People often ask me how to be a better ally to the transgender and gender non-conforming communities. The first thing I tell them is try to put yourself in the shoes of a trans or gender non-conforming (GNC) individual. Imagine that the body you were born in is betraying you every day. Imagine the feeling that you were born in the wrong skin. Imagine looking in the mirror every day and seeing the wrong person looking back at you.
That being said, there are some easy solutions to how to be a better ally to us:
When you meet a transgender or GNC individual, never ask “What’s your real name?” When we tell you what our name is, that is our real name. Asking our “dead name,” or what our name used to be, is very shaming, uncomfortable and triggering. Our names have very personal meanings to us because we choose them to identify who we are, and they signify the start to a new life of being authentically real. What our name used to be doesn’t matter to us anymore and shouldn’t matter to anyone else, and it makes us feel invalid or not real. We are very real individuals with very real feelings, and our name is simply that, our name, no more questions need to be asked. If you’re not sure what someone’s name is, just ask, but don’t question it or our gender identity.
It’s important to remember that if someone that identifies as transgender or GNC, we’re revealing a piece of very private information about ourselves because we trust the individual we’re revealing that to. It’s never appropriate to misgender someone as the opposite gender than they reveal they are, just to make yourself more comfortable. When you ask a GNC person what their gender is after they’ve told you that they identify as gender non-conforming, again it makes their journey through gender invalidated. It’s always ok to ask someone what their pronoun preference is; we’d rather have you ask than assume.
When we choose to reveal our transgender status, we’re telling you — not everyone else — in confidence, so don’t be a tattletale! It’s never appropriate to tell other people about an individual’s gender status, or how they identify, unless you’re correcting someone who is disrespecting that individual regarding their gender identity. Always remember, just ask, if we don’t want to tell you, we’ll let you know that we’re not comfortable talking about it.
Another thing that is important to being a staunch ally is to show your support! If you see someone making fun of a trans or GNC individual, say something! If you stand by and say nothing, you’re complicit in the transphobia that is taking place. See something, say something, and stop the negative talk about us. Challenging transphobia isn’t always easy, but in order to be a good ally, its critical and essential to not allow negativity showed towards us.
Lastly and most importantly, treat us like we’re human, like we matter, like we’re just as important as anyone else, because we are. We’re real people with real feelings, real emotions, that are usually already raw from verbal abuse we’ve suffered along the way at the hands of someone that’s transphobic; sadly that often includes our family.
Being an ally to the transgender community is critically important to our self-esteem and to our survival. This year, we’ve lost 19 individuals to murder in the trans community because of people that weren’t allies. Stand for us, and we will stand for you.