SOME WAYS TO BE A GOOD TRANS ALLY…
Don’t ever out a trans person. This is dangerous to their safety & can invalidate their identity. Likewise, be aware of your surroundings when discussing trans issues with a trans person. For their safety & comfort, they may prefer not to discuss these topics in public places or among strangers.
Always use the pronouns & name the person wants you to use. If you’re unsure, ASK! If you make a mistake, correct yourself, & politely (& subtly, if possible) correct others if they use the wrong pronoun.
Ask when & where it’s safe to use their chosen name & pronouns (e.g., if a trans person is not out at home, ask them how you should refer to them around their family, etc). Don’t ask trans people what their “real” name is (i.e., the one they were born with). If you know their birth name, do not divulge it to others.
Instead of using prefixes like bio- or real- to designate that someone is not trans, use “non-trans” or the prefix “cis-”. Two reasons for this: one, using “real” or “bio” sets up a dichotomy in which trans people are not considered “real” or “biological.” Two, using the terms trans & non-trans or cis- alters the framework so that trans people are the default rather than the Other. Setting up trans as the norm can help make transphobia & gender privilege more obvious.
Instead of saying someone was born a boy (or a girl), try saying they were assigned male at birth (or were female-assigned). These terms recognize the difference between sex & gender, and emphasize the ways in which sex & gender are assigned to individuals at birth, rather than being innate, binary or immutable qualities.
Don’t confuse gender with sexual preference. Trans people, like non-trans people, are straight, gay, bisexual, pansexual, asexual, etc. Gender is not tied to sexual preference, & there are a million ways to express desire.
Don’t fetishize. Trans people’s bodies are not a public forum. “Creatures with cunts,” “the best of both worlds” & “chicks with dicks” are all inappropriate ways of describing trans people’s bodies.
Don’t ask trans people about their bodies, how they have sex, what their genitals are like, etc. It’s rude & none of your business. It can help to think about whether you would ask these questions of a non-trans person.
Don’t ask about surgery or hormone status; don’t ask “when are you going to have the surgery?” or “are you on hormones?” Like non-trans people, our medical histories & bodies can be intensely personal & private. If trans people want to share these details with you, allow them to do so on their own terms.
Don’t assume the only way to transition is through hormones/surgery, & understand that medical transition is very often based on economic status. Recognize the classism inherent in associating medical transition with “authentic” trans identities.
Don’t assume all trans people want hormones and/or surgery, or to transition at all.
Don’t assume all trans people feel “trapped in the wrong body.” This is an oversimplification and not the way (all) trans people feel.
Don’t assume all trans people identify as “men” or “women.” Many trans people and genderqueer people identify as both, neither, or something altogether different.
Don’t tell trans people what is appropriate to their gender (e.g. trans women should grow their hair out & wear dresses). Like non-trans people, we have varying forms of gender expression.
Recognize the diversity of trans & genderqueer lives. Remember that these identities are part of other identities, and intersect with race, class, sexual preference, age, etc.
Do listen if a trans person chooses to talk to you about their gender identity. Be honest about things you don’t understand—don’t try to fake it!
Be aware of places trans people may not be able to go (pun intended). Be understanding if a trans person doesn’t feel safe using a gendered bathroom or locker room. If your organization is holding an event, designate a gender-neutral bathroom in the building.
Recognize that not all trans people or genderqueer folks are out there trying to smash the gender binary. Recognize that it’s not their responsibility. If you want to smash the gender binary, then you do it!
Don’t ask trans people to educate you. Do your own homework & research. Understand that there is a difference between talking to individuals about their preferences/perspectives and forcing someone to be your educator. Try not to view individuals as spokespeople; the trans communities are diverse, not one monolithic voice or viewpoint.
Don’t assume trans men are exempt from male privilege, misogyny, sexism, etc, just because of a so-called “girl past.”
Recognize that trans women deal with sexism in a very real way (on top of transphobia).
Recognize that trans women deserve access to “women-only” spaces/programs/shelters/etc.
Recognize your privilege & prejudices as a normatively gendered person.
Think about what makes you uncomfortable & why.
Don’t let transphobia slide. Confront it as you would confront all other forms of oppression. Trans issues are rarely discussed & when they are it is often in a negative light. Transphobia is equally oppressive as (& works in conjunction with) sexism, homophobia, racism, classism, etc.
Talk about trans issues/rights. Engage people in discussions & share your knowledge. The majority of “information” people have about trans issues is based on stereotypes & assumptions. To most people, trans folks are the freaks from Jerry Springer.
Be aware of the vital role you play as a non-trans person. Remember that the way you talk about trans people (e.g., using the right pronouns) influences how others perceive us & can make a difference in whether we pass, & whether we feel safe/comfortable. Always remember that people may be more likely to listen to & take cues from non-trans people than from trans people. What you say & do matters!
Don’t just mourn or take action when trans people are murdered. Celebrate trans lives & work at making trans & genderqueer issues more visible on a day-to-day basis.
Don’t tokenize. Simply adding the “T” to LGB doesn’t make you or your organization hip, progressive, or an ally. Make sure you have the resources, information & understanding to deserve that T.
Above all respect and support trans people in their lives & choices.