On November 20th for Transgender Day of Remembrance, Jamie Capach read the congregation a list of first steps to being an ally for transgender people in the spirit of empowerment and taking action. According to source Transwhat, “Allyship to trans people involves a number of different actions: some are necessary and relatively easy, while some require more commitment and activism.” These are first steps to get started and to guide you in speaking up when needed. Here is a link to Transwhat: http://transwhat.org/allyship/ The bare minimum first steps follow:
- Call people by their preferred name, pronouns, and label. Always. Even if you’re angry with them, even if they’re total jerks, even if they’re using gender-neutral pronouns that “sound weird” or “are hard to remember.” Yes, even when they’re not around to hear. It’s a respect thing.
- If you’ve met the person after transition: don’t ask to see pictures from “before,” or ask about their previous name, or otherwise quiz them on topics that are likely offensive/painful.
- Don’t try to compliment people by telling them that they look like a “real [gender],” or that you “never would have known.”
- Don’t make comments about the person’s gender presentation that you wouldn’t make to someone who was assigned that same gender at birth. Critiquing a trans woman’s makeup in detail, or offering a trans man suggestions on how to walk “like a guy,” is as rude as it would be if you were talking to a cis person.
- Do not inform any third party that your sibling/parent/partner/whomever is trans without the trans person’s express permission, gotten in advance.
- Don’t describe past situations by saying “When [person] was a [gender]. . .”
- Don’t ever describe someone as a member of the wrong gender, even in a way that’s superficially nice. “But you’re so handsome as a man!” is unacceptable, as is “You were a lovely little girl.”
- Words that you shouldn’t ever use: “tranny,” “shemale,” “he-she,” “shim.” Seriously. Even if your other trans friend told you it was okay. Just don’t say it.
- Don’t make comments that fetishize trans people. “I love trans guys — they’re so hot!” is pretty belittling; so is “People like you are so exotic.” These kinds of statements reduce trans people to sex objects, as though we exist just to be that “exotic” kink or turn-on.
- Don’t ever ever inquire about the state of someone’s genitals, about whether they’re having surgery, or about how they have sex. Ruuuuude.
- Don’t make assumptions about someone’s sexual orientation. Some trans men are gay or bi, or asexual; likewise with some trans women. Genderqueer folks have sexual attractions that come in all stripes.
- If someone’s gender is ambiguous, resist asking “What are you?” flat-out; though some people don’t mind or even relish it, for many it’s simply intrusive. Instead, try to pick up on the person’s identification through context. If you really don’t know, and really need to talk about the person in a gendered way, ask “What pronouns do you prefer?” or “How should I refer to you, gender-wise?” (Do this very politely, and in private if you can.) You don’t need to know every detail about the person’s identity — you only need the information that will allow you to speak to and about them respectfully.