3 Ways To Be A Better Ally To Your Transgender Friends

5 Ways to be A Better Ally To Your Transgender Friends

Photo by Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona on Unsplash

June is celebrated as Pride Month by LGBTQ+ people and their allies all over the world. While homosexuality still gets its fair share of hate, it is the T in LGBTQ+ that we need to be most worried about. Violence against the transgender community is on the rise in various places around the world such as the US, the UK, and India. The community is often overlooked despite the fact that transgender women of color played a pivotal role in starting the gay rights movement in America. Speaking of America, “anti-trans violence reached record highs in 2021”. According to TIME Magazine,

“2021 was the deadliest year for transgender and gender non-conforming people in the U.S. on record. At least 50 trans and gender non-conforming people were killed this year alone, per a report by LGBTQ advocacy organization the Human Rights Campaign (HRC)—the highest number of deaths since the organization began recording fatal violence in 2013.

The report makes clear that the full number of fatalities is likely much higher still; the deaths of trans and gender non-conforming people are often underreported, and the victims themselves are often misgendered. (At least 24 of those listed in HRC’s report were initially misgendered by the media or police.)”

Why is violence against transgender people on the rise?

I found an illuminating reason in an Instagram comment: it is no longer socially acceptable to bash gay people, so extremists have focused their hate on the trans community. Thanks to influential people like JK Rowling, trans bashing is quickly becoming mainstream.

Of course, this is not the only reason. Conservative lawmakers across America have passed hundreds of anti-trans bills in 2023, and the media coverage has also contributed to anti-trans misinformation and conversations. As allies, it is our duty to protect the transgender community from violence and discrimination.

How to be a better ally to  your transgender friends

Quick question: do you even have any transgender friends? I will be the first to admit that I don’t, at least not anymore. I only had one trans friend who died by suicide last year. After their death, I often found myself asking if I could have done more to prevent this tragedy. What I realized was that they lost hope when their parents refused to accept them as transgender. They were born male and identified as female, and this was unacceptable to their family. My one voice of support was drowned by society’s anti-trans stance. This is why I believe that more and more people have to stand up for trans rights. Here are some ways to do the same:

1. Respect and normalize pronouns

Transequality.com describes this best:

“If you don’t know what pronouns to use, ask. A simple way to see what pronouns someone uses—he, she, they, or something else—is to wait and see if it comes up naturally in conversation. If you’re still unsure, ask politely and respectfully, without making a big deal about it. Sharing your own pronouns is a great way to bring up the topic—for example, “Hi, I’m Rebecca and I use she/her/hers as my pronouns. How about you?” If you accidentally use the wrong pronouns, apologize and move on. Making a big deal out of a pronoun mistake may be awkward and often draws unwanted attention to the transgender person.”

There are many people who make fun of pronouns. Stop them by always introducing yourself by your pronouns in the online and offline world. Twitter and LinkedIn are good spaces to mention your pronouns. For example, this is what my LinkedIn account looks like:

my linkedin pronouns

2. Do not ask inappropriate questions

Again, Transequality.com explains this best:

There are many topics—medical transition, life pre-transition, sexual activity—that you may be curious about. That doesn’t mean it’s appropriate to ask a transgender person about them, or expect a transgender person to be comfortable sharing intimate details about themselves. There are two questions you can ask yourself that may help determine if a topic is appropriate to bring up:

“Do I need to know this information to treat them respectfully?” Asking someone’s name and pronoun is almost always appropriate, as we use that information in talking to and about each other every day. Beyond that, though, you may be curious about questions that are not things you truly need to know. For example, a transgender coworker’s surgical history is rarely information that you need to know.

“Would I be comfortable if this question was turned around and asked of me?” Another good way to determine if a question is appropriate is to think about how it would feel if someone asked you something similar. For example, it would probably not feel appropriate for a coworker to ask you about your private areas of your body. Likewise, it’s probably not appropriate to ask similar questions about a transgender coworker’s body.

Make sure to keep your conversations respectful. And most importantly, address them by the name of their choice, not by the name they were assigned at birth. It is extremely disrespectful and distressing to be at the receiving end of questions like:
What is your birth name?
Who are you sexually attracted to?

Remember: never misgender a trans person. Call them by their chosen name and by their chosen pronouns.

3. Participate in active allyship

Merely declaring that you are an ally and being respectful in one on one interactions is not enough. You need to actively support transgender rights, stand up to transphobia, and educate yourself on the issues faced by transgender people. The CSU poster below shows some ways to be a better ally to your transgender friends.

supporting trans people poster CSU

At the end of the day, we are all unique individuals. Wouldn’t it be lovely if we celebrated our differences instead of hating them? It’s high time we become inclusive and not merely tolerant of the entire LGBTQ+ community.

Life's better when you are aware of your surroundings.

Life's better when you are aware of your surroundings.

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