Trans* Ally Tips

SOME WAYS TO BE A GOOD TRANS ALLY…

  • Don’t ever out a trans* person. This is dangerous to their safety & can invalidate their identity.  Likewise, be aware of your surroundings when discussing trans* topics with a trans* person. For their safety & comfort, they may prefer not to discuss these topics in public places or among strangers.
  • Always use the pronouns & name the person wants you to use. If you’re unsure, ASK! If you make a mistake, correct yourself, & politely (& subtly, if possible) correct others if they use the wrong pronoun. Don’t know anything about pronouns – check out our Gender Pronouns page!
  • Ask when & where it’s safe to use their name & pronouns (e.g., if a trans* person is not out at home, ask them how you should refer to them around their family, etc). Don’t ask trans* people what their “real” name is (i.e., the one they were born with).  If you know their birth name, do not divulge it to others.
  • Instead of using prefixes like bio- or real- to designate that someone is not trans*, use the prefix cis-. Using real or bio sets up a dichotomy in which trans* people are not considered real or biological. Using the term cis- alters the framework so that cisgender people are not the default.  This shift in language can help make transphobia & gender privilege more obvious.
  • Instead of saying someone was born a boy or a girl, try saying they were male assigned at birth or female assigned at birth.  These terms recognize the difference between sex & gender, and emphasize the ways in which sex & gender are assigned to individuals at birth, rather than being innate, binary or immutable qualities.
  • Don’t confuse gender with sexual orientation.  Trans* people, like cisgender people, are straight, gay, bisexual, pansexual, asexual, same-gender loving, and all other sexual orientations. Gender identity is not tied to sexual orientation.
  • Don’t fetishize.  Trans* people’s bodies are not a public forum. “Creatures with cunts,” “the best of both worlds” & “chicks with dicks” are all inappropriate ways of describing trans* people’s bodies – unless of course, those terms are being used as self-identification by the individual. Then ask.
  • Don’t ask trans* people about their bodies, how they have sex, what their genitals are like, etc.  Questions like this are very invasive. Some people are happy to talk about their transition process – but once again, ask if you can ask about it. It can help to think about whether you would ask these questions of a cisgender person.
  • Don’t ask about surgery or hormone status; don’t ask “When are you going to have the surgery?” or “Are you on hormones?” Like cisgender people, trans* people’s medical histories & bodies can be intensely personal & private.  If a trans* person wants to share these details with you, allow them to do so on their own terms.
  • Don’t assume the only way to transition is through hormones and surgery. Medical transition is very often based on economic status.  Recognize the classism inherent in associating medical transition with “authentic” trans identities.
  • Don’t assume all trans* people want hormones and/or surgery or to transition at all. Some trans* people are satisfied with social transition and may not seek to medically transition. Some folks may choose to not pursue social transition.
  • Don’t assume all trans* people feel “trapped in the wrong body.” This is an oversimplification and not the way (all) trans* people feel.
  • Don’t assume all trans* people identify as “men” or “women.”  Many trans* people and genderqueer people identify as both, neither, or something altogether different.
  • Don’t tell trans* people what is appropriate to their gender (e.g., trans* women should grow their hair out & wear dresses).  Like cisgender people, trans* folks have varying forms of gender expression.
  • Recognize the diversity of trans* & genderqueer lives. Remember that these identities are part of other identities, and intersect with race, class, sexual orientation, age, etc.
  • Do listen if a trans* person chooses to talk to you about their gender identity.  Be honest about things you don’t understand—don’t try to fake it!
  • Be aware of places trans* people may not be able to go. Be understanding if a trans* person doesn’t feel safe using a gendered bathroom or locker room. Recognize your privilege if you’re able to use a gendered space without fear or anxiety based on your gender identity.
  • Recognize that not all trans* people or genderqueer folks are out there trying to smash the gender binary. Recognize that it’s not their responsibility. If you want to smash the gender binary, then you do it!
  • Don’t ask trans* people to educate you.  Do your own homework & research.  Understand that there is a difference between talking to individuals about their perspectives and forcing someone to be your educator.  Try not to view individuals as spokespeople; trans* communities are diverse, not one monolithic voice or viewpoint.
  • Don’t assume trans* men are exempt from male privilege, misogyny, sexism, etc, just because they were assigned female at birth.
  • Recognize that trans* women deal with sexism in a very real way (on top of transphobia).
  • Recognize that trans* women deserve access to “women-only” spaces/programs/shelters/etc.
  • Recognize your privilege & prejudices as a cisgender person.
  • Don’t let transphobia slide. Confront it as you would confront all other forms of oppression. Trans* issues are rarely discussed & when they are it is often in a negative light. Transphobia is equally oppressive as (& works in conjunction with) sexism, homophobia, racism, classism, etc.
  • Talk about trans* topics/rights.  Engage people in discussions & share your knowledge. The majority of “information” people have about trans* identities is based on stereotypes & assumptions.  To most people, trans* folks are the freaks from Jerry Springer.
  • Be aware of the vital role you play as a cisgender person. Remember that the way you talk about trans* people (e.g., using the right pronouns) influences how others perceive trans* people & can make a difference in whether they pass, & whether they feel safe/comfortable. Always remember that people may be more likely to listen to & take cues from cisgender people than from trans* people.  What you say & do matters!
  • Don’t tokenize.  Simply adding the “T” to LGB doesn’t make you or your organization hip, progressive, or an ally.  Make sure you have the resources, information & understanding to deserve that T.
  • Above all respect and support trans* people in their lives & choices.