender. This is an invasion of privacy and can have negative consequences in a world that is very intolerant of gender diversity. Transgender folx can lose jobs, housing, friends, or even their lives when other people find out about their gender history so stay focused and keep people safe.

Be patient with folx exploring, questioning and getting a handle on their gender identity: Gender is tricky and complicated and as people take that journey they will need space, support and patience. It may take some time, so be patient with the person on that journey.

There is no right or wrong way to transition: There are a bunch of ways ot transition and none is more legit than the other. Some folx get surgery, some want to take hormones, some want authentic gender identity to be recognized without either. A transgender persons’ identity is not dependent on how they present, how they look or any medical procedure. Again all transition journeys are valid. Avoid shady compliments and (un)’helpful’ tips: When you say some things you may think that you are being supportive but really you are just being insulting or maybe hurtful, here are some examples:

  • “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?”

Use your allyship to challenge folx being sh*tty about trans folx/issues: You will hear people, even in queer spaces, being really nonsense about trans folx and it’s important to challenge anti-transgender remarks or jokes no matter who is throwing them about. Speak up in spaces because it might not always be easy for the trans folx in the room. But even if they are not in the room stepping up for folx is important, because it means next time people will check themselves.

Support and advocate for gender neutral bathrooms: Some transgender, nonbinary, and gender non-conforming people may not feel like they match the signs on the restroom door, so getting spaces to be more inclusive is so important. Not only that but it keeps trans folx safe as well from verbal, emotional and physical violence.

Set an inclusive tone in collective spaces: In meetings, events, general gatherings, make identification about neutral stuff like clothing instead of gender. Also get into the habit of asking everyone their pronouns so all people have the space to identify as they want to.

Understand that being trans is now new: Cultures and societies through out history have had trans folx, even if their presence has been erased from some histories. What is new is how visible trans folx are in the current media.

Know you are not super human as an ally: Being an ally has limits and its OK to admit when you do not know something, or do not understand. Get educated about anything you might be struggling with and remembering being an ally is a continuous journey of doing the work.

To all our Trans loves know we love you, we see you and we thank you for blessing us with your absolute beauty.

Here is an article on how to be a trans ally by GLAADTips for being a Trans Ally

Here is an article for being an ally to trans youth Guide to Being an Ally to Transgender and Nonbinary Young People. 

Check out this paper by B Camminga called – Disregard and danger: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and the voices of trans (and cis) African feminists

Check out the Basically…Life Podcast (on all platforms) and our YouTube series We Are F**kin Here for other vibes that show how queers are livin’, lovin’ and f*ckin.

For more info about all things gender and sexuality download our Touch Manual which explores  dating, sexuality, gender, sex and much more!

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