Want to Become An Ally to Your Trans Friends or Lovers? Here’s How.
Despite having presented a number of “gender education” workshops, I’ve never really considered myself much of an “educator,” because I as a member of the trans and genderqueer communities believe that as trans and genderqueer people we deserve to be treated with respect — just as I think any other group of people would believe of themselves. I believe the first step to both giving and receiving that respect is through understanding. This is true not only with gender minorities, but with all groups outside of the majority. In that spirit, I’d like to offer my cisgendered friends the following (hopefully helpful) suggestions:
If the subject comes up, and I tell you that: a) I identify as trans/genderqueer/gender-fluid, and that b) my pronoun of choice is “she,” just respect what I just said, and TRY to remember it.
I’m pretty upfront about my gender identity if asked, and I am generally really easy-going as far as pronouns go. Slip-ups happen. All I ask is that people try to remember. However, if I tell you my identity and pronoun of choice and you start making me prove it, or say some BS thing like “You don’t LOOK trans,” we’ve got problems.
If you screw up on my pronoun and identity, apologies are fine, but don’t make excuses, don’t try to blame me, and just simply don’t do it again.
On a related note, if you have a question about what pronoun a friend of mine goes by, don’t ask ME, ask THEM!
This is honestly not so bad when it compares to some crap people do. It’s just that if you have a question about someone’s identity, and you’ve got it in you to ask it, why not just ask that person? Just ’cause I identify as trans doesn’t mean that I’m going to know how another trans person identifies. Even if I do, more often than not I don’t want to be put in a position where I’m talking about or speaking for someone else. Save yourself a step, and spare me the risk of feeling more awkward and just ask the person. If they say they don’t wanna talk about it, just move on; I’m not another trans person’s spokesperson.
Don’t talk to me about passing.
Just because I look and dress the way I do doesn’t mean I don’t constantly think about my own gender identity and how people perceive me. If I’m at a point where I’m worried about how people view me, I will bring it up to people I know support me. Unsolicited opinions are often not helpful. Unless you are my owner, or one of a few other select folks, I do not exist to please you.
On a related note, unless you are the aforementioned select few people, don’t give me suggestions about how I can “pass better.” Again, if I need suggestions about wanting to look more feminine, I’m quite capable of asking someone I trust. I know I don’t “look trans” in the eyes of a lot of folks — both trans and non-trans. I appreciate people trying to be helpful, but my experience is that unless someone’s known me for a while, MOST of the time even when people mean well, their suggestions are at best not helpful, and at worst offensive.
Save me the “but I like you more as a…” routine. This is not about YOU.
Don’t ask me about whether or not I’m going to have “the surgery.”
First of all, there is more than one “transition-related procedure,” so I don’t know what you mean most of the time when you ask about “the surgery.” Secondly, regardless of which procedure you’re referencing, most SRS [sex reassignment] surgeries are EXPENSIVE (for top surgery people have gotten quotes from 7K all the way up to 15K). So personally, if you have the money to give me, the answer is “probably,” but if you don’t, I don’t wanna hear it.
If the topic of hormones comes up, just trust me on what I say.
I was once on estrogen. I’m now possibly looking into going back on hormones, eight years later. So yes, I’ve had time to think about it; I know the health risks, and I know what I’ll be giving up. I’m an adult, I clearly remember going over this with my doctor. Getting the lecture is not helpful.
Don’t ask me why I’m not talking to my family about it.
If you’ve ever chosen to keep something pretty major a secret from people, I’m just going to assume you knew how best to handle that situation. I’m just asking you give me that same respect.
For dude’s sake! Keep an open mind!
There are more gender identities than male and female. A lot of people even believe that there more sexes than male and female. There’s more to people than what you know. Do yourself, if no one else, a favor and accept that people can be something you’re not familiar with.
I’m okay with talking about my gender identity, but I’m NOT okay with having to feel like I have to justify my identity. I know people who feel more or less the same way. Straight cisgendered rich white men aren’t generally made to prove they’re worthy of their identity. Are you saying I’m less worthy than they are?
PLEASE don’t ask me if my identifying as trans has anything to do with me feeling like I don’t fit in.
Just to be clear, the answer is NO. Plain and simple.
If you have a question that’s gender-related, feel free to ask me. Just don’t start the question with “I don’t mean to be offensive.”
It all goes downhill from there. Trust me!
And finally… these are my suggestions and my opinions. Please do not assume that I speak for all TGIQ folks. If you do, you’ve basically negated everything I’ve just said.
Ultimately, I know I have little to no control over how people are going to think, and what people are going to do. I guess there’s a part of me that just wants to spread the message of how people can treat others better. Additionally, I’ve been told I don’t stand up for myself enough, and so I think I’m writing this at the very least to say that if you get to exist as you are without being questioned, or made to prove yourself, so do I. You don’t necessarily have to support me; I just ask that if you don’t, you get out of the way.