This is PART TWO of the ‘How to become a transgender and gender diverse ally’ series!
If you haven’t already, listen to PART ONE about learning to manage your emotions
Now as a reminder before I continue, allyship is NOT about telling everyone how inclusive and accepting you are.
It’s about showing up every day and doing the work to help make the spaces you engage in, safer and more accessible for TGD folks.
This episode we’re gonna take a look at language and how to use it respectfully.
Transgender and Gender Diverse affirming language
It really is a simple thing to do. All it takes it for people to address trans and gender diverse folks the way they ask to be addressed.
This means using the pronouns they ask you to use. And calling them the name they ask you to call them.
Seriously, peoples refusal to acknowledge someone’s right to self define boggles me.
Especially when cis folks are so open to correcting themselves when they misgender a person’s pet….
Now I get that if a family member has come out to you that this may take a little getting used to. And that’s ok.
Because it’s not about getting it perfect.
But that being said, there’s really only so long that you can “keep forgetting” before it shows that you really just aren’t seeing said friend/family member the way they are asking to be seen.
You see, it’s easy to know when someone isn’t actually thinking about a TGD person as the identity they say they are. Because it shows in your language.
The reason you may find pronouns so challenging is because in your head you are probably still using the pronouns that go with a persons assigned sex at birth.
And there are literally no excuses that could convince me to the contrary here.
So really make an effort to think about said amazing TGD human the way they ask.
Some TGD folks will take some time and explore a variety of different ways that they can express themselves.
This is totally ok. Just because a person chooses a certain name or pronouns doesn’t mean that this is who they may always feel that they want to express themselves.
And it’s not anyone’s place to say how someone may choose to explore their identity.
Transitioning is a journey and can take time.
TGD folks don’t owe anyone answers about the ways that they are expressing themselves. Or how many times they may change how they identify.
So be open to supporting your friend or family member no matter how much time it takes them some to find the best way to express themselves.
Respecting Transgender and Gender Diverse people’s privacy
Respectful language goes beyond just the way that we address people. It’s also about the way we talk to them and what we talk to them about.
Now this should really be a no brainer.
And to put this plainly don’t ask invasive or inappropriately personal questions to satisfy your own morbid curiosities.
Because all this does is show that you don’t actually believe the person when they tell you who they are. It’s like trying to have them justify their existence to you and that is just not ok. Below I’ve listed just a few common questions ask by cis folks, along with some reasons why it’s not ok to ask these.
So let’s begin…
Transgender and Gender Diverse names
“Is that your real name? No really, what’s your real name? You know, the one your parents gave you?”
I get it though. TGD folks generally just have rad AF names. And you could too if you chose to name yourself.
But seriously, this is so invasive and harmful.
Many TGD folks feel very challenged by the identities they used to have to play before they were able to express their true selves.
And if you use a TGD person’s old name (most often referred to as dead naming) you’re being abusive towards the TGD person you’re talking to.
“So I know you use They/Them pronouns but like, what are you, really? I mean what’s in your pants?” (I’ve had numerous people ask me this).
Seriously, how are either of these questions ever appropriate?
You would NEVER ask another cis person about their genitals. So how could it possibly be appropriate to ask a Transgender or Gender Diverse person about theirs?
I’ve personally received these questions from people multiple times. And usually it happens when I’ve just met a person.
And when I’ve brought up how inappropriate the questions are, these people have tried to justify why they would ask and seriously tried to say they would ask a cis person the same questions.
I’ve only had one thing to say to that. LIAR.
Gender Affirming Surgeries
“So are you getting the surgeries?”
Not all TGD folks follow surgical transition pathways. And even if they are, it’s no ones business.
But regardless of their choices, this does not make them any more or less valid with their identity.
Same goes for hormones too. Some TGD folks, like myself, don’t follow any sort of medical transitions.
Now It may be for personal reasons, because they can’t afford to (Medical transition pathways are really expensive) or any reasons they have. It’s none of your business.
For some folks it may not be safe for them to transition medically either. This is due to where they live.
Being part of the LGBTQIA+ community is illegal in 72 countries around the world. And half of these countries are part of the British monarchy. Let that sink in a moment.
Queer Virtue Signalling
“There’s this person I work with who’s gay/lesbian and I like them. I think they’re great. I don’t have a problem with them.”
“And seriously, I’m fine with who you are. I have a gay cousin so you know.”
Wow. Where to start with this one.
When I hear this from someone, it always prompts me to wonder why.
Why does this person feel the need to tell me how accepting they are of queer folks?
What are they thinking or feeling when they say this?
Do they want me to thank them for not being a transphobe/homophobe?
Like seriously. I’m not going to celebrate someone for doing the bare minimum required for being an ok human.
Not only that, it totally erases TGD experiences and makes an assumption about my sexual identity.
Further more, the Lesbian and Gay community has gradually been receiving more and more recognition and acceptance within the mainstream. This recognition does not spread though.
There is still so much bisexual erasure. Asexual erasure. And the politicisation of TGD identities is just disgraceful.
Trans and Gender diverse identities have become a political bargaining chip used by politicians to appease their religious constituents and party members.
Being a TGD Ally
The above questions are just a snippet of some of the things queer folks have to endure form cis het folks daily.
As an Ally, there is a need for you to speak up. Especially when TGD folks aren’t around.
If you hear other cis folks either speaking inappropriately to or about TGD folks. You can say something.
If you don’t speak up, you become complicate in their transphobia.
How to speak up as a TGD ally
Let’s say you hear someone using slurs, sharing harmful opinions or baseless stories about TGD people and you want to say something.
But maybe you are uncertain of what to say.
Well, you’re in luck friend, let me help you with a few lines to keep in mind.
“Excuse me, but the language you’re using is inappropriate and harmful towards Trans and Gender Diverse people.”
“Being Trans or Gender Diverse is not a choice. They are born that way and what you’re saying is Transphobic/ Discriminatory.”
“Trans men are men and Trans women are women.”
Now it may be awkward or uncomfortable. And the person you speak up to may even stop speaking to you.
If that happens though, take a moment and ask yourself, do you really want to associate with someone being actively harmful towards other people like that?
It may not feel like it but you speaking out is powerful. Because it can encourage others to speak up too. Sometimes it just needs to start with one person.
Trans and Gender Diverse identities are valid
The most important thing that you can do as an ally is to believe a trans or gender diverse person if or when they express who they are to you. They know themselves best.
And being respectful and not ask invasive and inappropriate questions is the bare minimum you can do in showing that respect. Because Trans and Gender Diverse folks don’t owe you answers.
Friend, you have the power to educate yourself around the language and different identities and forms of self expression people may have.
Google is an excellent tool that will give you access to all the things that you can learn about folks living a TGD experience.