Transgender Awareness Week it’s here. It is a time to celebrate, remember and encourage the trans community. It is also a time for cisgender people to consider their roles as allies and ask themselves difficult but essential questions, such as is that you? Really What is the best ally you can be for the trans and non-binary community? If the answer is no, or I don’t know, now is the perfect time to correct course and be the kind of ally your trans family needs.
But what exactly is it like to be a trans ally? PRIDE spoke with michelle forcerdoctor of FOLX Health, which is a provider of digital health services for the LBGTQIA+ community. Here are six things they say you can do today to be the true trans ally.
1. Always come from a place of respect and love.
First of all, it’s important that your heart is in the right place when a trans person shares their identity with you, Forcier tells PRIDE. “Self identity is something very personal! And when someone shares their own identity with you, as a family member, friend, or colleague, it’s a gift to be valued and respected,” he explains.
It is also your responsibility as an ally to recognize what they need from you and give it to them, just as you would anyone you love and respect. This may include considering your safety.
“When someone identifies with you, as a transgender or gender diverse person and a member of the LGBTQIA++ community, that is important and personal information that in our society sometimes carries risk,” says Forcier. “Identify yourself as an ally. First, thank them for sharing this important information. Ask around and be sure to use the correct noun and pronouns. Ask if there are ways you can offer support in any setting you both can share.”
2. Keep your loved one’s information close, unless otherwise directed.
Never date your trans friends and loved ones without their consent, advises Forcier. “Disclosure, like identity, is also a very personal decision. Some people with transgender or gender diverse identities do not want to share these identities in public or social settings. This is something that as an ally you can support and respect by not sharing this information with other people,” she explains.
The sad reality is that it is not always safe or comfortable for a trans person to come out. As an ally, it is not your place to choose that for your loved one. “A person’s gender and identity really aren’t yours to share unless it’s something the person is asking you to support or help with,” Forcier adds.
3. Know and use their name and pronouns.
Pronouns matter. If you hope to be a true ally, your friend’s pronouns should also matter to you. Learn pronouns from him and use them, Forcier says, adding, “Nouns and pronouns are just one part of being a good listener, being nice and polite.”
As an ally, one way you can make this easier for everyone is to start sharing yours. “It’s polite to share this information as a form of introduction,” shares Forcier. “Hello, my name is Michelle and I use the pronouns she and they,” they use as an example, while suggesting that you also ask others for theirs, then use them appropriately.
As an ally, Forcier says that you should be vigilant that others respect the pronouns of your loved ones. “You can also be an ally and ask others to use the correct name or pronouns if someone misinterprets the gender of a gender-diverse person,” he explains. “You can do this with kindness and help other people learn to do the right thing.”
For example: “Terri. Wait a second. Kip uses the pronoun they/they. It is important to use the pronouns with which they identify. Thank you for doing the right thing for our colleague and friend.”
Using the correct pronoun can be tricky, even when your heart is in the right place. Forcier offers this tip for those times when you accidentally get a noun or pronoun wrong. “The important thing is to communicate that you know you made a mistake, correct it and do better from now on,” they suggest. “For example, you could say, ‘Helen, I’m so sorry! I used the wrong pronoun a moment ago. I won’t do that again.’”
The key in these situations, Forcier says, is not to focus, which can be difficult, especially if you’re feeling bad or embarrassed about the slip-up. “Don’t make the gender diverse person care for you if you’re feeling embarrassed or embarrassed. It’s not your job. Apologize, move on, do better, ”he concludes.
4. Understand the impact acceptance can have on the health and longevity of your trans loved ones.
Despite what mainstream culture may try to tell you, gender has always been diverse, says Forcier. “Gender identity, like most aspects of human growth and identity, is complex,” he explains. “There are many different aspects of gender identity, and different cultures view gender and these social constructs differently.”
No one expects you to be an expert from the start. Fortunately, you don’t have to be, you just have to be open and willing to learn, says Forcier. “Understanding what your loved one asks of you: listening, accepting, embracing and continuing to love them as the person they continue to be can be a great gift to share,” they advise.
Why is that so significant, beyond the aspects of human goodness and dignity? Well, it could have a lasting impact on the health of your loved ones.
“We also know that transgender and gender diverse people who have parental and family support, school and job resources, and live in accepting communities can be healthier and live longer,” Forcier explains. “Hate, rejection, prejudice and discrimination create stress. This stress creates unhealthy situations such as anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and even suicidal tendencies. Creating a positive, accepting, and caring environment helps transgender and gender diverse people be less at risk of negative health outcomes over time.”
5. Respect boundaries and consider the nature of the questions you ask.
Curiosity is natural, but just because someone tells you that you’re transgender doesn’t mean you have the right to cross the line when you ask questions. Forcier advises asking about nouns and pronouns, but invasive medical questions are No appropriate behavior or ally.
“Asking about their bodies, whether they take medication or hormones, or whether or not they’ve had surgery, is really off limits,” Forcier explains. “As with your cis, non-transgender peers, personal health information is just that – private and personal. Others do not have to know these things. It is invasive to ask these things. Because you would like others to respect your personal health information and privacy, please remember to extend that basic courtesy to your transgender acquaintance or friend.”
6. Do your own research: It’s not your friend’s responsibility to educate you.
Part of being an ally is having a greater understanding of the trans experience. However, it is not up to the trans people in your life to become your only source of knowledge. That’s a lot of emotional and psychological work to ask them to just exist and want their support. Being an ally means doing the work to educate yourself.
Here are some resources to get you started:
PFLAG or Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays offers support groups and prospective mentors in community settings throughout the United States. https://pflag.org/
Human rights campaigns focus on mobilizing those who envision a world empowered by diversity, where our laws and our society treat all people equally, including LGBTQ+ people and those who experience multiple marginalizations. https://www.hrc.org/
Multilingual Family Acceptance Project handouts describing supportive/rejective behaviors www.proyectofamiliar.sfsu.edu
GLSEN’s extensive resources for schools https://www.glsen.org/
Gender Spectrum offers support groups, educational consulting, and general information about
transgender youth www.géneroespectro.org
Family allies of trans youth http://www.imatyfa.org/
Support and care for transgender children
If all of this sounds like a lot, Forcier says to remember not only how much of an impact you can have as an ally, but how incredibly necessary it is to be a true one, particularly right now.
“Our transgender and gender diverse family, friends and colleagues need us to be allies. There is an unprecedented amount of political messaging and legislation that threatens to take away the basic human and civil rights of transgender and gender diverse people. The ability of each of us to have bodily autonomy and make decisions about our own body and health is vital to our health and well-being. Therefore, becoming an ally and supporter of a transgender or gender diverse family member, neighbor, friend or colleague sends an important personal message of caring and compassion to that person. It also sends an important social message: that hate is not lived here and that you respect and support all kinds of people and diversity in your social environment. Below are some resources that may be helpful.”
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