Nine seriously easy things to do… to support trans people

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1 DO EXAMINE THE LANGUAGE YOU USE

Much of the language associated with trans people in the media we, as trans people, find actively hurtful. This is not about anyone’s ‘right to offend’, but has to do with talking about each other in accurate, compassionate terms. ‘She/he’, ‘shemale’, ‘tranny’ and the like, are out. ‘It’ is just cruel. ‘Sex change’ really doesn’t describe the transitioning process. The language we use about trans people frames the way we treat trans people in our societies. So, if you want trans people to be treated fairly and equally, start with the words you use.

2 DO EXAMINE THE ASSUMPTIONS YOU MAKE

You so often can’t tell by looking – what our pronouns are, what our histories are, how we describe ourselves – so don’t try. Making assumptions is generally a rubbish way of interacting with other humans.

3 DO PUT OUR SAFETY FIRST

Whether someone is ‘out’ as trans (or has a trans history) or not can be a matter of life and death. You don’t have a right to make that call. If this sounds like hyperbole, search: ‘trans panic defence’. This is a defence used by lawyers acting for killers of trans people to excuse the perpetrators’ ‘loss of control’ and ‘excessive violence’, in order to get crimes downgraded from murder to manslaughter.

4 DON’T THINK THAT OUR MEDICAL HISTORIES ARE YOURS TO QUESTION AND DISCUSS

A trans person’s veracity does not rely on what they may or may not have done with their bodies. If there’s a genuine reason why you need to know our medical histories and medical plans then we’ll tell you. And no – idle curiosity as to the contents of our underwear is not a genuine reason.

5 DON’T ASSUME THAT YOU’LL KNOW HOW WE’D REACT

It’s not helpful when a cis man tells a trans man ‘but I’d LOVE to have boobs’. And if you start playing Devil’s Advocate, don’t expect us to want to play along.

6 DON’T ASSUME WE NEED TO BE ‘SCHOOLED’ IN OUR GENDERS

You are not the authentic version that we copy – we don’t need lessons on how to be ‘real’ men or ‘real’ women or ‘real’ anything. If you’d like to pay someone a compliment, do it for the right reasons – not because you think that you have the right to ‘affirm’ someone else’s gender.

7 DO LEARN YOUR FACTS AND SPREAD THEM AROUND

Don’t let ignorance be your shield – educate yourself about the risks and discrimination faced by trans people – the violence, homelessness, unemployment, suicides, forced sterilizations. Then educate those around you. Don’t act like we’re a taboo, shameful subject. Raise trans issues; share articles on social media; recommend writers that you like; email your local and national politicians. Don’t just shake your head at how awful something is and do nothing.

8 DO STAND UP FOR US

Don’t just be supportive to our faces – real support means standing up for us when we’re unable to defend ourselves.

9 DO SUPPORT TRANS CHARITIES AND ORGANIZATIONS

There’s precious little money around at the moment, but if you have any going spare, do please consider donating to a trans organization. Every donation matters. Trans groups and charities often operate on a shoestring budget, achieving incredible things with very little in the way of financial support. Think how much we could achieve with just a little more help.

mag cover This article is from the October 2015 issue of New Internationalist.
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