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6 ways to be a better Trans ally

Editor's Note: While this piece is heavily UK-centric, there are many insightful and universally applicable actions present that will help trans people wherever you are.

When I first thought of writing this little guide to being a good trans ally, the atmosphere was pretty grim as more and more assaults and lethal crimes against trans people came to light. It is undeniable that within the queer community, our trans siblings, and especially transfeminine people, are the prime target of violence.

That is still the reality, but there are several concrete ways that we can make a difference. Gay rights were not given overnight and are still denied to people in many countries. This is why we need to keep on fighting for everyone in the queer community.

I know damn well that taking action is hard, so I have put together this guide to give you 6 things you can do to help combat transphobia in your daily life. Let’s get into it.

1. Educate yourself

If some say ignorance is bliss, I would argue that that’s only the case for oneself and not others. Ignorance can be the root of harmful opinions and comments. The first step to being a good ally to trans people is to acknowledge that we don’t have all the answers and information. It is okay to look things up and ask questions so long as it comes from a place of wanting to do better and actually making concrete efforts.

Careful here: I am not advising you to overburden the trans people in your life with your questions. You should obviously listen to them and prioritise their voices but there are other ways to access information. You can, for example, have a look at the Instagram and other social media content available out there made by people whose jobs it is to educate others. I personally follow and love a few accounts such as Pinkmantaray, Alok V Menon and Madison Werner. These people are all online educators (amongst other things) who create very accessible and informative content about gender identity, trans related topics and activism. Interacting with these accounts and supporting them is a great way to enable this information to spread even more. Then, more videos and posts will pop up in your feed which means that you can regularly learn more about what being trans can mean and what it can look like.

A big part of the anti-trans rhetoric really focuses on dehumanising trans folks. This is why educating yourself matters: the more you understand people from a certain community or group, the more comfortable you will become around it. I am guessing that if you are reading this article you are very much past that point, but remembering that transphobia comes from a fear of the unknown in some cases can help you combat it.

2. Educate others

Being an ally also means using your voice to combat ignorance. Most of us have probably heard some transphobic comments being uttered by people who didn’t understand what they were saying. I think it’s important for cis people to step up and question those comments. After all, we are evolving and learning every day. It is important to try and change people’s perceptions.

There is no need to enter heated debates that will just waste your energy. You can opt for asking questions and encouraging people to examine what they are saying. While I do believe certain people come from a place of hatred, I also think many people are very clumsy and unaware. Take on the burden of explaining why their comments were bad sometimes, rather than leaving it all up to transpeople. I am sure I have said ignorant and disrespectful things on different topics throughout my life. When it’s been the case, I have definitely done my own research but also greatly benefited from conversations with friends calling me out. These things also take time. Don’t expect that one interaction will change that person’s view. It can be the case and certainly was for me in some instances but it’s not always that simple.

3. Support the trans folks around you

Sebastian, Snowflake’s administrative lead, emphasises the importance of being there for the trans people in your life:

“Now that you’re armed with a deeper understanding of the struggles that the wider trans community face, it’s time to check that you’re making space for and supporting the trans people in your life, whether they be colleagues, friends, or family. Small actions you take can show that you care and are a safe person for them to come to.

The big one is respecting someone's chosen name and pronouns. This may seem self-explanatory but there’s no use pretending that it’s easy to make the switch overnight if you’ve known someone a long time. If you’re struggling, try practicing by talking about this person to yourself or a loved one and focus on their name and pronouns. And if you do slip up, don’t make a big fuss about it, you will only draw more attention to it and can make people uncomfortable: simply correct yourself, maybe say something like “[wrong name], oops sorry, [correct name]” and carry on. A lot of trans people have to correct others misgendering and deadnaming them daily, which can be tiring and demoralising, so if you’re in a group and someone else slips up, politely correct them (again not making a big fuss). But please be careful, don’t do this unless you know this person is out in this social context and wants to be referred to in this way. Why not ask your trans friend “Hey, if someone gets your name or pronouns wrong would it be helpful for me to correct them?” Even if they say no, you offering and letting them take the lead on how best to support them will show that you are a safe and supportive person.

If you know someone well enough, and are able to, why not offer to take them to their appointments or even look after them if they’re recovering from surgery? Healthcare is incredibly difficult to access for many trans people so having a strong, practical support network is important. Giving someone a lift, a sympathetic ear, or a home cooked meal can make all the difference.

