It’s Trans Awareness Week and this year has been massive for trans representation across the globe.
From TikToker’s like Dylan Mulvaney (who has taken the world by storm with her Days Of Girlhood series); nonbinary actors Emma D’arcy (Rhyneara from NBC’s House Of The Dragon) and Emma Corrin (Princess Dianna on Netflix’s The Crown) bringing they/them pronouns into chat-show vernacular; and homegrown trailblazers like Georgie Stone, James Majoos and Zoe Terakes (who are all kicking international goals with Netflix and Marvel)—we’ve seen a huge step forward in terms of trans visibility. It feels like maybe, just maybe, the general population is finally aware of our existence? So if more people know about trans people now, why is Trans Awareness still so important?
Because, dear reader, with great awareness comes great responsibility.
Mainstream representation is a double edged sword, and while some of the T’s in the LGBT community are out here kicking career goals, we’re all copping an avalanche of heat. Trans folk and our issues have been the topic of discussion across social media, news, podcasts and parliament for the past few years, and whether these people are with us or against us, the media gods seem hellbent on “figuring out” the whole “transgender thing”.
On the one hand, many trans people are now able to live more authentically at school, work and home thanks to acceptance being more commonplace. On the other hand, trans awareness has given way to hateful language that excludes some of us more thoroughly. And for every coworker who respects your identity, there are three more who ask probing questions in unsafe break rooms, hallways and bathrooms.
So what’s the solution? If those people aren’t getting it by now, what’s it going to take?
Well actually, it's going to take you.
Now don’t freak out, it’s not as scary as it sounds, I promise. But it is important.
What we need your help with is the basics. The repetitive stuff. The stuff that wears us down emotionally. So if you’re ready to commit to alleviating some of the stress from a trans person’s life, here are reminders of some things you can do to genuinely make a difference:
Respect And Correct Pronouns
Imagine every time you meet someone new you are introduced with a name that isn’t yours, and no matter how many times you correct people they refuse to call you by your name. That is what it can feel like when a trans person is misgendered, and it can feel degrading to ask again and again for a person to show you respect. When allies speak up and correct others, it alleviates so much social pressure from your trans friend, and lets the other person know they are out of line.
Call Out Disrespect
Sometimes it can be hard to tell whether somebody is telling a joke or being inflammatory, and your trans friend may not feel comfortable shutting down a line of uncomfortable conversation. A good ally is ready to check in and see if help is needed, call out inapproprate language and offer solidarity—even if it sours the mood.
Sometimes transphobic people will try to implicate you in their bigotry by questioning the validity or reality of the trans experience. It is important to let these people know that you are a trans ally and you do not agree with the way they think. Even if you don’t know how to refute their arguments, you can still state that you support the community and don’t want to discuss this further.
Not every trans person who comes out to you will be out to everyone else! Before discussing someone’s identity with a third party, check with them whether they are comfortable with you doing so. Outing someone (even unintentionally) has the potential to endanger the life of your transgender friend, their job opportunities and their living arrangements.
When your trans friend corrects you on something, know that they are doing so because they see you as someone who is able and willing to learn. Allyship is a lifelong journey and we are all learning as we go. Be ready to listen, be ready to pause, be ready to reframe. Being a good ally is something people decide that you are, not something you can decide to be.
You might feel like you’ve heard this all before, but this really is the stuff that counts. Being visible is great, but it can leave trans people feeling exposed. Awareness is important, but without support it can become unsafe.
Now more than ever, we need our allies to bring trans awareness off their instagram stories and into the workplace; the Christmas party and yes, even the lad's night out.
Image Credit: Daya Czpeanski