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How to be a Trans Ally: A Guide for Cis People

Intro

Trans Pride FlagThis page reproduces (with permission) in webpage form a document put together by the Young Liberals. LGBT+ Liberal Democrats thanks them for their work on this, and their allyship to LGBT+ people.

Trans rights in the UK and across the world are currently under attack like never before, and liberals must continue to push for the defence of, and advancement of freedoms and liberties for, trans people. Many would-be allies tell us they want to support trans people, but are worried about making mistakes or appearing ignorant. We hope some of the resources below can help people expand their understanding of these issues.

Let us know if you have any comments on, or additions for, this page.

Contents

Basic Do's and Don'ts

Do:

  • Use the name and pronouns you are asked to use, and be willing to change the name and pronouns you are using if asked.
  • Ask for pronouns. This can help trans people to feel more at ease and more comfortable knowing you'll be using the correct pronouns.
  • Normalise putting your pronouns in your bio for social media and other purposes.
  • Make an effort to educate yourself on trans rights. There are some educational resources in this document, but allyship is a never-ending journey of education as new issues continue to come to the forefront.
  • Be open to having difficult conversations with loved ones about the ways they think about and refer to trans people.
  • Be a vocal ally: make sure it is made clear that trans people are included and welcome in your spaces and call people out who don't make the same efforts.
  • Be mindful of your use of gendered language. Instead of "he or she" use "they", instead of "guys", try "folks" or "everyone".
  • When you get something wrong, thank the person who corrects you.

Don't:

  • Make assumptions based on someone's behaviour or appearance.
  • Ask a trans person about their genitals, surgery, etc, unless they have explicitly told you they are comfortable having those conversations. In general, don't ask intrusive questions that you wouldn't ask to a fellow cis person.
  • Question or disbelieve a trans person's lived experiences of struggles or transphobia, even if you've never seen transphobia from a certain place/person.
  • Apologise excessively for mistaken pronouns. Just say sorry and move on.

Educate Yourself/Others

Education is key in the fight for trans rights. It is so important for 2 reasons. Firstly, because the more people understand trans lives and the issues the community faces, the more likely they are to be supportive, and secondly because the more informed you are about struggles trans people face, the more you'll be able to better support your trans friends.

Watch

Disclosure
Where: Netflix
What: A documentary examining Hollywood's attitudes towards trans people throughout the years featuring Laverne Cox.

The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson
Where: Netflix
What: A biographical documentary of one of the originators of the Stonewall riots: Marsha P Johnson, which celebrates her life and that of fellow Stonewall veteran Sylvia Rivera.

Jammidodger
Where: YouTube
What: A YouTube channel run by transgender man Jamie Raines. He frequently discusses stories from his own life including coming out, surgery, and more.

Kiki
Where: IFC Films Unlimited
What: In New York City, LGBTQ youth-of-color gather on the Christopher Street Pier to practice the performance-based art form Ballroom, which was made famous in the early 1990s by Madonna's music video "Vogue" and the documentary "Paris Is Burning."

Paris Is Burning
Where:
What: Filmed in the mid-to-late 1980s, it chronicles the ball culture of New York City and the African-American, Latino, gay, and transgender communities involved in it.

Listen

Read

  • Transgender History by Susan Stryker
  • Yes, You Are Trans Enough by Mia Violet
  • Uncomfortable Labels by Laura Kate Dale
  • Whipping Girl by Julia Serano
  • Not Just a Tomboy by Caspar J. Baldwin
  • Trans Like Me by CN Lester
  • Tranny by Laura Jane Grace
  • Trans Mission by Alex Bertie
  • If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo
  • I'm Afraid of Men - Vivek Shraya
  • Life Isn't Binary: On Being Both, Beyond, And In-Between - Alex Iantaffi and Meg-John Barker
  • Trans Love: An Anthology of Transgender and Non-Binary Voices - Freiya Benson
  • Freshwater - Akwaeke Emezi

Twitter pages to follow

When asked what gave cis allies a better understanding of the trans community and our struggles, many responded that simply following trans people on social media and listening to stories about their day-to-day lives was a helpful learning experience. Included below are some trans and non-binary people for you to follow, as well as some organisations that work with trans people.

Instagram Pages to Follow

Trans people from ethnic minorities and trans people of colour

The Black Lives Matter movement has highlighted how vital intersectionality is. At least 22 black trans people have been found dead - just in the year 2020. Countless studies have shown that trans people from ethnic minority communities - especially black trans people - are more likely to be victims of hate crimes and police brutality. They are also more likely to fall into poverty and to face struggles with their mental health. When we say 'Black Lives Matter' we must remember that this includes all black lives, and when we say 'Trans Rights are Human Rights' we must acknowledge that whilst the struggle for trans rights is universal, the hardships so often faced by black trans people are worsened due to the inherent transphobia and racism which exists in society.

2020 is the 51st anniversary of the Stonewall Riots which took place in New York City between the 28th June and 3rd July 1969. Multiple historical accounts of the riots claim that a black trans woman, Marsha P. Johnson was the first person to throw a brick, therefore playing a significant part in kick-starting the event that led to the modern LGBTQ+ Rights movement. It can be argued that it is primarily thanks to black trans women such as Marsha that LGBTQ+ rights are much more expansive and inclusive than they were 50+ years ago, though of course it bears remembering that there is always more work than can be done to ensure everyone within the LGBTQ+ community, especially the ethnic minority members who often have to deal with multiple forms of systemic bigotry, are able to live the free and happy lives they desire.