Before we get into it, I want to show some appreciation for Kay, one of our LVRSNFRNDS members, who so kindly took the time to review and edit this article for us and provided insight into how to make it better.
As some of you may already know, this week (Nov 13 - Nov 19) is Transgender Awareness Week and while it is a week to celebrate all the trans people that continue to push forward despite all the societal pressure to concede to norms set in by cis white men to serve them, it is also a painful reminder of the past and present consequences of hate.
This week is considered a lead-up to the Transgender Day of Remembrance, also known as International Transgender Day of Remembrance, observed on November 20; a day reserved to memorialize trans people whose lives were lost as a result of transphobic violence and to remind the world that there is still, to this day, on-going violence and discrimination against trans people for the mere reason that they are seeking to live their lives as their true selves.
It’s a reminder that there is still so much work to be done and so many walls of violence and hatred to take down for society to reach a point where people can lead their lives and pursue their happiness while not having to worry about being penalized or punished for it. This work doesn’t only involve trans people standing up against the systematic and continued oppression but for everyone to do so.
Being an ally means that you’re an active support to marginalized identities and, yes, it goes beyond just posting about it a couple of times on social media (while that’s also great, cancel culture has shown again and again that it simply doesn’t work) or verbally stating that you’re an ally. We, at LVRSNFRNDS, believe that we should use our privileges to help lift others up against all forms of oppression.
It means to use your voice and presence as a way to create, nurture, and push for change that fights back against the systems that oppress and maintain oppression. It’s also to acknowledge the power and privilege that those systems have granted you and use them to deconstruct and take them down—one building block at a time.
I remember a long time ago, a classmate of mine who is Palestinian expressed a similar sentiment towards performative allyship and the words he spoke remain with me today “It’s only when their pockets are one with our pockets, their fears one with our fears, and their blood is one with our blood that I would see them as allies”. I think that quote still stands true in this case as well and describes what true allyship is: striving to become one. It’s not “helping” or “assisting”, it’s standing side by side, facing the same direction, and fighting with all your might. That’s the only way change can be made.
If you’re reading this article and don’t identify as a trans person, then you’re probably wondering how you can, day-to-day, become a better ally and I salute you for that. We are all still actively learning and actively getting educated on how to become better people and that’s the bare minimum we could do to create a kinder world where future generations don’t fall into the same faulty cycles that lead us here.
The first step is to unlearn the common misconceptions that have sadly embedded themselves into the mainstream culture and that continue to be propelled by the media even today. Therefore, before we share our tips on becoming a better ally, we want to take the time to put out there a couple of facts about trans people to combat some of these misconceptions. Plus, there are a lot of people out there that can benefit from knowing a little (or a lot) more about trans people.
A number of trans people have expressed, and sadly keep having to express, that they don't appreciate or tolerate the use of "trans" as their primary and only characteristic. While being trans is part of who they are, it's not all they are. Say "a trans person" or "a transgender person", and never "a trans". Other examples of good use are "a trans president", "a trans genius", "a trans activist", etc. Using adjectives, anyone?
There is no universal trans experience. How each individual experiences their transness is going to be very different from how another person might. It is unique to each trans person depending on their intersections and how they play into their life experiences in general.
Not all trans people transition medically—or have to do so in order to identify as trans. Some might not choose to take the medical transition route because they have to face a number of financial, situational, or other types of obstacles, others simply don’t want to and that’s enough of a reason. Remember: no one is obligated to explain themselves to anyone.
Transgender people aren’t simply a ‘third gender’. They may identify as women, as men, somewhere in-between, or as having no gender at all. Trans people are the gender that they say they are, not a special ‘other’ gender. A trans woman is a woman just like a trans man is a man point-blank.
Being transgender does not dictate your sexual or romantic orientation. Gender identity, sexual orientation and romantic orientation are all part of a person’s identity but they’re three different concepts that don’t affect each other.
Transitioning medically is necessary to some people, not a matter of aesthetics. In some cases, medical transition and gender affirmation procedures are about survival and when denied can lead to serious mental and psychological repercussions.
No, the cost of health plans doesn’t increase much, if at all, when they include trans-inclusive health benefits.
Transgender people use the bathroom based on their gender identity for the same reasons you would. It’s not dangerous, unlike what bigots and transphobes would argue.
Hear about trans problems from trans people themselves by seeking out and consuming their media and content. Posts like this are great, but learning from trans people themselves how to be a better ally is always much better! Don’t rely on the pure chance of coming across a trans content creator, put in the effort to find them.
Normalize the use of pronouns in your daily and professional life to reduce the stigma around them. To ask for pronouns, start by giving yours to create a comfortable environment for others to share. Decontextualize the use of pronouns as something unique to trans and non-binary people, it should be a common behaviour.
To address a group of people, instead of using “ladies and gentlemen” try using “people”, “lovelies”, “friends”, “comrades”, “folks”, “everyone”, etc. Keep in mind that words and how you use them can make someone feel misgendered and left out. Let’s bring about belonging instead.
Being trans is a state of existing as one’s truth. Trans people don’t owe anyone anything when it comes to how they dress, how they talk, how they act, or how they present themselves generally.
And if anyone takes time to explain their identity to you, make sure to not take it for granted, and thank them for taking the time to do so.
The essence of this article and the main takeaway we want you to have is: if you’re looking for ways to become a better ally to trans people, the first and most important thing to do is to show up for the trans community. Sprinkle inclusiveness in your everyday life, go to rallies and protests for trans people’s rights, and use your privileges to uplift trans voices and bring awareness to their issues. Be there for them.