Being an LGBTQ+ ally isn’t an overnight process. But what I’ve realized within my personal circles is that while there are many who respect gays, lesbians and bisexuals, they still don’t know how to address or talk about trans men and women.
For example, a friend and I went to a burlesque show. After watching, he asked if there were female performers because he couldn’t determine whether they were cis or trans. I had to correct him and say, “If they’re trans, they’re still women.” (Turns out, he just wanted to know who was were performing in drag.)
This is just one instance in which people casually say something transphobic without realizing it. Instead of completely canceling them, it’s important to educate them (and yourself) about being a good trans ally. Take note of these pointers below:
Use proper pronouns
This applies to all gender identities, but some people still misgender trans men and women, be it because they’re ignorant or just plain insensitive. You should also call them by their chosen name like how Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union started referring to their daughter as Zaya (formerly Zion). This is the bare minimum anyone can do to respect a trans person’s identity.
HAHAHAHAAA… some of you think y’all REALLLLLLY clever calling me “he” and “boy” on my latest post…. 😅🤣😂 you’re so funny, haha…..
ya, get the fuck outta here.
— NikkieTutorials (@NikkieTutorials) February 25, 2020
If you’re not sure about a person’s preferred pronouns, there’s no harm in asking. And if you accidentally misgender them without meaning to offend them, just apologize and thank them for correcting you (if they do).
Don’t make assumptions
A trans person doesn’t have to look a certain way to be considered trans. One common statement when someone comes out as trans is that someone could pass as a cis man or woman because of how they look. This was also the same sentiment when Nikkietutorials revealed that she was trans.
According to GLAAD, “It is not possible to look around a room and ‘see’ if there are any transgender people. (It would be like a person looking around the room to ‘see’ if there are any gay people.) You should assume that there may be transgender people at any gathering.”
GLAAD also reminded people to not assume that trans people are of a certain sexual orientation. Remember that gender identity and sexual orientation are different—the latter refers to who we’re attracted to. So trans people can be gay, lesbian, bisexual and straight.
Don’t out them
It’s not anyone’s business to out someone publicly. There are still several trans people who are out only to select people. If you know someone who’s trans and not open about it, don’t spread it like wildfire. Let them talk about it when they’re ready because when you out someone, you’re taking away their freedom to do so.
Stop asking about “the operation”
I remember beauty vlogger Nikita Dragun talking about how people would constantly ask if she already got gender reassignment surgery, which is disrespectful and intrusive. Gay Times noted that questioning a trans person whether they’re pre- or post-op reduces their experience to merely a surgery. “Many trans people don’t have surgery, but whether they have or not isn’t any of your business, no matter how supportive you’re trying to be.”
As a general rule: If you can’t ask a cis person about their genitals, why would you ask a trans person the same question?
Listen to them
Don’t act like you know everything about the trans experience just because you watch “Pose” or you have a couple of trans friends. Each of them has different stories and struggles, and it’s our job as allies to listen and empathize with them.
Zero tolerance for discrimination and bigotry
Here in the Philippines, there have been several instances when trans people have been discriminated against in public spaces and we still don’t have an anti-discrimination law on a national level yet. Fighting for the trans community starts with ourselves, but it’s also important to continue it by calling out derogatory language even when there are no trans people around you; step in when you see a trans person being harassed and ensure that they are okay so they don’t feel alone.
That said, here’s an additional reminder from Gay Times on being a trans ally: “Just because you might not be around any trans people doesn’t mean you get to put your feet up and pat yourself on the back for being tolerant in the company of the oppressed. Transphobia is rife—even in LGB spaces—and it’s your job to stand up for the community when people think they can get away with some casual transphobia.”
Photo courtesy of Unsplash
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