Transgender Visibility Day celebrates transgender and nonbinary individuals around the world. It’s a day where the community and its allies acknowledge the strength and courage of these people to live their lives authentically. But being an ally requires more than support. It also means raising awareness, learning, and making changes on a personal level. So what actions can you take to become a better ally to the transgender community?
Keep reading to find out. We’re sharing nine things you can do to be an ally on transgender visibility day.
One of the most harmful things you can do is make assumptions about how someone identifies or even their sexual orientation. There’s a stereotype that trans people are visibly identifiable, but this is a dangerous assumption. Noticing that someone wears women’s dresses doesn’t mean they identify as a woman. The same goes for sexual orientation. Gender identity and sexual orientation are two different things.
Transgender people are gay, straight, lesbian, or bisexual, and this doesn’t have something to do with what gender they identify with. Even if you support the community, you can’t assume that someone is trans or has a certain sexual orientation simply because they wear fit and flare dresses.
If you don’t know what pronouns to use, just listen. The last thing you want to do is presume someone wants to go by he/him because they’re wearing men’s pants and shirts. When you’re around others, especially people they know, see what they use. Sometimes you might have to ask for their pronouns, and if that’s the case, share yours first.
If you accidentally use the wrong pronouns, give a sincere apology right away and move on. People make mistakes, and focusing too much on times like this can make things awkward and uncomfortable.
Some transgender people openly share their history, but others don’t. This is private information that individuals choose to share, and it’s not anyone else’s place to do so. Whether you know someone is trans or you think they are, don’t gossip, speculate, or share their details with anyone. Doing so would invade their privacy and put them at risk of violence or discrimination. Even if you’re supportive, not everyone is, and being supportive means respecting boundaries and being confidential.
There’s a wide range of terminology transgender people use to describe themselves. Whether they identify as transexual, transgender, nonbinary, or genderqueer, respect their choices and use the same terms for them. Depending on where they’re at in their journey, they might not know how they identify with. Be supportive and give them space and time to figure things out in this situation. Don’t try to tell them how to identify or pressure them to use a specific term based on whether they wear women’s blouses or men’s dress shirts.
It’s inappropriate to question a trans individual about surgeries, hormones, or where they’re at in their journey. Asking about their medical history is an invasion of privacy and offensive. You wouldn’t ask a cis-gendered person personal medical questions like these, and you shouldn’t ask transgender people about these topics either. If someone wants to share this information with you, they can, but it’s their choice.
Being a transgender ally doesn’t just apply when interacting with trans or nonbinary people. It’s about your actions in everyday life, too. If you overhear negative anti-trans remarks about a trans person wearing women’s skirts or jokes, speak up. Even if you hear things like this in an LGB space, it doesn’t make it OK. Let them know it’s wrong and why it’s wrong.
This is how larger-scale, long-term changes are made in society. Look at it as an opportunity to educate others, and build a community of allies.
LGBTQ is a known term now, and many companies make diversity, equity, and inclusivity part of their core values. But transgender people face unique challenges, and treating inclusivity like a one-size-fits-all solution doesn’t work. As an ally, you can help foster this by encouraging trans-inclusivity at work by taking the time to understand their needs and create company-wide policies to address them.
Even if you’re coming from a loving place, you can still be insensitive when interacting with trans people. Statements and questions like, “You’re so pretty, I would have never known your transgender,” and “You would look great in black dresses,” or “Have you tried a voice coach?” is insulting and hurtful. The reality is you don’t need to comment on how anyone looks or offer unwarranted advice. Just interact with transgender individuals kindly and respectfully, like you would anyone else.
One of the most important things you can do as an ally on Transgender Visibility Day is to ask for help. This isn’t an end-all, be-all list of things to do, and no one knows everything. So don’t be afraid to admit when you don’t know something or have a question about how to be a better ally. The wonderful individuals who make up this community want to educate others and are happy to help.
By being mindful of your actions and following these tips, you’re helping to change society and culture for the better. Things like these might seem small, but they impact the future and encourage other trans and nonbinary individuals to feel comfortable enough to be themselves in a safe environment.