Being an ally to the transgender community means bringing a whole lot of love and support. In this blog, we will explore some of the ways we can help our transgendered loved ones feel cherished and safe in their journey.
While those who identify as transgender remain a small percentage of the population, their rights are extremely significant in society. Unfortunately, they have been met with misunderstanding and discrimination, as well as a consistent refusal from legislation to honour their rights as individuals. It is therefore essential to know how to support trans individuals and act as their allies to contribute to the all-important mission of equality.
“Gender should be defined by the people who live it”.
Understanding and Normalising Transgenderism.
As part of the gender revolution, we all need to get to the point where we see transgenderism as normal and a part of our humanity. The concept of gender itself is at times difficult and confusing for people to understand. It is broadly defined as encompassing the social norms and stereotypes associated with being male or female. The specifics of these norms differ depending on culture and society. They also evolve over time.
For people who are transgender, their identity does not match the expectations society has of them based on their gender assigned at birth. Gender non-conforming individuals, on the other hand, reject the concept of gender entirely and hence remain neutral in their identity.
Types of Gender.
There are many different genders people identify with. Some of the more common ones include cisgender, agender, gender-fluid, genderqueer, gender non-conforming and intersex.
To be cisgender is to identify with the gender that is the same as you were assigned at birth. Agender people do not feel that they have a gender, therefore do not identify as a man or woman, and are instead gender neutral. Genderfluidity simply means that a person’s gender identity is changing over time. Genderqueer is an umbrella-term covering any kind of deviation from societal gender norms. Gender non-conforming, as previously mentioned, means not following gender roles imposed on us by society. Finally, people who are intersex have any combination of both male and female biological traits. Our range of LGBT jewellery covers most of these genders.
Start Reading Up.
A big part in supporting a transgendered loved one is educating oneself about transgenderism and the issues their community face. A good place to start is to investigate trans literature. Reading books on the topic may also help normalise any of the unfamiliarities.
Dr Jamison Green’s autobiography “Becoming a Visible Man” addresses his own FTM (female to male transition) experiences, as well as the reality of surgical procedures some trans individuals elect to have.
Dr Diane Ehrenhaft’s “Gender Born, Gender Made: Raising Healthy Gender Non-Conforming Children”, gives guidance on how to make children who do not fit the gender status quo express their authentic selves.
To understand the timeline of transgender issues, it may also be worth giving “Transgender History” by Susan Stryker a read, which outlines the history between the mid 20th century up until 2008.
By engaging with transgenderism in a literary capacity, we are already giving it more importance and furthering our own understanding of it.
Using Preferred Pronouns.
Another way to be a trans ally is to use their preferred pronouns. If you are unaware of someone’s desired pronouns, simply ask them: “How would you like me to refer to you?” or “Can I just check what pronouns you use?”
Unfortunately, it is possible to make mistakes in this area and accidentally refer to someone by the wrong pronoun, but this shouldn’t stop us from trying to get it right. If a mistake happens, it is important not to draw attention to it excessively to avoid embarrassing the person whose pronouns you got wrong.
There is a stark difference, however, between this scenario and purposefully misgendering someone or referring to them as ‘he / she’, which is a slur against the trans community. It is also important to note that gender non-conforming is distinctive from transgenderism. People who do not conform with a gender do so to take a stance against following gender stereotypes and norms.
One way to make it clear what pronouns should be used is to wear a pronoun pin. We have made a range that’s cute and colourful … a way to get the conversation going.
Google Away Your Curiosity.
In being respectful of trans people’s identity, not making assumptions about their sexuality is also part of it. It is natural to feel curious about trans people’s lives, however, to avoid making them uncomfortable with potentially intrusive questions, do some online research about anything that is unclear. Maintaining an open line of communication with a trans loved one is essential, but again, there is a line between openness and intrusion, so try to ask your loved one what their boundaries are so you can respect them. The main goal is always to support them in their journey.
Do What You Can to Be the Best Possible Ally.
It is also worth noting that if you know someone is transitioning, there may be difficulties for you to accept it emotionally at first. If this is the case, seeking help is key. This can either be done through websites, such as Mermaids, or through professional help. By getting support as a trans ally, it will, in turn, help you support your trans loved one better.
It's also important for trans allies to advocate for the wider trans community, beyond their own trans friends / family. There are many ways to achieve this. If you encounter someone being outwardly transphobic, either by purposefully using the wrong pronouns when referring to a trans person, or ‘dead-naming’ them, you should defend the rights of the trans community. This may help to reduce transphobic comments being made openly.
If you are attending a pride event, but don’t identify with any of the specific flags within the LGBT or trans community, then you could consider wearing an Ally Pin Badge to show your support.
Besides this, there are several charities you can support in the UK that advocate for the trans community. There is the MindLine Trans helpline, the Stonewall charity that strives for LGTBQ+ equality, and finally TransUnite which lists trans support groups throughout the country. Drawing attention to such an organisation may help trans people find safety in their communities.
As a community that has faced rejection and exclusion, being a trans ally is essential to help people find the equality and support they deserve.
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