If you’re just beginning your journey with a transgender or nonbinary person you might not even know where to begin to support them. Or you might wonder how you can more actively show your support. This list of eight things is super simple and will get you started in your work of solidarity. But remember, this list is just the beginning. Also remember that every trans person is different and we all have different needs and desires so if someone in your life has told you NOT to do one of these things, then follow their lead!
1: Get my name and pronoun right.
This seems like such a simple one, but it makes a huge deal to me (and it’s amazing how many people got it wrong). When someone tells you what name and pronoun they are going by, remember it. Get it right. Make a commitment to respect the other person by honoring their name. Even if you don’t think they “look like” whatever name or gender they tell you, even if you think it isn’t “grammatically correct”, this isn’t about you, it’s about them. Practice if you have to, pull out a photo of them and practice saying their new name and pronoun until it feels natural.
2: Correct other people who get my name or pronouns wrong.
Early in transition I got exhausted having to advocate for myself all of the time; not only about names and pronouns, but also about everything else. So it was great when a friend would step up and say, “Hey, you got his pronoun wrong.” I had friends who would pull aside professors after class, who would correct other students. This was such an encouragement to me and made me feel loved and supported. It’s such an easy thing to do. (A caveat to this is to make sure you have your friend’s permission to do so. There might be times when they don’t want you to do that, where it’s not safe for you to do that, or where they can handle it just fine on their own. So make sure you have a conversation beforehand.)
3: When someone makes a transphobic joke, don’t laugh.
And then tell them to knock it off.
4: Listen to trans people tell their stories.
It’s that simple. Stop talking and start listening.
5: If your church has a men’s Bible study, make sure to invite masculine identified trans people. If your church has a women’s group, invite female identified trans people.
And don’t just invite them, but make them welcome. This is such a vital thing in churches where there are still gendered spaces. Trans people need to know that they can walk into the space in which they feel most comfortable and be welcome. But also take it another step and ask your church if these gendered spaces are necessary and what your church can do to start moving beyond this binary.
6: Escort someone to the bathroom if they want you to.
This seems silly (and maybe others will disagree with me) but when I was visibly genderqueer it helped for me to have a cisgender friend go to the bathroom with me. It helped to make sure that they had my back if there was trouble and it sent a clear message to the other people in the restroom that I belonged. This helped to ease my anxiety about public restrooms. So if someone asks you to accompany them to the restroom, just do it.
7: Make a commitment to becoming educated about trans issues.
Read blogs, zines and books penned by trans people. Find out what protections there are (or aren’t) for trans people in your state or city.
8: This is the most important one of all: Learn to see trans people as whole people, not just trans people.
I am so much more than my gender identity. I am a poet, a writer, a brother, a baseball fan, a reader, etc. I don’t want to be reduced to just “your trans friend”. I want to be able to live and speak out of the fullness of my life and identity. This is why I get so cranky about continually having to do gender 101 for people. Other people have done that work, it’s out there if you would just do a little digging for it. And when you can educate yourself, then trans people have the chance to talk about something else for a change. When I no longer have to do gender 101, then I can move the conversation to be about deeper theological issues, or about other justice issues. But you have to do your part and get the education.
If you’re trans, share with us on Instagram, Twitter, or FB and let us know what great things the cisgender people are doing in your lives, and what they can do to be even better!