How Can I Help?: Advocating for Trans People by Nigel Jacobs, Morehouse College

In the past decade, trans identities have become more popularized in today’s society. Even though trans people have existed since the beginning of human civilization, many people are only becoming conscious of their existence. Since this is a new experience for some people, they tend to not know how to interact properly when they meet trans people; not in a harmful sense, but in the sense that they are trying to be supportive in the wrong ways. In my experiences as a trans person, people tend to ask very exotic questions which tend to make me and other trans people uncomfortable. In this article, I will be giving certain tips about how allies can help support trans people in more inclusive and non-harmful ways.

Laverne Cox, a trans advocate, is filming a new documentary on the lives of trans youth.

Before I begin, the definition of “trans people” in this context describes people who do not identify with the gender and/or sex they were assigned at birth. For example, if a person who was assigned male at birth but later in life they decided that they do not want to be a man/male anymore, they would be considered a trans person.

Don’t Make Assumptions about Trans Bodies– The first thing you should know about trans people is that you cannot tell if someone is trans just by looking at them. There is a common misconception that all trans people have physically altered their bodies. Yes, for some trans people this is true, but for others such as myself, we are either fine with our bodies or are in a situation where we cannot receive the proper surgeries.

Don’t Confuse Gender and Sexuality– The next thing you should know about trans people is that their gender has nothing to do with their sexuality. Sexuality is a description and/or label of who a person is sexually attracted while gender is a description and/or label of a person’s sense of being. Becoming a trans person does not automatically make a person gay. It really all depends on how they view their sexuality. They can be straight, gay, lesbian, bi, pan, or whatever they want to identify as.

Now that we have addressed some of the myths and things NOT to do, let’s take a look at a few tips on what you can do to interact with a trans person in a respectful way.

Do Use Correct Pronouns: If you do not know someone’s pronouns, then listen to them and other people in the conversation. If you’re really itching to say someone’s pronouns, either use their name in place of them or use singular they/them, which are universal English gender neutral pronouns. And if you mistakenly use the incorrect pronoun, be humble enough to apologize and use the preferred pronoun moving forward.

Do Maintain Confidentiality: If your friend has enough trust in you to tell you that they are trans, you do not have the right to tell other people that they are trans. This is called “outing.” It may not seem like much, but revealing your friend’s identity can be life-threatening to them because many people have died for simply just being trans. It is their truth to share.

Do Center Those Most Affected: Even though there are a lot of tips, the main idea for most of them is that it is not about you: it’s about them. Trans people see the world differently from their cis counterparts and they are persecuted because of it. Almost 90% of being an ally (as source of safety and support) for trans people is literally just listening and believing them. You may have your own opinions and beliefs about these concepts, but in the end those opinions don’t really matter because trans people are still humans, and you must treat us with the same respect and dignity as you treat your other fellow humans

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