If you’re cis and have a trans friend who is maybe shy or nervous about accessing gendered spaces, why not offer to take them along? A trans woman/transfeminine person may never have been to the hairdressers, clothes shopping in the women’s section, have their nails or makeup done, or joined women’s only social events and sports teams. A trans man/transmasculine person may want to go to the barbers, go suit shopping, learn to shave, join a men’s only social event or sports team. For most cis people they are guided through these gendered experiences in their childhood or youth by a parent or mentor figure, so for a trans person some of this can be daunting or they may fear not being allowed or accepted into these spaces. Having a friend to go along with, who already ‘knows the ropes’ can open up a whole world of possibilities for a trans person. So if you’re a gym regular, or part of a craft club, or anything else, why not invite your trans friend along and act as a bit of a guide or support as they explore this new experience?

At the end of the day the best way to be a friend to a trans person is exactly the same as for a cis person, just be a good friend. Offer your company, your support, your compassion, and ask them what they need from you. Each and every trans, nonbinary, and intersex person’s experiences are different and they are the experts on their own lives.”

4. Attend protests and marches

Last year I wanted to attend Trans Pride but for some reason this weird idea popped into my head that because I wasn’t trans myself I shouldn’t go. Now, I realise that going doesn't necessarily mean taking up space away from trans people, but rather showing support and making sure this event has a bigger impact by increasing the number of attendees.

Spoiler alert, I never made it to trans pride this year because my best friend tripped really badly on the way to the march. I watched lots of videos and instagram stories from people who attended and I was so happy and emotional to see such a good turnout. The slogans and colourful signs really reinforced my belief that it is crucial to show up for our trans community. In the current political climate, trans people are being used as scapegoats. To fight this phenomenon, I think we have to be vocal and visible.

Rights have never been obtained by remaining passive. I have noticed around me, within the queer community, people starting to question pride and its shift towards a capitalist parade, far from its origin as a protest against police abuse and violence. I think Trans Pride has not been picked up by companies and brands because it is not really accepted to be trans. There might be more and more representation in the media, but in terms of rights, safety and access to healthcare, trans people are being denied so much. This is why I see this event as a radical protest and therefore an important means of action to demand more rights.

5. Write to local politicians and MPs

A way to engage with the politics behind trans healthcare and trans rights is to directly reach out to politicians and MPs. This can seem like a huge undertaking but I assure you that it is pretty straightforward.

TransActual, a website created by trans people as a response to trans hostility within the media, made available a very effective template to write a letter to your MP. This is a great way to bring their attention to a specific current issue for the trans community. If a law that is harmful to trans folks is being discussed, you can give them a push to oppose it.

To make sure your letter is as impactful as possible, you can use the tips compiled by Stonewall in this article. The best way to get a response is to make your message concise but personal. As in most cases, numbers will make the difference - so share these resources with your friends (queer or not) and meet up for a little writing sesh!

6. Donate money to charities

I chose to keep this tip for the end because I am aware that this is not going to be possible for everyone. Being able to donate money to a cause is very much something you have to decide for yourself depending on your means. If you are in a financial position where you are able to do so, here are 6 charities you can support :

1. Mermaids

This charity was founded in 1995 by parents of trans kids who wanted to build a support system. It has now grown into one of the UK’s leading charities fighting for trans rights and working to protect trans youth.

2. Black Trans Foundation

This nonprofit organisation is working to create a society in which black trans people in the UK have the same rights as their cis and white counterparts. The first project they have been working on aims to offer free therapy to black trans and nonbinary people over 16. Mental health struggles within the trans community are definitely more common and adding the layer of racism and discrimination faced by black people only reinforces that.

3. FiveForFive

This initiative was started by Cara, a trans woman, who wanted to help transfem folks specifically. The concept is simple : on the last day of every month, FiveForFive donates to 5 transfem groups or individuals working within the UK. This is a great way to financially support more than 1 organisation and enable several initiatives to thrive.

4. We Exist

This trans collective was created by artists and activists in London who place mutual aid at the heart of their mission. They want to promote solidarity within the community and work to give better access to healthcare for trans, intersex & nonbinary people. This group also sets up workshops, exhibitions and pop-up spaces to celebrate the trans community.

5. Gendered Intelligence

This trans-led charity has been supporting young trans people since 2008 in the UK. This organisation provides training and consultancy as well as mentoring and youth work. GI also does a lot of public engagement to promote their work and also offer more representation in the media.

6. Trans Pride

Trans Pride isn’t a charity, but it is a good idea to donate to the fundraisers set up to organise next year’s events. You can already contribute to London Trans Pride 2024’s gofundme. London Trans+ Pride is the community organisation behind London Trans Pride. They also do other activism work to support the trans community. The same thing exists for Brighton Trans Pride and many other cities so go ahead and browse to find the one(s) you want to donate to!

You now have a few avenues to explore to turn your goodwill into concrete action. I’d also advise to think of this list as a way to get the conversation started with your friends and family. You can encourage each other to do better and also spread the word.

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