Supporting Transgender Equality Starts with Being an Ally
From Deadnaming to Misgendering: Actions to Avoid
The LGBTQIA+ community is growing with recognition and acceptance as society grows into a place of inviting more conversation and accountability. In the U.S. 1.6 million people above the age of 13 identify as transgender and from that, approximately 19% are teenagers according to a 2022 report by UCLA’s Williams Institute. A higher percentage of transgender people in America live in the North East, with the lowest percentages living in the Midwest and South.
Dylan Mulvaney is a transgender woman who shares her transition journey for the entire world to hear on social media. NowThis News hosted an interview for Mulvaney to have with President Biden in 2022, where she asked the President how he feels about state lawmakers who are attempting to ban gender-affirming healthcare. Biden replied, “I don’t think any state or anybody should have the right to do that, as a moral question and as a legal question. I just think it’s wrong.”
The conversation for transgender equality is not just a government responsibility but the public’s responsibility as well. As an ally, it is important to truly serve your duty and push for change. An ally is not just someone who sees and accepts differences - they are someone who takes action. An important step to reaching equality is understanding the views of others and fighting for their rights. Many straight cis-gendered people claim themselves as allies of the LGBTQIA+ community, but their actions show otherwise. To be an ally means active support, not just acceptance.
Misgendering and Pronouns
In 2021, Instagram released a feature where users can display their pronouns on their profiles next to their name in the bio. In meetings, clubs, classes and more, it is now more common to be asked to introduce yourself with your preferred pronouns. This shows respect for everyone by preventing misgendering. Misgendering is when someone is referred to by the wrong pronouns. For example, a transgender person may experience being called by the pronouns they were previously using and not the pronouns they identify with now, creating feelings of discomfort, dismay, and hurt.
As a cis-gender person, it is important to announce and display your pronouns, even if you have never experienced misgendering. It creates the opportunity to eliminate othering by assuming someone’s pronouns.
Here are some places you can start displaying your pronouns:
Social Media profiles
Email signatures [ Sophia Aiello, she/her ]
Zoom name [ Sophia Aiello (she/her) ]
Here are some ways to introduce your pronouns:
“I go by _/_.”
“My pronouns are _/_.”
Ways to ask about someone’s pronouns:
“What pronouns would you like for me to use during introductions?”
“What pronouns do you use?”
Listening, Avoiding Assumptions, & Understanding that Every Story is Different
Just because two people are in the same social group does not mean that their experiences are the same or even similar. The same is true when it comes to someone’s transition journey. It can be easy to think you know how someone who transitioned may be feeling because you know someone else who transitioned. Although the experience may be relatable on some levels, it is completely inappropriate to assume someone’s overall story.
Laverne Cox is an American actress and LGBTQIA+ advocate, which you may recognize from Orange is the New Black, Promising Young Women, Charlie’s Angels, and many popular movies and TV shows. She is the first transgender person to be nominated and win awards including the Primetime Emmy Award and Daytime Emmy Award, as well as the first to be on the front cover of Cosmopolitan.
In a behind the scenes interview for her TIME cover shoot, Cox said, “The reality is that I don’t represent the entirety of the trans community. There are multiple experiences and multiple relationships to one’s identity, and so it’s really about listening to individuals in terms of how they define themselves and describe themselves.”
From a cis-gender person to a transgender person, there are many comments that one may think are compliments and re-affirming, but they are actually backhanded and harmful. Pride.com suggests comments like, “I would have never known you were trans!” followed by a compliment like, “You are so pretty,” or, “You are so handsome” are not helpful.
Other comments include referring to cis-gendered people as “normal,” “regular,” or “real.” This may come up in a sentence like, “You look like a real boy!” or “You’re prettier than normal girls.” These comments separate transgender people from cisgender people within the same gender.
Deadnaming is when a trans person’s birth name is revealed without their permission. If you know someone who has changed their name for this reason, be conscientious only to use the name they go by, not their birth or given name.
To be an ally, it is good to be mindful of how you address others, not just to them but when speaking about them. We’re all human, and humans make mistakes. If you think someone is using a person's deadname accidently, try to remind them quickly but without embarrassing that person as well. If you find yourself accidentally using someone’s dead name, correct yourself and apologize.
Being an ally is a continuous process. There is always space for growth as someone who is a supporter and looking to make a change. Acknowledging your past errors and calling them out is a big and important step to becoming a better ally.
This article was written by Sophia Aiello, a freshman at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, majoring in Journalism & Electronic Media with a concentration in News. She is involved on campus with The Volunteer Channel's The Morning Jem and Pi chapter of Chi Omega.
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