This week (November 14-20) is Transgender Awareness Week, a time to bring attention to the issues that the transgender community continues to face by educating the public and helping them become better allies to the movement. Being an ally also includes the LGB community standing with the T and raising awareness of the discrimination and inequality that the trans* community continues to face.
Here are five ways that the LGB community, the cisgender community (individuals whose gender identity matches their sex assigned at birth), as well as non-LGB-identified individuals, can continue to be allies to the trans community.
1. Learn your terminology. The trans* community incorporates a wide number of gender identities, gender expressions, and different life experiences. Identifying as trans* means something different for each individual person. The idea of gender is a wide and diverse spectrum. Refer to this infograph to become more educated on different terminology used within the trans* community.
2. Address people by their correct pronouns. A good lesson and overall habit to get used to (with everyone you speak with) is asking people what their gender pronoun is. You should not assume just by looking at a person what their pronoun is. We typically hear pronouns like she/her/hers and he/him/his, but like the gender spectrum, every person has a different way that they identify and should be addressed. You do not assume someone’s name, so do not assume their pronoun.
3. Know what to ask and what NOT to ask
There are definitely questions that you can ask a trans* person. This includes:
How they want to be addressed
How you can create a welcoming, inclusive space for them
If shared information is confidential
⇒But you definitely should not ask questions about:
If they have had sex reassignment surgery
Why they dress/talk/act a certain way
Questions about their lives pre-transition (i.e. what was your name?)
If they identify as genderqueer, asking them when they are transitioning
Again, every individual is unique in their own way. And what that individual decides to do is their business alone, not anyone else’s. If a trans*-identified person wants to confide in you and tell you this information, it is up to you as an ally to besupportive, encouraging, and to give them a space of comfortability.
4. Do not misgender
Misgendering is harmful to the trans* community. When you call an individual by the wrong name, the wrong pronoun, or criticizing the way they dress/talk/act, you are attempting to erase that person’s identity. When you misgender, you disrespectwho that individual is, what that individual’s experiences have been. So ask them how they want to be addressed and what their pronoun is to make sure you do not misgender somebody one-on-one, in a public space, wherever.
5. Challenge transphobia
Transphobia is happening every single day. In 2015 alone, the lives of 21 trans* women have been lost across the United States because of transphobia. You can challenge transphobia by volunteering with a trans* support group or advocacyorganization or by challenging someone’s comments that they made on Facebook. Most recently, the #IllGoWithYou campaign, created by trans* allies, focuses on cisgender people going to the restroom with trans*people who are afraid or concerned about their safety when using a public restroom. Standing alongside and speaking up for the transgender community goes a long way in standing up against transphobia.
Even once Transgender Awareness Week ends, we challenge you to continue being an ally each and every day. By standing with the transgender community and continuing to educate individuals on the disparities that the trans* community endures, you can help make a difference. And for other tips on how to be an ally overall, here is a link to 5 Incredible Ways to be an Ally.