How to be a GREAT ally to trans people
If you’re gay, bisexual, a lesbian or any other identity under the rainbow umbrella, you’ll already know the importance of allyship.
It’s fundamental to every human being on earth to know that we feel seen, understood, respected and supported. To know we are safe in our environment.
Those actions alone are, as a general rule, all you need to do in order to be a great ally to anyone. But we’ll drop a list of some top tips for how you can show up and be a great ally to trans people.
There are tons, and equally a lot of really simple things you can avoid to ensure you’re giving out the same energy and respect you hope to get in the world from others.
If you’d like to read about the best ways to be an ally specifically to non-binary people – click here.
First up, support.
If – for whatever reason – you don’t know many or any trans people, that doesn’t mean you can’t support trans lives in the community.
Take a look at and contribute to organisations that actively work with trans people and help to make a life-saving difference, every day. You don’t have to donate in order to support (although great if you can), but just giving them a follow and supporting their content is a great start.
Here is a handful of organisations you can support to get you started:
Pronouns are important. Help to get comfortable acknowledging your pronouns when you meet people and/ or by adding them to your social media bio or on your Email signature.
Never assume someone’s pronouns on the basis of how they “present”. Instagram, Zoom, TikTok and most digital communication services have a pronouns function now, so that should help make it easier. If yours isn’t added on there – now is the perfect time!
If you’re not sure of what pronouns to use with someone, always go they/ them until it is made clear. OR, just ask. People are way less likely to be offended by you asking for their pronouns than by you repeatedly getting them wrong.
If you do mess up or get someone’s pronouns wrong – don’t make a big deal about it. Just say sorry and move on. A bit like if someone gets your name wrong – shit happens, but if they don’t stop apologising for it, then it becomes something way bigger than it needs to be.
Respect language and how someone self-identifies.
Given that there is no strict, singular way to not be straight, it stands to reason that within our intersectional community, there are also a lot of ways to “be” gay, bi, lesbian, trans etc.
A great rule of thumb here, and with all LGBTQIA+ folk… always respect the way someone self-identifies.
Some people may be very comfortable with the word Queer, while for others it carries bad memories, and they prefer gay or bi etc.
Whatever ‘label’ fits you and feels most authentic is how we each self-ID, and that is subject to change, for all of us. So if someone identifies as transgender, gender fluid, nonbinary, genderqueer – however they have self-ID’d – that is all you need to know. That’s them.
Not unlike if you absolutely HATE your full first name. Or LOVE your full name and hate it when others shorten it or call you a nickname you don’t like and didn’t approve. Just be respectful.
In a group setting, like a meeting or any situation where you don’t know everyone you’re addressing, try to avoid gendered language, unless you’re certain you know everyone’s gender. I.e., don’t guess someone’s gender on the basis of what they’re wearing or how they look.
We tend not to make general assumptions about large groups of unknown people on a number of other factors already – gender is no different. Once you’re in the habit of being conscious of everyone you’re addressing – you’re golden.
No one can tell you about the experiences of a trans person… other than a trans person. And all trans people, like all non-trans people, have different experiences. Listen to as many as you can.
Trans people are so often left out of discussions about what it is to be trans. If you want to be a good ally, it always starts and ends with support – in whatever form it takes.
It could be a conversation, just an ear when that person needs it, or an acknowledgement that you see, respect and value them – both for and completely irrespective of their being trans.
Cut through the bullshit.
In an age where digital misinformation is rife and attacks on fractions our community are common, the absolute best thing you can do is listen to trans people. Not just on a 1-2-1 basis (as above), but online and through social media. If you’re hearing a straight, cis person’s point of view – it could be right or wrong, but one thing is for sure – it’s not lived experience.
Gay, bi, lesbian, asexual, pansexual – any queer identity – we all know how dangerous it can be when the wrong non-queer person speaks on our behalf. You only have to turn on far-right, conservative news channels to hear the words “grooming our children” once and see how dangerously we can each be misrepresented.
Follow some trans people. Hear their point of view when discussions arise.
Here are some GREAT accounts to follow, all run by awesome trans folk who talk sense in abundance and who will enrich your timeline and understanding on a daily basis:
@stacey_macooncat | @KatyMontgomerie | @ErinInTheMorn | @theFoxFisher | @IndiaWilloughby | @JakeGraf1 | @TransActivismUK | @thefreeactorvist | @saint_ellis| @justsaysk | @accio.aj | @tboy61915| @hannahw253 | @libenedettii | @swtbbt
DON’T out anyone.
We should all, by now, know that outing someone is a terrible thing to do.
When it comes to confidentiality, disclosure and “outing”, the process for trans folk can, for good reason, be a bit more sensitive.
Some trans people feel comfortable disclosing their gender history, while others do not. In any instance, it’s personal information. Their personal information.
Not only is this an invasion of privacy, but it can also potentially have negative consequences, particularly in environments where trans people are at greater risk of discrimination or harm, and particularly while there is still so much harmful rhetoric floating around.
Here are some things to absolutely avoid.
Don’t make assumptions. No one likes that, and trans people are no different.
Don’t make assumptions about someone’s gender or their sexuality – two entirely different things. Sexual orientation is about who we’re attracted to, gender is about our own personal sense of being a man or a woman, or neither of those binary genders.
Transgender people can be gay, lesbian, bisexual, straight, or any other sexual orientation. Don’t assume.
Use people’s correct name. It is literally that simple.
Never, ever, ever ask questions leading to what someone’s pre-transition name may have been. And, if they choose to talk about it, it’s not their “real name” – language like that is problematic for so many reasons.
Many trans people are incredibly proud of their whole journey towards living as their authentic self. But that doesn’t mean it was an easy road.
For some people, the name they were assigned at birth can be a tremendous source of anxiety, or just simply a part of their life they have left behind. Think of it like someone bringing up an ex constantly. You don’t want to hear, not necessarily because you’re ashamed, but because it’s just not your life anymore.
Respect people and their names.
Similarly, don’t share photos of someone from before their transition, unless you have their permission, or they have asked you to. It’s incredibly degrading and, without their consent, plain wrong.
Don’t ask about a transgender person’s surgical status or for details about their body.
This should be a fairly obvious one, because aside from being just plain rude, it’s a deeply personal and intimate question to ask anyone.
It would be inappropriate to ask a cisgender person about the appearance or status of their genitals or for details about their sex life, and trans people are no different.
If someone wants to open up about that topic to you, that is their choice. But your curiosity alone does not equal their consent.
Ditch any of the following phrases, even if you think they sound like a compliment. At best, they would be a backhanded one. If you hear another person using them – either socially or in private – call it out, if it is safe to do so.
“You look just like a real woman.”
“I would have never guessed you were born a man.”
“I would have guessed were transgender. You look so pretty.”
“She’s/ he’s so gorgeous, I would have never guessed.”
“He’s/ she’s so hot. I’d date them even though they’re transgender.”
“You’re so brave.”
“You’d [any language amounting to being “more convincing”] much better if you [literally any tips at all]”. Remember that there is no right or wrong way to “look trans”. Let people be.
“Have you considered a voice coach?”
The most important thing you can do to be a great ally to trans people, like all identities in our community, is to listen, understand, then amplify.
That’s the communi-tea.