When you become an ally of transgender people, your actions will help change the culture, making society a better, safer place for transgender people - and for all people (trans or not) who do not conform to conventional gender expectations.
Good Ally Tips
You Can’t Tell if Someone is Trans
Many trans people do not appear “visibly trans.” This could be because they had a successful binary transition, or can’t afford the care they need, or they’ve decided to not transition or something in between.
Don’t Assume Sexual Orientation
Gender Identity is about a sense of being a man, woman or outside the binary. Trans people can be gay, lesbian, bisexual or straight.
If you don’t know what pronoun a person uses you don’t have to ask them directly, listen first. What are other people around them referring to them as?
If you accidentally use the wrong pronoun, apologize quickly and sincerely, and then move on. If you make it a big deal, you will make everyone around you uncomfortable
Don’t ask about their “real name”
Being associated with a birth name is a tremendous source of anxiety for a lot of trans people. Respect their new name and if you know their old name, don’t share it without the person’s explicit permission.
Coming Out isn’t the Same
Unlike coming out as LGB, coming out as trans is often a temporary step. After transition, they might not want anyone to know that they are trans for a myriad of reasons. It can be disempowering to reveal that they are transgender.
Support All Gender Restrooms
Encourage schools, businesses, and agencies to have single user, unisex and/or all-gender restroom options. Also, make it clear that transgender and gender non-conforming people are welcome to use whichever gendered restroom they feel comfortable using. These are also nice for other people who need private restroom spaces.
If you are a business avoid using the alien, mermaid, “whatever” signs. They are actually offensive to trans people. Opt for “Toilet”, “Restroom" or “All Gender” signs, keeping handicap, baby changing or other useful logos.
Transgender people use many different terms to describe their experiences. Respect the term a person uses to describe themselves. If a person is not sure of which identity label fits them best, give them the time to figure it out for themselves.
It’s important to be patient with trans people who are exploring their gender. A person who is questioning or exploring their gender identity may take some time to figure it out. They might, for example, use a name or pronoun, and then decide at a later time to change the name or pronoun again.
There is no “right” way to Transition
Some people transition, some people don’t. Some partially transition or only do some surgeries. There are also many who cannot access the medical care, hormones, or surgeries they need due to a lack of financial resources or access. Accept that someone’s trans if they say they are.
Avoid Backhanded Compliments
Things like this can invalidate a trans person and actually be hurtful:
“I would have never known you were transgender.”
“You look like a real woman.”
“I’d date him, even though he’s transgender.”
“You’re so brave.”
“You’d pass so much better if…”
Avoid Gendered Language
Avoid Gendered language in presentations or conversations with larger groups. Never use sir or ma’am when referring to people in a crowd or on the phone or with strangers. You can say most greetings without gendered language and still sound respectful.
Avoid These Behaviors
*It's inappropriate to tell a trans person "I would have never known you were transgender."
Though some cisgender people may assume they are giving a compliment, telling your transgender or gender-nonconforming coworker that you think they "pass" as cisgender can be incredibly harmful. Even though this comes from good-intentions, it can alienate trans and gender-non-conforming people.
*Asking trans people "Have you had the surgery yet?" or other invasive questions about their body isn't just rude — it's also sexual harassment
This is invasive, inappropriate and private. This kind of question also perpetuates the common misconception that all transgender and gender-nonconforming people want to undergo medical procedures to feel secure in their gender identity. This is simply not the case.
*Don’t Out LGBT people:
A trans person’s gender history is personal information and it is up to them to share it with others. Sharing it can have serious negative consequences. Trans people can lose jobs, housing, friends or even their lives.
Don’t Use Your LGBTQ+ friends/associates as LGBTQ+ Encyclopedias
Never assume that someone wants to share their personal information with you to help educate you on what it means to be LGBTQ+. The internet is a powerful tool, so take advantage of it!
Look at articles, videos, films, Youtube Channels and blogs to find out more about trans people. The information is already out there. Make sure to avoid unreputable sites and politically charged content.
Don't try to relate to trans people by bringing up your LGBTQ relatives:
Mentioning your one queer family member every time you see your coworker can come off as a lack of interest in getting to know them as a person beyond just knowing their sexuality or gender identity. It can make the person feel like they are nothing more than their gender identity to them.
Don't try to relate to your LGBTQ coworkers by talking about LGBTQ media or celebrities:
Dale Melchert, staff attorney for the Transgender Law Center said this,"A cis person telling a trans person about the one trans person they know or one media reference about trans people they know is harmful because it is often irrelevant to the TGNC employee, and thus communicates a lack of thoughtfulness or education on TGNC issues."
*Don't 'misgender' your coworkers/clients by referring to them with the wrong pronouns:
When trans people are misgendered, especially if they are working extremely hard on their presentation and using a lot of resources to transition, it can be severely devastating for them. It feels like the work they have put in has not paid off and it can put them in an awful mental state. Quickly correct yourself, make a mental note for the future, and move forward. Never displace your guilt onto the person you just misgendered.
Joli St. Patrick put it best when she wrote in an article about how the word misgender doesn't do the feeling of being misgendered justice.
"That sensation is a potent split-second mixture of anxiety and helplessness and fury and shame and dread and resignation. It arrives in my body as a flinch that tenses my shoulders, heats my forehead, and clenches my gut. My outward response may seem calm, even placid, but inside I am roiling. How could a word like “misgender” encapsulate that?"
Never ask an invasive question like "So who's the man in your relationship?":
This kind of question can imply that you're asking about a coworker's sex life, which is highly inappropriate. Along with asking "Are you a top or a bottom?" you should avoid asking invasive questions like these to your coworkers just because they're queer.