It’s no secret that the transgender community faces unfair roadblocks in many aspects of life. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, the trans community has to deal with discrimination in employment, can have problems getting access to health care, and experience discrimination in their everyday life. Life is not easy for trans people and as unfair as that is, that reality likely won’t change without the support of groups outside of the trans community.
Equality and change can start with you. Here’s how to be an ally to the trans community.
GLAAD stresses that it’s crucial to respect a trans person’s personal matters. In other words, according to the GLAAD website, you shouldn’t “make assumptions about a transgender person's sexual orientation,” keep in mind that “if you're unsure which pronoun a person uses, listen first to the pronoun other people use when referring to them,” and be comfortable about their confidentiality, meaning “some transgender people feel comfortable disclosing their gender history, and some do not.”
If you want to be an ally to the trans community, be sure to respect their boundaries and never make assumptions. It’s hard to support a group when you're quick to jump to conclusions.
In the case that you accidentally offend a trans person by identifying them by the wrong pronouns or misgendering them, the Trevor Project stresses that you should apologize. According to its website, “while we rarely intend to hurt others, common mistakes such as forgetting a person’s pronouns, using their birth name instead of their chosen name, or misgendering a person can hurt feelings or even put another person’s safety at risk.”
Be quick to offer your apologies in this situation—it’s better to address the issue head-on. Plus, wanting to learn and be better is all part of the allyship process.
It’s important to advocate for trans people in all communities you’re part of—and not just your neighborhood or your friend group, but at work, too. In an article about supporting the trans community, the Human Rights Watch recommends that you “explore workplace policies to see if they account for and support different gender identities and expressions” and help connect your company with transgender-inclusive training. Some of the first steps a company may take include adding a “prefer not to specify” gender option to forms and paperwork or removing the gender category altogether. Workplaces also may move toward gender-neutral bathrooms or encourage the use of pronouns in email signatures.
Every step your office takes to make its workspace more inclusive will help uplift the transgender community while creating a safe space for its members. If your office isn’t already taking these steps, don’t be afraid to speak up to your company’s HR—someone needs to lead the charge. Why not you?
Many of the groups quoted in this article—the American Civil Liberties Union, The Trevor Project, Human Rights Watch, and GLAAD—are constantly working to establish equality for trans people and provide legal and emotional support to the community. To help these continue supporting trans people, you can donate your time or money to their efforts. Set up recurring donations to a group of your choice or get in touch with a local branch to see what you can do to help. Many of these organizations hold events throughout the year that may need volunteers, or they may need assistance organizing recent donations.
Beyond the national groups, keep an eye out for trans equality groups within your local community. You can donate money or team to these local (and probably less funded) causes, too.
Tell the trans people in your life that you support them. While it's not their job to tell you what to do to support the trans community, it never hurts to tell someone you support them. Make sure they know you’re there to listen, to talk, to sign petitions, or just to share a glass of wine.