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How can I be a better ally to trans people right now?


How can I be a better trans ally? (Alamy/PA)

Whether it’s at work or among friends and family, there are lots of ways to help support the trans community. By Abi Jackson.

 

Thinking about how you can be a better ally to trans people?


Allies play an important role in supporting marginalised communities and helping create a more inclusive, safe and equal society – and this isn’t just about Pride Month. As Finn, a spokesperson for The LGBT Foundation says: “Allyship is a year-long activity, and requires work.”


So, whether it’s everyday life, at work or among friends and family, where can you start?


Proactive learning


Gina Battye, a psychological safety consultant and trainer who’s done a lot of work on supporting LGBTQIA+ communities in the workplace, runs workshops levelled towards supporting people from any marginalised group. “I tend to talk about four key areas: learning, support, visibility, and celebrate,” she says.


This might start with curiosity – for example, asking some well-intentioned questions if a colleague comes out to you as trans – but Battye says it’s important to do your own learning too.


Gina Battye (Ali Ford/Handout/PA)

“Be proactive,” she says. “Don’t rely on your LGBT-plus colleagues, friends and peers to educate you. You could start off by reading things like company policies and procedures at work. You could raise your awareness of your own unconscious biases and explore strategies to reduce or eliminate those. Watch films and documentaries, listen to podcasts, attend events, webinars, seminars focused on inclusion or allyship.”


Get informed


Aby Hawker, founder of TransMission PR, a communications consultancy specialising in trans and non-binary inclusion and awareness, also believes educating yourself is important – especially when it comes to learning about issues and challenges surrounding the community.


“Trans people represent 1% of the population. They are a marginalised community being disproportionately targeted by some very loud voices in order to stoke hatred and division,” says Hawker, who started a ‘TransAlly365’ campaign on TikTok this year, posting daily tips.


“And there are loads of other resources to help,” she adds. “Subscribe to QueerAF, a media outlet dedicated to changing the narrative and championing queer talent. Read Pink News. Follow trans and non-binary content creators – check out Max Siegel (@theyrequeer) and Ben Pechey on Instagram and LinkedIn, read Shon Faye’s the Transgender Issue.


“Understand what is – and what isn’t – real,” Hawker continues. “Diversion tactics and ‘culture wars’ are driving much of the anti-trans narrative.”


Finn says: “It helps to understand the key issues regarding access to gender-affirming healthcare and social transition, trans legal rights (including campaigning for non-binary legal recognition and simpler gender recognition processes) and the damage of ‘culture war’ rhetoric.”


Finn also suggests reading work by trans and non-binary authors and content creators: “Some good people to start with are Shon Faye, Travis Alabanza, Fox Fisher, Abigail Thorn and Natalie Wynn.”


Be supportive


Battye says: “This is about understanding the experiences the LGBTQ+ community have, so a key thing here is to listen to personal experiences of your friends and your colleagues. Ask them questions like: what do you experience at work or socially, or when you’re on public transport or on holiday – that kind of thing. And then ask: what can I do to help and support you? Super simple questions most people don’t ask.”

Be mindful of what you’re asking too. “I have a general rule of thumb: If you wouldn’t ask your grandma that question, don’t ask [an LGBTQ+ person] it!” Battye adds. “You get the idea. Don’t ask questions that you wouldn’t also ask somebody who is heterosexual or cisgender.”


Just listen


Listen without questioning (Alamy/PA)

Finn says: “Listen to trans and non-binary people’s experiences without questioning them, particularly if they are reporting transphobia or discrimination. We are the experts of our own experience and can tell the difference between problematic discrimination vs good-faith questions.


“You don’t need to fully understand someone’s identity to respect it, including using a person’s correct pronouns. If someone tells you the language they use to talk about themselves and their experience of gender, use it.”


And if you accidentally say the wrong thing? “Apologise quickly and move on,” adds Finn. “You don’t need to make it a big deal!”


Speaking up


You can also show support by being “willing to have conversations with those around you to educate them on issues and challenges and how to be supportive”, Battye adds. “You can start by just sharing the information you’re learning, that’s quite an easy thing to do.


“Another thing is being aware of non-inclusive behaviours in conversations. If you hear or see other people being exclusive, if it’s safe and you’re comfortable to do so, then speak up. It might be as simple as saying something like, ‘You know what, I don’t think that’s appropriate’, or ‘I don’t think we should be talking in this way, maybe we should change the conversation’.”



Battye says speaking with people privately is better than calling them out in front of others. “Don’t do it publicly – take them to one side and just have a conversation about why it’s inappropriate to talk about what they’ve been talking about. They might not realise, first of all, but also it can be really embarrassing and can go against what you’re trying to do if you do it publicly.”


And if it’s yourself being non-inclusive: “Apologise, correct yourself, and continue with the conversation,” Battye adds. “Don’t dig a hole and continue to get yourself in it!”


Have a think afterwards about what that experience is showing you – is there a bias or privilege you need to be more aware of? “Do that inner work to make sure you’re not continuously making the same mistake,” she says.


Visibility and celebration


Visibility is about “signalling that you are an ally”, says Battye. There are lots of ways you can do this in work and education settings – such as adding pronouns to email signatures, wearing inclusive badges and lanyards. You could attend network and community events to actively show support.


Finally, celebrating – find out about important holidays, awareness events, anniversaries etc. “This is the bit most people do without doing the other bits, which can get quite frustrating at times!” says Battye. “But certainly celebrate with your colleagues [and friends].”

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