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Transgender + Nonbinary People
HOW TO BE AN ALLY TO
Here are a few things to keep in mind when supporting the trans or nonbinary people in your life: 1. When a friend shares their gender with you, refrain from telling others, even if you mean well. Disclosing their identity could cause them discomfort or even compromise their safety. 2. Some people medically transition, but others do not. Transitioning can also involve social and legal aspects. Some people decide not to transition at all. You do not have to transition in order to be transgender, and there is no “right” way to express your gender identity. Refrain from asking trans or nonbinary people unprompted questions about their body, genitals, medical history or medical plans, or previous name. 3. Trans and nonbinary people identify with a wide variety of sexual orientations. Just because you know someone’s gender does not mean you know their sexual orientation. 4. Misgendering someone means using the wrong name, pronouns, or terms for a person’s gender. Misgendering can happen as a mistake or on purpose, but regardless it is hurtful and may even put a transgender person safety at risk. It is NEVER okay to purposely misgender someone. To be a good ally, stand up for others if you witness someone being misgendered or harassed about their gender. 5. Microaggressions are comments and questions that are hurtful to marginalized groups. They are subtle, and the person committing the microaggression may not even know that their comment is hurtful. A common example transgender people hear is that they “don’t look trans.” This is often said as a “compliment,” but it implies being trans is a negative thing. Be careful of microaggressions, and if someone corrects you, listen to the feedback you receive and learn from the experience.
If you’ve offend someone by mistake, such as by forgetting their pronouns or using the wrong name, here is what you should do. Listen. Be willing to listen and seek to understand the person, as this is how you can grow. Be Accountable. Take responsibility for your actions. Don’t try to justify your behavior. Apologize without making excuses or invalidating the other person’s feelings. Commit To Do Better. An apology is meaningless if there is no change. You can show you care by doing better in the future.
Some people are cisgender, meaning gender identity aligns with the sex they were assigned at birth. Transgender people are simply those whose gender identity differs from the sex they were assigned at birth. Nonbinary people experience their gender identity and/or gender expression as outside of the male-female gender binary. Other identities such as genderfluid, genderqueer, polygender, bigender, demigender, or agender may be used to described genders out of the typical categories of men and women.
Sex classifies people as male, female, or intersex (someone who has sex characteristics that can’t be classified as male or female). Sex is assigned at birth based on one’s genitals, although there are other sex characteristics. The sex we are assigned at birth may our may not correspond to our gender. Gender describes “our internal understanding and experience of our own gender identity” (The Trevor Project).
The first step to being an ally to transgender and nonbinary people is to learn. It can be tough for transgender and nonbinary people to educate those around them, so thank you for taking the time to educate yourself so you can better support the trans and nonbinary people in your life. Let’s start by differentiating between sex and gender.
Information sourced from The Trevor Project’s website