How To Be an Ally to the Transgender Community
By Aria Pathak
1. Coming out:
Coming out is no easy feat. The pressure and the fear of the reactions of the people around you can be terrifying, and a simple thing as an “I’m here for you” could mean all the difference to a transgender individual.
a. What to say when someone comes out to you:
Congratulate the person and thank them for trusting you. They are in a very vulnerable situation and for them to find the courage to come out to you (in a very unaccepting world) is a huge accomplishment.
Don’t joke or make comments about their coming out. Your words will have an impact on them.
Ask them how you can help and what you can do to support them. They might have made some changes to how they would like to be referred to:
What are your pronouns?
What is your name?
There isn’t “one way” to be trans, and many trans people prefer to be called by different pronouns on different occasions.
What are your pronouns today?
Keep an open mind, everyone’s identity is unique to them, referring to a transgender person how they prefer will help them to feel more comfortable.
Ask them who knows. Outing someone can be very dangerous, and to make sure you don’t accidentally out someone, ask them who else they have come out to.
Have you come out to anyone else?
Am I allowed to share this information with anyone/[name]?
Support them all you can. They are human just as you are.
b. What not to say when someone comes out to you:
Do not downplay their coming out:
We/I already knew that.
I get it, you’re trans
Those are just some of the worst things you could possibly say to a transgender person when they come out to you. I’ve heard people say those exact words to me and friends of mine in the LGBTQIA+ community. It hurts. Once someone comes out to you, they are in a very vulnerable situation and saying those things to them can affect them for a long time.
Coming out is a big deal, and if it’s not to you, then you don’t deserve the friendship of whoever just came out to you. They are very brave, and it is crucial to acknowledge that.
Microaggressions. Microaggressions are subtle comments or actions that intentionally or unintentionally communicate hostility and derogatory attitude.
Are you actually transgender?
Aren’t you kind of young to be making that decision?
These comments invalidate the person coming out to you, and prying at them with these questions implies you know them better than they know themself. One of most asked questions tranmsgender individuals get:
What body parts do you have? Referring to chest and genitalia.
Take a step back and examine that question, you just asked someone about something very personal, their body. Along with this, you would never ask a cis person that question, and asking is extremely innapropriate and can trigger body dysmorphia₁.
The transgender community is very diverse, people are from different ethnic backgrounds, faith groups, and more. This means that while one individual might need support with one thing, another might not.
There is no “one way” to be transgender and there isn’t one way to support the community, people need different things, and that is perfectly fine. Respect is a given, just because you don’t understand how someone’s identity works doesn’t mean they don’t deserve respect.
Always remember, if you don’t know someone’s pronouns, just ask. It’s not awkward, it’s completely appropriate and very respectful and kind to ask. Not only will you help to make that person comfortable in the setting they are in, but asking makes sure you don’t misgender someone. Along with this, be sure to politely correct anyone who misgenders a transgender individual- just make sure that individual is OK with that, just because they’ve come out to you doesn’t mean they want that business to be public.
On the topic of asking things, don’t pry at a transgender individuals life regarding their gender unless they specifically say you can ask questions. Inappropriate questions include
Surgeries they have/haven’t had
Their deadname₂ (their deadname is NOT their “real” name)
Hormones they are/aren’t taking
Hopefully you now know a bit more about how to be an ally to the trangender community and to transgender individuals in your life. I encourage you to do more research on your own and get involved to help the community. :)
Below are two links with lists of gender identity labels and more:
Body dysmorphia₁ - a mental health disorder in which you are unable to stop thinking about perceived defects/flaws on your body.
Deadname₂ - The birth name of a trasngender individual
Deadnaming - calling a transgender individual by their birth name after they have changed it as part of their gender transition