Ever since the inauguration, I’ve been scouring the internet searching for ways to be the best ally I can be to Latino and Mexican-Americans, immigrants, refugees, women of color and so on. But I had momentarily forgotten that I, a bipolar disabled trans man, also desperately need some allies right now. Especially after the news about the “religious freedom” executive order came to my attention.
I’ve been asked countless times this past month about how to be the best trans ally in these current times. After pondering it for weeks, I settled on 10 actions by allies to trans folks that can make a huge difference right now. Whichever one or handful of actions you choose to follow up with in the coming weeks are hugely appreciated. Because no act of compassion or activism is too small.
Ask everyone their pronouns
Part of practicing being a trans ally is understanding that a person’s appearance or gender presentation does not always indicate their gender identity, and therefore, their gender pronouns. A good rule of thumb is to ask everyone what their pronouns are. The best-case scenario: Your gender nonconforming or trans friend feels respected and validated by you. Worst-case scenario: A cisgender friend ignorant to trans issues looks at you funny.
Share links about gender-expansive identities on social media
Spread the word about issues affecting the trans community as well as the concept of gender fluidity through sharing stories from trans-friendly publications like Everyday Feminism and The Establishment. Since stories like these often elicit some challenging responses from more close-minded folks, it’s best to create a buffer between the community and transphobes through education by allies.
Pay attention to publications, hashtags and news about trans issues and violence. Bring attention to tragedies in the community as well as the people directly affected by the violence. So often, names like Jazz Alford and Keyonna Blakeney go unrecognized due to lack of media coverage of the murder of trans women. Say their names, and get others to say their names too.
Additionally, call your local representatives and protest the pending religious freedom bill (which would legalize discrimination toward LGBT people) and other orders that may affect the community.
Educate yourself on the terminology
Nail down the difference between “sex assigned at birth,” “gender identity” and “gender presentation.” Learn the differences between “nonbinary,” “agender” and “demigirl.” Familiarize yourself with appropriate and inappropriate conversations to have with trans folks (for example, asking about pronouns is fine, but asking about genitals and gender-affirming surgery is way uncool). The best way to be supportive of the trans community is not to force them be the translator of their entire community’s experience. Everyone’s journey is certainly different, and there’s lots to learn about each individual. But when it comes to questions out of curiosity and/or about definitions, just Google it! Impart this wisdom to your cis friends.
Volunteer your time
Sign up to be an operator for Transline, a trans-centered crisis line. Or apply to become a hotline operator for The Trevor Project, an organization that aims to prevent suicide in all LGBTQIA+ youth. If taking crisis calls isn’t your thing, then consider donating to The Trevor Project, GLAAD or the National Center for Transgender Equality.
Call out instances of transphobia
Do not take part when your friends laugh about “a man in a dress,” and explain to them how that behavior is harmful. Ask your friends who feign well-intended shock when they see an AMAB individual execute a perfect winged eye or highlight if their internalized transphobia is preventing them from seeing that AFAB folks don’t own beauty. Correct your friends when they misgender someone. Participating in active allyship with care and intention is endlessly appreciated by the trans people it affects.
Never misgender your friends
Go out of your way to properly gender your friends and adjust to pronouns that are new to you in your own time. Never make someone feel guilty about how difficult it is to use or remember their pronouns. When you slip up, it can definitely feel embarrassing and compel you not to want to bring much more attention to it. But as someone who has been misgendered many times over, I can say that many trans people prefer if you just correct yourself then and there. Accountability, regardless of slipups, means everything. This applies to when the person isn’t around or when you’re alone as well — take care to always use a friend’s pronouns and chosen name.
Use inclusive language
Include trans people in your feminist spaces by avoiding gendered language. “Empowering women” and “female orgasm” can feel pretty exclusionary and isolating to gender nonconforming folks as well as trans men and women. If it’s absolutely necessary, use more fluid terms like “masculine” and “AMAB” (assigned male at birth) or “feminine” and “AFAB” (assigned female at birth).
Expand your idea of gender inequality
In white cis feminist circles, gender inequality and sexism are most often discussed as oppression from cisgender men placed onto cisgender women. While this certainly does exist and deserves room for conversation, there are many more oppressive gender dynamics at play. To be a great trans ally, it’d be crucial for you to know how cis women oppress trans people, how trans men oppress trans women, how trans men and women can oppress gender nonconforming folks, and how trans women of color endure the most oppression. As a feminist and a trans ally, the only way to work toward true gender equality is by understanding all of these things.
Acknowledge the fluidity of your own gender
Validate within yourself any gender fluidity you’ve ever felt. Experiment with whatever look or label feels right. No matter how you identify, even if you’ll always identify as cis, liberate yourself from gendered constraints in the same way you liberate others to see a more neutral image of yourself. What you see might surprise you or it might not surprise you at all — as long as you stay aware of gender variances in each human, you can always be understanding of the gender identities of others.
By Meg Zulch
Originally published on HelloFlo.