How to Properly Support Your Transgender Friends and Loved Ones
So, you want to be a better and more informed ally to the transgender people in your life. Seeking out additional sources of education is the critical first step to doing so! Listening and learning can help you to create an overall more inclusive environment. Read on for a few ways that you can support your transgender friends and loved ones while fostering a space that is inclusive and conscious:
Ask, don't assume
Remember: it’s always wrong to try to assume that someone is transgender. Outer appearances do not always equate to inward identity. If you aren't sure, respectfully ask how that person identifies.
Don't be afraid to ask about a person's pronouns. Again, the important lesson here is to begin a regular practice of asking instead of merely assuming. Once someone has informed you of their pronouns, use them accordingly. As a cisgender ally, you can also help to create a more inclusive atmosphere by taking the initiative to introduce your own pronouns upon meeting someone. This will normalize the process of asking for pronouns instead of assuming them.
Respect a transgender person's right to privacy
While "coming out" may be a big deal to some, it is not a requirement. And many transgender individuals may not feel comfortable in doing so. It is never your place to reveal or "out" a transgender person's identity for them. Doing so can result in negative consequences that may impact a trans person's safety or livelihood.
As such, it should also stand to say that questions regarding a transgender person's genitals or sex life should not be asked; these questions are generally inappropriate among anyone, and should be navigated accordingly with everyone, regardless of how they identify.
Understand that transitioning may not be a priority for every trans individual
Not every person who identifies as trans wishes to acquire hormone therapy or a surgical procedure. Additionally, many trans individuals who do wish to complete surgery may postpone doing so because of financial or familial reasons. Not physically transitioning does not make a transgender person’s identity any less valid. Moreover, it is inappropriate to ask about a trans individual's surgical status. If they want to disclose this information, they will.
You should also abstain from pressuring a transgender person to reveal their "real name"
For some trans-identifying folk, one's birth name can be a source of great anxiety and gender dysphoria. Like pronouns, always refer to a trans person by the name they introduce themselves as, even if you are aware of their birth name.
Educate yourself and others, and be vocal about it!
Make a distinction between sexual orientation and gender identity. Be careful and cognizant of not confusing the two when using terms like "spectrum," "orientation," or "coming out."
Publicly support legislation for all-gender public restrooms. Educate yourself about local political proceedings regarding LGBTQ rights. Get involved with petitions and protests, or find ways to raise awareness at your school or within your community.
Don't make transgender spaces about you
If you are cisgender (meaning your sex corresponds with the gender identity assigned to you at birth), understand that your role in a privileged position is to uplift the voices of trans individuals. If you attend an LGBTQ event (such as a Pride parade), in particular if you are cisgender and straight, try to go with a friend who identifies along the LGBTQ spectrum. Pride parades are about freedom and a celebration of equality, so appreciate your friend(s) and try to listen more than speak. The spotlight is on them!