5 Things Cis Allies Can Do to Support Trans People
It is currently Transgender Awareness Week (November 13–19), which means the media's focus on the trans and gender non-conforming community is front and center. At Logo, we believe trans people should be celebrated during this week and the remaining 51.
The truth is, trans people are and always have been everywhere. As GLAAD notes in its tip sheet for allies to trans people, being trans isn't new. What is new is "the heightened awareness of gender diversity and the transgender community because of increased media attention in the last few decades."
But visibility needs to be accompanied by safety and support. Below, find five actionable steps any cis person can take to make the world a more welcoming place for trans people.
Educate yourself on trans issues without asking trans people to do it for you
Navigating our cisnormative world as a trans or gender non-conforming person comes with its own unique challenges. Although trans people have become more visible than ever in popular media, the U.S. is also grappling with an epidemic of anti-transgender violence. What's more, President Donald Trump has spent the better part of his presidency chipping away at rights and protections for transgender Americans with regards to military service, health care, and safety in public schools.
Understanding these structural issues is critical to being an informed, proactive trans ally, and there are plenty of free resources to help you do so. That being said, remember that it is not a trans person's job to educate cisgender people on issues affecting the trans community. Asking a trans person in your life for a Trans Issues 101 crash-course isn't just annoying, it's tokenizing. A single trans person shouldn't be made to represent the entire trans community, just like any gay, bi, or lesbian person isn't a stand-in for their whole community.
Listen to trans people, especially if you make a mistake
Beyond self-education, a key part of being an ally to the trans community is simply listening to trans people. This goes for leading trans activists and trans people you know personally.
Did you misgender a trans person by accident or unintentionally use outdated terminology like "transgendered"? If you catch your mistake, acknowledge it, apologize, and move on. Mistakes happen, but that doesn't excuse the harm they might cause.
If you don't catch your mistake, listen to whomever you're speaking to, take accountability, and commit to doing better moving forward. Don't be dismissive or attempt to justify your behavior, The Trevor Project advises in its Guide to Being an Ally to Trans and Nonbinary Youth. "It isn’t helpful to the people who have been hurt, and it shifts the focus away from the people who have been harmed and onto your personal feelings of guilt, shame, or defensiveness."
Consume media created by and about trans people
Janet Mock (second from left) with the cast and crew of Pose.
If you're looking to support trans people or learn more about the trans community, watching, reading, or listening to media created by and about trans people is a great place to start. By streaming, purchasing, or subscribing to trans-made media, you're backing the careers and work of trans creatives—and showing media execs that telling trans stories is important and profitable.
Luckily, we're living in a time of unprecedented media representation for trans people, and there is no shortage of fantastic options. For television shows, try FX's Emmy-winning series Pose, which has the most transgender series regulars in American TV history. For movies, start with Netflix's critically acclaimed doc Disclosure, which dives deep into the complicated history of trans representation in film.
Consider donating to trans-led or -focused nonprofits or fundraising campaigns
America's transgender community is disproportionately impacted by systemic issues like houselessness or poverty. This is especially true amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has wrecked havoc of the financial wellbeing of transgender Americans, particularly Black trans people.
Donating money isn't an end-all, be-all solution to structural issues, but it is a fast and effective way to make a tangible difference in the life of someone in need. If you're able to spare some money, consider donating funds to a nonprofit, advocacy group, or independent fundraising campaign that is either trans-led or trans-focused. Community-based groups like G.L.I.T.S., Inc. provide housing and education opportunities to trans people, and national organizations like the Transgender Law Center, Lambda Legal, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights advocate for trans-inclusive legislation.
Do your part to make whatever space you're in trans-inclusive
Ideally, any space should be safe and welcoming for trans people before a trans person enters it. This goes for workplaces, businesses, and other social settings. As the Trans Journalists Association notes, all employers should educate their staff on trans issues regardless of if the team has any trans staffers.
Looking for other actionable ways to support trans people around you? Ask them, especially if you're in a position of power to actually enact change. As GLAAD advises, "Don't be afraid to admit when you don't know something. It is better to admit you don't know something than to make assumptions or say something that may be incorrect or hurtful."