A how-to guide to trans* allyship

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by Charlotte Hings

How can you be a trans* ally?

The WLU Rainbow Centre believes, it’s mainly about staying respectful, mindful, and supportive of issues facing transgender people today.

The Centre hosted their Trans Allyship Part 1 event last Thursday where they gave a  presentation discussing many intersecting layers of discrimination faced by transgender people, and led activities designed to help understand the privileges that many cisgender people may take for granted.

The Raibow centre representatives said our society is dominated by a cis-hetero patriarchy that adds several layers of discrimination to trangender people: cisnormativity, genderism, transphobia, and trans misogyny. Cisnormativity is the assumption that all individuals are cisgender, or their gender identity aligns with their biological sex. Cisgender people make up the majority of the population, but it’s not okay to presume that everyone is cisgender unless specified.

Genderism is the cultural belief that there are, or should be, only two genders: male and female.

This view does not consider gender identity as a spectrum, and props one gender over another for its stereotypes.

Transphobia is the expression of fear, hatred, disbelief, and mistrust of people who are transgender and can lead to discrimination and physical harm. Transmisogyny is the convergence of transphobia and misogyny, the negative attitudes directed toward trans women, transgender and gender non-conforming people on the feminine end of the gender spectrum.

Transmysogyny devalues all qualities associated with ‘femaleness,’ viewing them as less than that of ‘maleness,’ and deserving of hatred, mockery and violence. The layers of discrimination overlap and create interdependent systems of disadvantage for the trans* community. This is called intersectionality.

Following the presentation, participants completed an exercise in small groups, where they were given a list of 30 cisgender privileges, but were only allowed to ‘purchase,’ nine from this list with their Laverne Cox Dollars. This list encompassed various situations that cis and transgender people experience very differently.

Some were life and death matters such as, if you end up in the emergency room, you do not have to worry that your gender will keep you from receiving appropriate treatment, or that all of your medical issues will be seen as a result of your gender. Some were matters of basic safety, for example: “use public restrooms without fear of verbal abuse, physical intimidation, or arrest.” Some were matters of representation such as “having your gender as an option on a form.”

No matter the nature of these privileges, all were examples of rights to basic needs that many cisgender people do no think twice about on a day-to-day basis. These “privileges” are not things that any human being should have to pick and choose; everyone should be allowed to have all of them, all the time.

Lastly, the event concluded by explaining eight steps to guide to be a trans* ally.

1. Offering your own pronouns when you introduce yourself and asking others for theirs is important so that you don’t misuse their pronouns; but also understand if they do not feel comfortable sharing this information.

2. Use the pronouns that people have asked you to call them by and if you make a mistake, don’t explain why it’s difficult for you to remember.

3. Understand that pronouns can change. Identifying with a specific pronoun is not just a phase; even so, a moon has phases, and it’s still a moon. Therefore, a person flowing through different pronouns is still a person.

4. Teach yourself the basics. If a friend comes out to you as trans*, don’t rely on them to explain everything to you, it’s not their job. Take this responsibility off trans* people and use Internet resources to understand what this means.

5. Correct people when they misuse pronouns when the person isn’t there. But first, check-in with that person to see what they would want you do for them in these situations.

6. Apologize and move on, when you make a mistake. This is not about you and how difficult it is for you.

7. Be intentional when you use pronouns and understand that pronouns reflect the specificity of a person’s trans experience.

8. Support those working through their gender identity. This could include offering to help try on clothes with them in a private, safe space, and offering to try out different pronouns to see what feels best to them.

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