Recently, a group of wonderfully brilliant and compassionate individuals and I had the privilege and the pleasure of assisting the Transgender Resource Center of New Mexico as a part of an end of the year project. Initially, I didn't know what to make of the idea nor did I know what to expect, considering my lack of knowledge of the trans community. Little did I know I would love every minute of support that we would provide for them.
The TGRCNM is a fantastic organization that helps the trans community in Albuquerque with medical supplies, temporary storage, food, and an all-around safe space for those who need it. The site itself is in a nondescript, unmarked building in a fairly unremarkable part of town for... sad but obvious reasons. What started as two trans men trying to find support by hosting support groups in their respective living rooms, to a functional support center for those in need in the Albuquerque area.
They don't have much funding to keep up the building and only enough to pay two employees; the rest are volunteers. Which is a testament to how passionate these people are about helping the trans community. The TGRCNM had its 5th anniversary benefit last month consisting of a screening of the documentary Real Boy, a documentary about Gentle Ben and his transition from female to male, and his mother’s transformation to someone who can believe in her son. In the doc, Gentle Ben meets Joe Stevens, another trans artist who becomes Ben’s mentor throughout his transition. Both Ben and Joe were at the screening and performed after the movie ended.
Throughout my time with the TGRCNM I got to learn so many important things about so many amazing people from all walks of life. But the person I learned the most about was really myself. I learned that I really didn’t have a firm grasp of what the trans community goes through on a daily basis, nor did I know how to effectively be an ally to trans people. So, through this experience, I gathered some tips to being a trans ally. When I say “trans”, I’m using the umbrella term for the LGBTQ+ community including any non-binary, gender neutral human beings.
1. Normalize the use of pronouns.
As a cisgender male, I identify with the pronouns he, him, and his. One of the most common ways I’ve noticed trans people being misrepresented is through the use of the wrong pronouns toward them. Not only is it uncomfortable, it discounts their whole identity. How do we combat this? Make it as normal as possible.
Introduce yourself with your pronouns, ask someone what their pronouns are, and USE those pronouns. It's fair enough to mix up pronouns maybe once or twice, especially if you've known this trans person in both stages of their transition, but any more than that and you're just not trying. The more common that use is, the easier it’s going to be for the general public to use those pronouns too
2. Listen to trans voices.
When my group went to the TGRCNM, we wanted to make sure that we were as helpful and productive as possible. After much deliberation and many ideas being thrown around, we decided that the one way that we would be able to help would be to ask the TGRCNM for what they wanted. We didn't want to just do something that was easy for us but of no real benefit to them. This turned into chalking, flyering, tabling, and assisting in their event. The point is we ASKED.
This is a good practice for being a trans ally as well. There’s nothing that you’re going to be able to add or answer for a trans person’s life that they don’t already know about. It’s their life. They’ve been through the process, they’ve lived and are living through the transition every day of their lives. The best thing you can do to help is to ask, and listen to what they say.
3. Be aware of dead names.
Have you ever had someone call you a name that wasn’t your own? A name that you maybe even disliked, if not hated, because it just wasn’t who you were? Trans individuals go through this constantly. Every trans person has made or is making the transition from being one person, to a completely different person. One of the steps to this transition is to pick a name that really symbolizes their new self. The meaning here is incredibly powerful also because rather than growing into this name from birth, this is a name specifically picked out and chosen to suit them.
There are so many instances that I can think of, particularly in college classes, in which trans individuals tell a student or a teacher their name and said teacher (or student) keep using their dead name. Much like with pronouns, one or two slip ups can be forgiven, but after consistent misuse you’re not putting in the effort to respect that person. You don’t like being called something you don’t identify with, nor do the trans community. Just put in that extra effort and call them by their real name, not their dead name.
I once did a class activity in which the whole room was a scale from very safe to very unsafe, and the students were to imagine they were trans individuals. They were then told a series of scenarios that they would encounter on a daily basis, and to move to either side of the class in accordance with how safe they felt as a trans student. A campus gym, a gendered bathroom, a family gathering, a doctor’s office; each scenario received a different number of students on each side of the classroom.
It was crazy to see the things that are taken for granted. The thing here is that trans people go through this every single day. This hashtag is meant to serve as a message to all trans human beings that you are an ally to them. “I’ll go with you” anywhere you feel unsafe or uncomfortable or unwelcome. Wherever, whenever, just ask, and I’ll go with you.
It doesn’t take much to be a trans ally. In fact, everyone has it inside them to just be decent human beings. Support trans and queer owned businesses, ask for and give pronouns, and just be a good person.
Also, as an ally myself, should anyone feel that they need to talk or vent or just tell someone anything, or if you’re ever feeling suicidal for any reason, here are the numbers for AGORA Crisis Center, the National Suicide Prevention Line, and if you really don’t feel like talking on the phone, the online chat link for the NSPL is below as well. They’re open 24 hours and will not hesitate to help or listen in a crisis. The tips above and the numbers below are a great start to being a trans ally, and an ally to anyone feeling any sort of inequality.
Agora Crisis Center: 1-505-277-3013
National Suicide Prevention Line: 1-800-273-TALK
NSPL Online Chat: http://chat.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/GetHelp/...