You may have asked yourself this. Many times over. Or, it may not have occurred to you that there was anything you COULD do to help us live happier, fuller, safer lives. You may have felt alternately outraged by the prejudice we face ~ or the injustices we endure ~ and drowned in despair in the face of the seemingly constant onslaught of violence that is visited upon our population. That can be paralyzing. We all understand just how paralyzing it all can be.
But we NEED you. We need a strong network of allies, and your voice MATTERS. We need those who are outside of the trans experience to stand up with us and fight with us to help us secure our basic human and civil rights, to combat ignorance and fear and misinformation, and to help create a world where all beings are safe and at liberty to lead lives of quality.
So, what can you DO?
1. Stand up for us when you hear transphobic language, ideas, or concepts coming from others. Be willing to advocate for us and educate people about us. Be fearless, WITH us, about speaking out.
2. Be consistent and loyal in your ally-ship. Do not show support to our faces and then disrespect us behind our backs. Do not use proper names/pronouns when addressing us but then use the improper ones with others, for instance.
3. Offer an ear, not advice or opinions about trans-related issues, unless requested. Our experiences are unique to us, and every trans person experiences their “trans-ness” uniquely. We feel personally supported when you honor us by remaining open to us testifying about our own truth and not imposing your own ideas/beliefs upon us. When you offer us this kind of respectful space, I assure you, we will return the favor. smile emoticon
Now it gets more involved:
4. Transgender folks have desperate needs. Many of us live in poverty due to prejudicial attitudes about trans people in the workplace. Many are homeless. Getting hired, staying hired? Affording an apartment? Securing one? All of these are ridiculously challenging for someone who is trans. Many of us do not have adequate healthcare. Even if we are fortunate to have a job and insurance, getting trans-related care paid for is difficult (sometimes even impossible, depending upon which state you live in and who your provider is). This is changing, thanks to new federal laws, but it is not changing fast enough.
So ~ YOU, our allies ~ you can become a voice of support. How? Keep an eye and an ear on local and regional politics. Become informed about LGBTQ legislation and what your State’s LGBTQ protections are. If you see that protections for transgender individuals, in particular, are lacking in the following areas, please do consider calling and emailing your representatives and advocating for tougher laws on our behalf, and do not underestimate the power of your voice as a cisgender ally:
~ Equal rights and protections related to housing, employment, education, and healthcare
~ Insurance, medicare, medicaid: expanded coverage of transition-related medical care is badly needed, everywhere!
~ Tougher sentences for those convicted for trans-related hate crimes
~ Tougher harassment laws which protect us in real life and online. Bullying and stalking and harassment agitate dysphoria and depression and any form of it contributes to increased risk of self-harm or suicide.
~ Education and advocacy outreach: funding for programs that teach about gender diversity, trans and intersex realities, the need for tolerance and inclusion, etc…
~ Emergency housing and health care: funding for shelters for trans adults and youth; funding for emergency clinics, staffed with people trained to work with the unique needs of the trans population ~ clinics that could serve those who cannot secure/afford health care or who are turned away by providers due to their trans status (it happens… a LOT) or who are simply afraid to go to a hospital or doctor’s office because of their own dysphoria or for fear of the way they might be related to.
These are just the tip of the iceberg… but these are the areas where we need the most support and we need to build a coalition of caring allies to make our needs known. Get loud, get involved. Online petitions are great, but not very effective in creating lasting change. Work with us at the local and State level ~ press some flesh ~ make eye contact. Make people in offices squirm with discomfort if you have to… because they may not really want to hear about the “transgender topic”. Well, too bad. smile emoticon
Call. Call. Call. Call. Email. Email. Email. Tweet, tweet, tweet, if your reps and governor have twitter accounts. Post on their FB Walls, all kinds of trans-affirmative material.
And then, last but not least, help the transgender folks in your life… personally, if you can, and they are in your face to face space. Offer to listen, give LOTS of space to listen. When there have been deaths in the trans community, check in on them… if they are not doing well and are traumatized, offer to bring food or keep them company. If they have been misgendered, re-affirm who they really are, to you. If they have been harassed or attacked, offer anything that you can to help stabilize them. Offer to go to the restroom with them, if you happen to frequent the same restroom, and always let them know, in an unambiguous way, that you have their back when you are out in public together.
Ultimately, how can you be the best ally possible?
Care. Speak. Act.
All of the above, openly and fearlessly.
~ Adam Lodestone