5 Ways to be a Better Trans Ally

Transgender Day of Remembrance is on Nov. 20 of every year. It is a day that honors the memory of those who have lost their lives due to acts of violence by others, as well as those who have taken their own lives because of discrimination. The purpose of this day is to illustrate how difficult it can be for those who identify as transgender to survive in a world where some people do not see them as human beings. In seeing the faces and hearing the names of the lives lost, it serves as a reminder to be kind and aware of our transgender siblings, be attentive to their needs and what we can do to make them feel more comfortable along their different walks of life. It is important to treat fellow citizens in your school, community, or family, with the utmost respect and understanding. In order to do that, we need to be attentive to what the trans community needs, and what they ask of us. With the alarming rate of violence directed at transgender individuals, at this point, we have no choice but to listen. Here are a few ways to help:

1. Always ask for pronouns 

One common mistake that people often make is assuming someone's gender. It's not necessarily our fault, either - from a young age, we are taught that boys are supposed to look and certain way, and girls are the opposite. But, now that we have grown older and can think for ourselves, it is best to have an open mind. 

Even if you think you may know someone's pronouns that they use just by looking at them, do not assume. Gender presentation does not represent how they identify. For example, if a person who is biologically male, and appears to act effeminately, do not automatically assume that they are gay, nor assume that they could be someone who identifies as transgender. To alleviate any feelings of embarrassment from either side, it is best to ask a simple question: "what are your preferred pronouns?" This can also open the door further to the person explaining their gender identity. But remember that as an outsider, you are never entitled to know this information. It is up to the person that you are asking and it is not in your control.

2. Know what is considered offensive 

"What genitalia do you have?" "What is your birth name?" "What bathroom do you use?" These are all questions that are EXTREMELY inappropriate. Do not ever ask a trans person these questions. It is not your business to know anything that detailed about the physical aspects of their body, OR how they used to identify. For a lot of trans people, they chose not to bring up their old name due to reasons that might make them uncomfortable, plus it is no longer relevant to them. You should respect what they want to share with you, do not prompt them to talk about something that they have not mentioned yet - they will do it on their own time. If they never do, it's just as fine. 

3. Stand up to ignorance

If someone you know is making offensive, ignorant assumptions about people who identify as transgender, or is using the wrong name or pronouns, part of being a good ally is not allowing someone to get away with it, without them realizing the harm they are causing. If you are friends with someone who is transgender, or have a loved one who is trans, then it is part of your responsibility to make sure that the person is not at risk of experiencing any sort of harm - physically or emotionally. 

4. Never out someone

If someone you know comes out as transgender, then take into account the fact that they are telling you this in confidence. Unless they say that they are out (meaning that other people know that they are transgender), do NOT tell anyone else. This could put the person at risk of being alienated by family and/or friends who may not know, and may not be tolerant of their identity. Again, as I had mentioned before, it is not your business what someone chooses to do or who to tell about their identity. The choice is up to them, and as an ally, your job is to respect their choices.

5. Learn more for yourself 

Although it is always great to gain insight on transgender people by speaking to someone who is trans, it can become exhausting to constantly answer questions related to identity, or become a representation of all trans people. Plus, every trans person's experience is different. So, in order to learn more about it, it's always good to do some research on your on time. There are MANY resources available - online (tumblr, Huff Post, TIME magazine, National Geographic, etc.), literature, media and more. I highly recommend going this route, because these sources take the time to explain terminology and are resources for people who do not identify as transgender.

In the end, just know that whatever you do or say can have some sort of effect on someone - good or bad. With this list, you can be sure that any interaction you have with someone who identifies as transgender is good. Take time to get to know them, be respectful and keep their best interest in mind!

It's hard enough to live in this world already, why not make it a little easier by spreading more love? Here's to being a great ally!

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