How can you respect others’ gender identity and become a transgender ally?
GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance against Defamation) is a U.S. group which works for the rights of the LGBT community. They developed a tip sheet on how to become an ally of transgender people. They tell us that “When you become an ally of transgender people, your actions will help change the culture, making society a better, safer place for transgender people – and for non-transgender people who violate gender expectations”.
Here are few of their tips:
Don’t assume that you can tell if someone is transgender simply by looking. Assume that there may be transgender people in the room even if you are unable to visibly identify someone as trans.
Don’t assume that you know someone’s sexual orientation based on their gender identity. Transgender people can be gay, lesbian, bisexual or straight.
Use a person’s preferred pronoun (rather than assuming that you should call them “he”, “she”, “they” etc.). If you are unsure of which pronoun to use, ask respectfully which pronoun is preferred.
Use the name the person identifies with and do not ask for their “real” (i.e. birth) name.
“Coming out” as a transgender person is a very personal decision. Don’t assume that the person needs to “come out”.
Do not casually share information or gossip about someone’s gender identity. Not everyone feels comfortable disclosing that they are trans. Also, transgender people face discrimination and higher rates of violence so revealing someone’s gender identity without their consent could possibly lead to negative consequences for them.
Be sensitive in your comments. Often transgender people hear “compliments” which can actually be quite hurtful. For example, telling someone they look just like a “real woman” implies that their gender identity is not valid.
Don’t feel that you can ask a transgender person very personal questions (for example, about their genitalia, their sex lives, their transition or surgery) just because they have shared their gender identity with you. It would be rude to ask a non-trans person these questions and is no less rude to ask a trans person these things!
Listen to transgender people. Being an ally means keeping an open mind and being willing to learn and to listen.
Challenge discriminatory or hateful remarks and jokes made about transgender people.
To read the full list of tips, view GLAAD’s tip sheet!
Check out this video where two high profile entertainers and trans activists, Carmen Carrera and Laverne Cox, challenge Katie Couric when she fixates on issues of transition rather than the lived realities of transgender people.