How to be a good ally to transgender people
By: Frankie Mazzone
Friday 26 August is Wear it Purple Day! Wear It Purple Day is an annual LGBTQIA+ awareness day that champions supportive, safe, empowering and inclusive environments for rainbow young people.
Frankie, a transgender young person, writes about how to be a good ally to transgender people in your life, to celebrate Wear it Purple Day.
If you’re reading this article to learn how to be the best ally for your trans friends or family members, you’re already taking a really important first step: educating yourself on the topic!
Allyship comes in many different forms. Sometimes it’s having an ally back you up at school, or during a meeting at work. Sometimes it’s simply having someone to sit with you and just listen. It can be hard trying to comfort someone when you can’t feel exactly what they feel, which is why I’m going to give you the best tips on how to be a good ally to transgender people.
How to use pronouns correctly
Sometimes we get confused about what pronouns to use. Some pronouns are terms you may be familiar with, and sometimes they are terms you may not know existed. Some people use a mix of certain/all pronouns.
Pronouns you’ve probably heard of are: she/her, he/him or they/them. This may be to your surprise, but there are an endless combination of pronouns that people use. If you want to know the best way to ask someone about their pronouns, it’s as simple as just saying: “Hey! I was just wondering what pronouns you’re comfortable with me using?”
Usually it’s best to ask privately, just in case that person is not ready for the whole world to know. Until you know, it’s best to stick with they/them pronouns.
Once you learn someone’s pronouns, even if you don’t understand them, it’s important to respect them. In the end, someone’s pronouns don’t affect you one bit, so there should be no reason for you to judge.
One of the most common things people said to me when I came out was: “I’m so sorry if I use your old name, I’ll try my hardest to use Frankie.”
Deadnaming is when you use a trans or gender diverse person’s old name. This name is often a name they used before coming out and/or transitioning. Being a good ally means not using that name when referring to them, even if you’re talking about a time before they came out.
How to apologise if you use the wrong pronouns or name
As long as you aren’t misgendering someone or using their incorrect pronouns on purpose, and as long as you apologise in a certain way, then everything should be fine. It’s understandable to forget someone’s preferred name or their new pronouns – although after a little time, most people get the hang of it.
Whenever we make mistakes in life, we should always say sorry, but sometimes we need to find the best way to apologise. If you accidentally use someone’s deadname or incorrect pronouns, there are a couple of ways to go about it.
The first thing to remember is that the more attention that is brought to the mistake in public, the more uncomfortable we can get. In the moment, the best thing to do is say sorry, correct yourself, and move on. If you feel it is necessary and well-timed, it’s nice to say sorry in private. You can even send them a quick message.
What to do if you witness transphobia
Of course your own safety is always paramount, but you can take steps to prevent yourself from being a passive bystander.
A passive bystander is someone who witnesses a person being taken down verbally, or in some cases, physically. Now, I’m not saying that you need to fight off all the transphobes. I’m saying that if you see a queer person experiencing a hate crime, you shouldn’t just sit down and watch.
If you feel comfortable, the best thing to do is call the antagonist out, then go find someone who can help deal with the situation. That can be a teacher, a coordinator, or anyone else you feel safe around.
Make sure you check in on the person who has been hurt. Knowing we have friends by our side can make us feel much better.
How to support a trans friend or family member
If your friend or family member has been triggered or confronted, Here are some good helplines for them:
- The Rainbow Door
- Beyond Blue
- Drummond Street Services
- Parentline Victoria
It can be a good idea to suggest these services to any queer friend that seems down, or like they’re struggling with queerphobia and/or their mental health. Make sure they know that they’re not alone!
There is an endless amount of knowledge to be taught about being an ally to the trans community. There’s a lot more information than I have shared here.
The most important thing you can do as an ally is to keep listening, reading and learning. Even reading this article is a great start.
I hope by reading this, you’ve expanded your knowledge somewhat so that you can be the best ally possible.
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