Opinion: How to be an ally during Trans Awareness Month

Bobbie Szabo

It is important to mention early on that I am not trans, I do not pretend to be a perfect trans ally and I did consult people who identify as trans in the creation of this article.

In honor of Trans Awareness Month, I thought I would share some tips on how to be a good ally for trans individuals.

First, its important to amplify trans voices. Instead of speaking for the trans community, take testimonials, stories and opinions straight from their source and share them with a wider audience.

Listen to trans people when they speak, and help provide a platform to share their voices in spaces where their voices might not typically be welcome. Take your privilege and use it as a vehicle for those without that same privilege.

It’s also necessary to understand there is not one way to be trans; just like there is no right way to be a woman and no right way to be a man – there is no right way to be trans.

Some trans people do not conform to gender. Some trans people have multiple genders. Some trans people do not “pass” – be seen as male or female at first glance – and some never want to “pass.” Some trans people cannot come out. Some trans people have known for years and some trans people are still figuring out their identities.

You can also do your part by acknowledging intersectionality. Transgender people of color – who make up a large percentage of the trans population – are disproportionately affected by certain forms of oppression and discrimination.

Transgender people of color are six or seven times more likely to experience physical violence from law enforcement, more likely to be sexually assaulted and more likely to be below the poverty line compared to both white cisgender people and white trans people.

The last key point to remember is basic respect.

Respect peoples’ pronouns, names and decisions: Your opinion on someone else’s pronouns and gender identity do not matter. It does not matter if, in your opinion, a person does not look like the gender they identify as. It does not matter if you have known a person for their entire life; if they tell you they want to go by a different name, call them that name.

Respect other people, and respect the decisions they make about their bodies and their identities. Refrain from asking intensely personal questions regarding genitalia and birth names. None of this information is any of your business, unless it is being freely offered to you, and even then – your opinion does not matter.

Ask respectful questions and continue to learn: I learn more every day about being a trans ally—about terminology, about privilege, about life and about respecting other people.

Because that is what being an ally is all about: respecting other people and helping people overcome the challenges they face.

Do not forget to keep an eye out for upcoming events celebrating Trans Awareness Month with student groups like PRIDE! Kent and Trans*fusion—including vigils for the Trans Day of Remembrance.

It is important to mention early on that I am not trans, I do not pretend to be a perfect trans ally and I did consult people who identify as trans in the creation of this article.

In honor of Trans Awareness Month, I thought I would share some tips on how to be a good ally for trans individuals.

First, its important to amplify trans voices. Instead of speaking for the trans community, take testimonials, stories and opinions straight from their source and share them with a wider audience.

Listen to trans people when they speak, and help provide a platform to share their voices in spaces where their voices might not typically be welcome. Take your privilege and use it as a vehicle for those without that same privilege.

It’s also necessary to understand there is not one way to be trans; just like there is no right way to be a woman and no right way to be a man – there is no right way to be trans.

Some trans people do not conform to gender. Some trans people have multiple genders. Some trans people do not “pass” – be seen as male or female at first glance – and some never want to “pass.” Some trans people cannot come out. Some trans people have known for years and some trans people are still figuring out their identities.

You can also do your part by acknowledging intersectionality. Transgender people of color – who make up a large percentage of the trans population – are disproportionately affected by certain forms of oppression and discrimination.

Transgender people of color are six or seven times more likely to experience physical violence from law enforcement, more likely to be sexually assaulted and more likely to be below the poverty line compared to both white cisgender people and white trans people.

The last key point to remember is basic respect.

Respect peoples’ pronouns, names and decisions: Your opinion on someone else’s pronouns and gender identity do not matter. It does not matter if, in your opinion, a person does not look like the gender they identify as. It does not matter if you have known a person for their entire life; if they tell you they want to go by a different name, call them that name.

Respect other people, and respect the decisions they make about their bodies and their identities. Refrain from asking intensely personal questions regarding genitalia and birth names. None of this information is any of your business, unless it is being freely offered to you, and even then – your opinion does not matter.

Ask respectful questions and continue to learn: I learn more every day about being a trans ally—about terminology, about privilege, about life and about respecting other people.

Because that is what being an ally is all about: respecting other people and helping people overcome the challenges they face.

Do not forget to keep an eye out for upcoming events celebrating Trans Awareness Month with student groups like PRIDE! Kent and Trans*fusion—including vigils for the Trans Day of Remembrance.

Bobbie Szabo is a columnist, contact her at [email protected]