13th November to 19th November 2020 is being celebrated as Transgender awareness week. This blog talks about being or becoming a Trans Ally
During war the word “Ally (plural Allies)” is used to identify countries who are friends or are fighting the same side. Putting in perspective, a Trans Ally or a Transgender Ally is a person who does not belong to the Trans community not only openly supports them but also advocates for their rights.
Before understanding how to be an Ally or what qualities you need to develop as an Ally, let’s first talk about the difference between sex and gender.
Sex & Gender
Sex refers to the a person’s biology which includes the chromosomes, hormones & the anatomy (reproductive organ). A person’s sex is assigned as “male” or “female” based on physical appearance at birth. Intersex are people who do not have we defined sexual organs at birth to identify them as either Male or Female.
Gender (or gender identity) on the other hand is a social construct. It’s the state of being a man, woman, both, neither, or other gender altogether. The environment, in which we grow up, defines it. It includes the stereotypical roles and expectations society assigns to each person based whether they are male or female. You may see an effeminate man or a tom-boyish girl or people who sometime seem to be acting more masculine at some time and more feminine at other times.
Allyship beyond coffee table discussions
Calling yourself and Ally, posting rainbow hashtags, writing he/his/him & she/her/hers against your name on social media & email signatures, and talking about the Supreme Court judgement of 2014 granting transgender a “third gender” status is not sufficient be an Ally. The role an Ally goes way beyond the coffee table discussions.
An ally believes in equality for all and believes that every person, irrespective of their diversity in terms of gender, caste, class, race, religion, state of origin, sexual orientation deserves to be treated with respect and dignity. A trans person could also belong to one or more of the diversity attributes.
An Ally plays an important role in our society.
To be an Ally
What is it that makes you a real Ally.
1. Develop understanding
Gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation are not the same things. An Ally develops a basic understanding of the difference between the terminologies by reading, watching videos or listening to podcasts. Avoid asking a Transperson to explain it to you.
- You’re an Ally, if you believe being an ally is in your self-interest and not charity of any kind.
- Initially, you may experience a little discomfort arising out of being an ally which is all right. Learn to become comfortable with the discomfort. Every action toward supporting the community will lead you to becoming more and more comfortable.
2. Be willing to listen
Listening is a great skill. It builds bridges. It creates safe spaces. Many of your close associate – friends or family may be struggling with their identity. Some are experiencing what is called Gender Dysphoria i.e they find themselves uncomfortable with themselves not sure what’s going on. They may not be conforming to the gender norms as defined by society. An ally is willing to listen not only the struggles of trans people in general, but also personal experiences of a trans person. Importantly, while listening, suspends all judgements.
3. Be curious to become aware
Each of the trans person has gone through an emotional journey of first accepting themselves and then seeking acceptance from the world. It is important we respect them for who they are and acknowledge the journey they have been through.
- Ask the pronoun they would prefer for themselves
- Ask them if they have come out completely or are there still in the closet in some circles like their family.
4. Be open minded
Trans people are not a single category of people. They have their choices and any other person they have their sexual orientation. They also have a background and an upbringing
- Recognize the diversity in Trans & Queer relationships
- Remember intersectionality – they also belong to caste, class, state of origin, spoken language, upbringing and many other sub-groups.
5. Show up
Showing up to any trans-get-together, showing solidarity is important for them.
- If you are invited, do show up. Do not hesitate to ask, if there are any norms to fool.
- Be part of PRIDE parades and openly show your solidarity
- Invite them to your family/friends get-together. Make them feel belonged. Before inviting, do remember to do a quick check you don’t have any transphobic person in the group.
6. Speak up
Alright, you are not transphobic. More than that, you also have to become anti-transphobic and speak up when anyone talks about trans people in a not so positive light.
- Jokes, sarcasm, LGBTQ+ comments are harmful not only to the individual who identifies themself as part of the community but also those who are still not come out. Speak up even if no one from the community is around
- Be a strong advocate about trans rights and believe trans rights are human rights.
As an Ally be mindful about :
While you may say you are an Ally, there are certain curiosities you may avoid expressing and refrain from asking or speaking
- Asking inappropriate questions about their relationship, Sex life or anatomy.
- Asking about their transitioning surgery or hormonal treatment.
- Speaking about them while they are not around
- Deadnaming – referring to them with the names they no longer identify with.
Remember, when starting out your journey to Allyship, you may make mistakes and mistakes are humane. Acknowledge and apologise for the mistake and commit not make them again. Whats more important is that, you learn from your mistake and continue to make strides in your allyship journey. Making mistakes cannot become an excuse for no action.
It is not important that you fully understand a trans person, it is important that you are willing to acknowledge, learn, listen and speak up.
The journey of thousand miles begins with a single step
Becoming an Ally is a journey. If you would like to begin this journey or move ahead in this journey in your ogranisation contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org