Five ways to be an ally to trans people

The above picture is the transgender pride flag and the meaning for each color. Photo from Phoebe Walczak.

“Here at Seton Hill University—which prides itself on diversity and collaboration—the safety, well-being, and inclusion of all students, regardless of orientation or gender, are our priority. Discrimination on the basis of sex or gender identity is prohibited here on campus,” said Adriel Hilton, the dean of students and diversity officer.

Allyship is the practice of standing by members of marginalized communities, acknowledging the hardships they face, and fighting alongside them in their battle for equality – even when it doesn’t directly benefit you and/or you are not a member of the marginalized group. 

Being an ally to transgender and nonbinary individuals means caring about their comfort and safety, advocating for their rights, and respecting their identities. This is a brief introduction to some simple ways for cisgender, those who identify with the gender they were assigned at birth, people to be allies to trans and nonbinary folks in every day ways that anyone can implement into their individual lives. 

  1. Make pronouns a standard part of first time introductions.

 When introducing yourself to someone new tell them your pronouns and ask for theirs. This gives both of you the opportunity to choose how you’re going to be addressed and lets trans folks know right away that you’re an ally. 

Asking for pronouns also helps standardize the practice, meaning trans folks will be more likely to be addressed properly, and will be more empowered to correct others when they are misgendered. 

This doesn’t just go for in person introductions! Adding your pronouns to your email signature, social media bios, resumes, etc. is a great way to practice allyship. 

Many transgender and nonbinary individuals already have their pronouns in their social media bios and email signatures, having cisgender allies do it too helps trans folks feel less like outliers. 

  1. Change your language to be more inclusive of all the different gender identities.

Simple shifts language can make a big difference. It can help people of all genders feel more welcome and comfortable in a space when heavily gendered language is replaced with something more inclusive. 

Instead of addressing a group as “guys,” say “folks” or “y’all.” 

Replace “ladies and gentleman” with something like “fellow classmates,” or ”distinguished guests.” Try “theirs” instead of “his or hers,” or “they” instead or “s/he.” 

This applies to written and spoken communication, and can be brought into any setting, be it formal or casual, and to any group of people. 

  1. Apologize and adjust behaviors when you make a mistake or incorrect pronunciation.

People make mistakes, members of the trans and nonbinary communities know and understand that, the important part is a continual effort to improve and not repeat harmful or hurtful behaviors and actions. 

If you accidentally misgender someone simply apologize, use the correct pronoun, and do better in the future. This applies whether you catch yourself in the moment, someone calls you out, or you realise your mistake later. 

Do not feel the need to explain the behavior and why you misgendered them and do not use this as an opportunity to proclaim your support for the trans community that is growing. 

Misgendering typically happens in social settings and the person likely already feels uncomfortable and/or embarrassed due to being misgendered, so there’s no need to turn it into a larger spectacle. Quickly and casually correct yourself and then let the moment pass.

Depicted above is the nonbinary pride flag. The nonbinary flag represents nonbinary people who do not feel that other flags represent who they are. Photo from Phoebe Walczak.
  1. Do you homework on issues affecting the trans community. 

As an ally, you have a responsibility to educate yourself and remain informed with up to date information about the trans community. The internet is your friend in this situation! Blogs, select news websites, and social media are the easiest places to go to see conversations and research about being trans happening in real time. 

Actively seek out firsthand accounts of the trans experience from transgender people.

This is the best way to gain knowledge and empathy, as well as to hear about actionable steps to being a better trans ally. 

  1. Check your privilege as a cisgender individual.

Recognize the ways in which you have things easy compared to trans and nonbinary individuals. Bathrooms, health care, housing, clothing, etc. are all areas which are traditionally very gendered and thus can become difficult and even hostile to people who are not cisgender. 

Look at the many aspects of life which are simple for cisgender people but littered with roadblocks for trans people. Think about what changes could be make to give trans people safe access, and then fight for those certain types of changes.

Published By: Caitlin Srager

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