8 ways to be a good ally to the transgender community

The 31st of March is the Trans Day of Visibility, a day to recognise the resilience and accomplishments of the transgender community worldwide while spreading awareness for the discrimination faced by trans people.

It is of the upmost importance to Hugh Baird College that every student is given the same opportunities to thrive and express themselves in the way they feel most comfortable, and we will not tolerate bullying towards anybody based on sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. That is why, to mark the day, we have asked a trans member of staff to provide eight tips for being a good ally towards trans people so we can make sure every trans person in our community is heard and visible.

1. Normalise asking for other people’s pronouns and introducing yourself with your pronouns

When you meet somebody for the first time, it is unlikely you will know which pronouns they use. That is why introducing yourself with your pronouns and then asking everybody you meet for the first time for their pronouns in the same way you would ask for their name is very important and can go a long way to making everyone feel comfortable.

If after learning somebody’s pronouns, you aren’t sure how to address them, it is okay to ask for clarification as long as you are polite and respectful. This however doesn’t mean that the trans person must educate you on this.

2. Don’t assume people’s pronouns or use gendered words unless you what words people are comfortable with

Like the first point, just because somebody may dress feminine/masculine and appear to you as a particular gender, that doesn’t mean you are correct in that assumption. When we assume people’s gender identity based on the way they look, we can unknowingly be making that person feel invalidated and upset.

This also relates to gendered words such as “boys, girls, gentleman, lady etc” as these terms being used to describe people who do not feel comfortable with them can make other people feel not included in the space, you’re in.

3. Don’t deadname or misgender anybody

Deadnaming refers to using a name that somebody used to but no longer goes by whereas misgendering refers to using pronouns or gendered words to describe someone who doesn’t use those pronouns/identifies with those words.

Misgendering along with deadnaming is common towards trans people, especially for those who may be at the start of their transitional journey. These actions can make somebody not feel respected with their identity and can lead to people feeling depressed. As a result, it is important we do everything we can to avoid misgendering and deadnaming including not assuming pronouns and asking people for their name and using that name regardless of whether it is their legal name.

4. Understand that pronouns/names are not optional/preferred

When we refer to pronouns and names, the phrase “preferred pronouns” and “preferred name” are often brought up, but it is important to not use these phrases when referring to pronouns. This is because the word “preferred” gives the indication that pronouns or names are optional which isn’t the case.

If somebody started using different pronouns/a different name to refer to you, you wouldn’t appreciate it as both names and pronouns are a crucial part of our identities.

5. If you make a mistake, use the “Catch it, Correct it” method

If you catch yourself accidentally misgendering somebody (using the incorrect pronoun or gendered word) the “Catch it, Correct It” method can help you.

You’ve caught the mistake, now it’s time to correct it, simply restart the sentence you have said but using the correct pronoun/gendered word. This also works with deadnaming too!

Example: “Oh Henry, she went… Oh Henry, he went to the shop”

In this example you have restarted the sentence again, correcting your mistake and avoiding an awkward apology. If you realise directly after you have made the mistake but have already said the sentence, just repeat the sentence again, correcting the mistake.

6. Don’t ‘out’ anybody without their permission

Sometimes trans people may be ok with you telling other people they are trans but other times, they may not be ready to come out yet – this is fine!

Never out somebody who doesn’t want to be outed and always ask the trans person if it is okay before you tell others about their identity. Outing can include but is not limited to:

  • Phrases such as “Oh Henry used to go by DEADNAME but now goes by…” (using somebody’s deadname is also never okay unless being used with permission from a trans person to protect them)

  • Telling other people that somebody you know is trans

  • Telling other people about their name/pronouns if they are not ready to tell other people yet

7. Challenge and report transphobia/bullying

When we say challenge, we never mean physically. Challenging in this respect means sticking up for those being bullied by supporting them and making sure they are okay. If you witness transphobic bullying taking place at Hugh Baird College report it straight away.

Even comments which may seem small to you can have a big impact so make sure to report all instances of transphobia however insignificant you may find them.

You can also always speak to Student Services if you ever feel unfairly treated, intimidated, or bullied in any way. Or, you can send a confidential message to the Safeguarding Officers at Hugh Baird College by emailing safeguarding@hughbaird.ac.uk

8. Try to use gender-neutral language when referring to everybody you meet

As Michael Scott would say, it’s all about R E S P C P T. Using gender-neutral language such as “everyone” instead of “boys/girls/men/women” can go a long way when talking to people in any setting. Somebody who you class under one of these labels may not be comfortable with this term being used to describe them and as a result, may feel invalidated as a result. Making sure we use gender neutral language where appropriate therefore can be very important.

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