How to Support a Transgender Friend Going Through the Journey of Gender Affirmation
Transitioning from a person’s biological gender to the gender they identify with is a monumental undertaking, both physically and emotionally. And just like with anything else in life, the best way to be supportive is to ask your friend, relative, or loved one exactly how they would like to be supported. In addition to keeping your direct lines of communication open, here are three important ways you can support a friend who is going through the journey of gender affirmation:
Use the person’s preferred name and pronouns
When a person comes out as transgender, they usually ask to be identified by a new name that is meaningful to them and which represents the gender with which they identify. It’s important to do your best to use the person’s chosen name. It’s not always easy to remember that your lifelong friend Robyn is now Ryan, but apologize when you misspeak and don’t dwell on slip-ups.
Ask your loved one if they prefer masculine, feminine, or gender neutral pronouns. Use the preferred pronoun even when you aren’t with your loved one; it will help normalize the journey for others; and it’s just plain respectful.
Support, don’t push
Do you remember how awkward it was to be thirteen? You had to learn new body care rituals like shaving or applying makeup, choosing clothes that fit and flattered your shape - which seemed impossible at times - and it always felt like everyone was staring at you (even though they weren’t). The journey of gender affirmation can be a similar experience! It can be exciting and fun, as well as a huge relief for your loved one to finally express their true self.
If Siobhan isn’t ready to wear a dress and heels to go to bingo, don’t push her. If Jack wants to rock a buzz cut, cheer him on! Give plenty of encouragement and honest compliments, but every step beyond that should be at their pace, not yours.
Gender affirmation involves therapists, doctors, and a whole lot of talking about the journey to just about everyone. This is wonderful, but can also be exhausting, and your loved one has other things going on in their life beyond their gender!
Suggest a trip to a museum, find a cooking class, go on a hike, see a movie, or do something else that you’ve always done together! Remember to have fun.