Transgender Visibility Day is a great opportunity to learn how you can support the local transgender and non-binary community both in and out of the workplace.
Showing support for trans and non-binary people is not hard. The following are some suggestions to help you become a better ally to transgender people. Of course, this list is not exhaustive and cannot cover all of the „correct” things to do or say, as there is rarely a single „correct” response to every scenario.
1.Don’t be afraid to ask about pronouns
If you’re not sure which pronoun a person uses, start by listening to how other people refer to them. Someone who is familiar with the individual is likely to use the proper pronoun. Still not sure how to refer to someone? Ask! Start with your own pronoun if you have to inquire about the person’s pronoun usage. As an example, „Hello, my name is Alex, and I prefer the pronouns he and him. So, how about you?” Then, when appropriate, use that person’s pronoun and encourage others to do the same. If you use the incorrect pronoun by accident, apologize promptly and sincerely, correct your error, and then go on. The more you make a big issue out of it, the more unpleasant it becomes for everyone.
2. Don’t inquire about a transgender person’s deadname
Being connected with their birth name causes distress for some transgender persons, or it is simply an aspect of their life they prefer to put behind. Respect the current name that a transgender person is using. If you happen to know someone’s birth name but they don’t use it anymore, don’t disclose it without their consent. Similarly, unless you have their permission, don’t distribute images of them before their transition
3. Don’t inquire about the genitals, surgery status, or sex life of a transgender individual.
It would be impolite to inquire about the look or status of a cisgender (non-transgender) person’s genitals. It’s also impolite to pose those questions to a transgender person. Don’t ask about a transgender person’s „surgery” or if they are „pre-op” or „post-op.” A transgender person will bring it up if they want to talk to you about it. Similarly, it wouldn’t be appropriate to ask a cisgender person about how they have sex, so the same courtesy should be extended to transgender people.
4.Challenge anti-transgender remarks or jokes in public spaces, including LGB spaces.
Anti-LGBTQ activists sometimes make anti-transgender remarks, but they may also come from LGB people. Someone may believe it is acceptable to use particular phrases or make jokes about transgender individuals because they are gay. It’s critical to call out anti-transgender jokes or remarks whenever they’re made, no matter who makes them.
5. Support all-gender public restrooms.
Some transgender, nonbinary, and gender non-conforming people may not feel like the signs on the restroom door reflect their gender identity. Encourage single-user, unisex, and/or all-gender restrooms in schools, corporations, and government entities. Make it clear that transgender, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming people are free to use whichever restroom they like.
6. Be careful about confidentiality, disclosure, and „outing.”
Some transgender people are open about their gender past, while others are not. The gender history of a transgender person is private, and it is up to them to share it with others. Do not casually disclose this information, speculate, or gossip about a person you know or suspect is transgender. This is not just a violation of privacy, but it can also have severe effects in a community where gender diversity is frowned upon. When others learn about a transgender person’s gender past, they may lose their jobs, housing, friends, or even their lives.
7. Avoid backhanded compliments and „helpful” tips.
While you may intend to be supportive, comments like the following can be hurtful or even insulting:
„I would have never known you were transgender. You look so pretty.”
„You look just like a real woman.”
„She’s so gorgeous, I would have never guessed she was transgender.”
„He’s so hot. I’d date him even though he’s transgender.”
„You’re so brave.”
„You’d pass so much better if you wore less/more make-up, had a better wig, etc.”
„Have you considered a voice coach?”
8. Help make your company or group truly trans-inclusive
If you work for a company or organization that claims to be LGBTQ-inclusive, keep in mind that transgender persons experience particular obstacles, and that being LGBTQ-inclusive requires fully recognizing their needs and putting policies in place to address them.
9. At meetings and events, set an inclusive tone.
Instead of using gendered terminology to identify people in a group, use articles of clothing to do so. The „person in the blue shirt,” for example, rather than the „lady in the front.” „Sir” and „Madam” should also be avoided. If the space’s bathrooms aren’t already all-gender, see if you can put an all-gender sign on them. Consider asking people to introduce themselves with their names and pronouns in some situations where not everyone knows each other. „Hello, my name is Nick, and I use he/him pronouns,” for example. Begin with yourself, speaking in a serious tone to deter others from dismissing the activity with a laugh. Nevertheless, if you think this practice will single out or put the trans persons in the room on the spot, don’t do it. Remember that while it costs nothing for cisgender people to share their pronouns, it can involve sharing something extremely intimate about their gender for trans people.
10. Know your own limits as an ally.
Whenever you don’t know something, don’t be scared to admit it. It’s better to admit you don’t know rather than to make incorrect assumptions or say anything hurtful. Look for materials that will assist you in learning more. Remember that being an ally is a pattern of activity that continues through time, not an idle or stable noun.
To learn more about how to be an ally to trans person, check out PFLAG’s Straight for Equality site and their „Guide to being a trans ally” publication.