Trans Ally Worksheet

By , April 12, 2012 2:26 pm

I’m trying to create a ‘how to be a trans ally’ worksheet to hand out at workshops, and would love thoughts or feedback. I’m trying to keep it to a single page, which is limiting, but also get a bunch of good stuff in there… Here’s what I have so far:

THE EASY STUFF
Be open to using the pronouns/labels/language a trans person wants you to use. If you make a mistake, quickly correct yourself. This is the most important step of being an ally: allowing another to define their own identity.

If you don’t know what pronouns to use, ask. Politely and respectfully. This is a simple way to show your respect for someone else’s self-identification.

…but don’t pry or make assumptions. Don’t ask if someone had surgery or if they are on hormones or plan to do either of these things. It is invasive and personal. If someone would like to share that information with you, it is at their digression. Also understand that not all trans people choose medical to undergo medical intervention, and that not physically transitioning, taking hormones, or having surgery does not invalidate their trans identity.

Remember that gender is not the same as sexual orientation. Being trans does not mean a person is gay, and being gay doesn’t mean a person is trans. Sexuality is about attraction, gender is about a personal sense of self-identity.

Don’t out anyone. If someone tells you that they or someone else are trans, please do not share it with others unless you are told that it is okay to do so. They are trusting you, so don’t break their trust.

A LITTLE BIT HARDER, NOW
Do your research. It is not the responsibility of a trans person to be your teacher, so look up some stuff for yourself (see the end of this guide for some possible resources).

Speak up. Politely correct others if they use the wrong pronoun for a trans individual. Call out friends, peers, and media sources who make transphobic, hateful, or simply ignorant remarks.

NOW YOU’RE GETTING IT!
Don’t use “T” in your group’s name unless your group is actively working for trans rights. It is unfair to add the T to a group or organizations name if they are not doing anything to help or progress transgender rights and education of transgender issues.

Fight bathroom policing. The restroom is a focal point of anxiety, abuse and harassment for trans people as it is one of the most gendered places in our culture. At an individual level, offer to escort a trans person to the restroom to ensure their safety and comfort, particularly in unfamiliar places such as bars or restaurants. At an institutional level, encourage businesses and organizations to create gender neutral bathrooms.

Challenging binary gender systems isn’t always the same thing as being trans. Just because someone appears androgynous or not clearly presenting as masculine or feminine does not mean that they are trans. There are multiple ways that a person can express themselves or their gender identity, and they are not always related to being transgender.

Listen. The best way to be an ally is to listen to trans people themselves. Be open to learn more about terms, identities, and pronouns that you are unsure or unaware of.

Web resources:
Not Your Mom’s Trans 101 – http://tranarchism.com/2010/11/26/not-your-moms-trans-101/
Trans 101 at T-Vox.org – http://www.t-vox.org/index.php?title=Trans_101
Trans 101 at the Sylvia Rivera Law Project – http://srlp.org/trans-101

6 Responses to “Trans Ally Worksheet”

  1. Drew says:

    Along with calling out people who say hurtful or ignorant things, I would add calling out people who make jokes. I’ve found there can be a disconnect between things that are obviously hurtful, like insults or threats, and things that are meant to be funny, but are still hurtful.

  2. Sasha says:

    I think that’s pretty solid, what you have now, with a focus on listening and letting people define themselves. It’s simple but complete, lots of good advice for allies new to trans issues. I would perhaps add something about not claiming the label “ally” before they’ve proven themselves to be one, put the effort into it. You know – be an ally, don’t just say you’re one.

    PS – Hi, I’m Sasha. I found your blog via Feministe and have enjoyed reading your perspective. :)

  3. Hey there, another Feministe reader here. I like the worksheet, and it covers a lot of ground while being very concise. I’d suggest adding something along the lines of “Don’t speak for trans people; instead, use your voice to support theirs.”

    Keep up the good work!

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