How to be a good Ally: It’s all about respect.

  • 1. Recognise Anti-LGBTQ+ Behaviour

    Transphobia, homophobia, bi-phobia or anti-LGBTQ+ behaviour is that which insults, oppresses, or discriminates against LGBTQ+ people. This can be intentional. It may include name calling, excluding people, being cruel, deliberately misgendering someone, or ‘dead-naming’ (see terminology section) someone.
    Anti-LGBTQ+ comments and jokes are harmful. It could be systematic. It may happen because of large-scale society issues, such as employment discrimination, access to bathrooms, or the portrayal of LGBTQ+ in the media. Media portrayal informs public opinions, affecting society as a whole and impacting LGBTQ+ rights.
    Sometimes anti-LGBTQ+ behaviour can be unintentional. This might include ‘subtle’ locker room ‘banter,’ slip-ups, mistakes, unintentionally making assumptions about peoples gender, thinking people should look or act a certain way, or assuming pronouns based on someone appearance.

    2. Speak up!

    If someone is being homophobic, transphobic, or is anti-LGBTQ+, one of the best things you can do is to speak up. Let them know that their language is not acceptable or that the ‘joke’ they attempted is not funny, but is actually harmful, and may even be a crime. Sometimes challenging anti-LGBTQ+ behaviour might be as simple as highlighting their comment and asking: “Can you explain to me why this is funny, as I don’t get it.” If you are speaking with someone about their anti-LGBTQ+ language or behaviour, focus on how it would feel for someone LGBTQ+ to be hearing that. Show that it isn’t acceptable (without publicly shaming someone). One of the things that makes the most difference is for allies to speak up in support of LGBTQ+ people who might not be in the room, and to not leave it to LGBTQ+ individuals to speak up on their own.

    3. Be open to listen and learn. Educate yourself!

    You shouldn’t assume that every single LGBTQ+ person has all the answers to every question you might have. Many LGBTQ+ people do not want to have to educate people on LGBTQ+ issues either.
    Instead, there is plenty of information available and LGBTQ+ people to follow online which may answer your questions. It’s recommended that you find out and understand a little more about LGBTQ+ history and current affairs yourself before asking other people. You could arrange some training around LGBTQ+ identities for your organisation. If you do not have representation of LGBTQ+ voices in your group or workplace, make sure that this is implemented.

    4. Don’t assume

    You shouldn’t assume that all of your friends, co-workers, and even housemates are cis (see terminology section) and straight. LGBTQ+ people don’t look or act a particular way. Someone’s current or previous partner(s) does not define their sexuality either – bisexuals, pansexuals and queer people exist!

    5. Know that language matters

    Try integrating inclusive language into your regular conversations by using gender-neutral terms, such as ‘partner,’ ‘children,’ or ‘siblings.’ Keep an eye on any unintentionally offensive language that you may use everyday, and work to cease using it. Using new names: The majority of us respect when someone has a shortened name, nickname or maybe a change of surname when they get married. Accommodating LGBTQ+ people’s names and pronouns is no different. If you are unsure of someone’s pronoun or label, just ask them respectfully – maybe tell them your pronouns first.

    6. Know it is OK to mess up sometimes

    Accidentally assumed someone’s label? Having a conversation about someone who is Trans or Non-Binary and unintentionally used the wrong pronoun? Correct yourself and maybe ask for guidance. It happens – don’t panic, if you need to apologise try something along the lines of “I’m sorry, that wasn’t the word I meant to use. I’m trying to be a better ally and learn the right terminology, but I’m still working on it. If you hear me misuse something, I’d really appreciate if you could let me know.” People will likely appreciate your honesty and effort!

    7. Recognise your privilege and unconscious biases

    Privilege does not mean a life without struggles. We all have some form of privilege, whether it’s related to race, class, education, gender identity, ability, or sexual orientation. Acknowledging your privileges fosters empathy for marginalised groups. As an ally, you should challenge your biases, stereotypes, and assumptions (even if you are part of the LGBTQ+ community). LGBTQ+ prejudices can be subtle, and transphobia and biphobia exist even within the LGBTQ+ community. Being a better ally means being open to the idea of being wrong sometimes and being willing to work on it.

    8. Listen and trust Trans people on their identities and experience

    A Trans or Non-Binary person is the expert of their own experiences. Listen and trust them to know what they are talking about when it comes to their own gender identity. There is no one “right” way to be Trans; every Trans person has a unique experience. Some Trans people experience gender dysphoria; others do not. Some Trans people want to medically transition; others do not.
    If someone is questioning or exploring their gender identity, be patient with them, as this process can take time and they may wish to try out different names, pronouns, and gender expressions. Respect these choices and ask how you can best support them. Do not ask intrusive questions – we always say: “If you wouldn’t want someone asking your grandma those questions then don’t ask someone else.” You wouldn’t want your gran being asked about what her genitals look like!

    9. Support Trans people using the bathrooms they wish to use

    Going to a gendered bathroom can be a difficult and sometimes unsafe experience, especially for Trans people. Offer to accompany a Trans or Non-Binary person to the bathroom in a new setting, so they do not have to face any potential transphobia alone. Supporting and advocating for gender-neutral bathrooms is a great way to be an ally. Gender-neutral bathrooms can be a safer option for Trans people who are afraid of experiencing transphobia in binary bathrooms; they are also inclusive of Non-Binary people.

    10. Be careful about confidentiality and “outing”

    Some people feel comfortable telling others about their gender history and sexuality; some do not. If someone comes out to you, do not share this information with others without their consent. Let them choose if and how they want to tell other people. “Outing” people can have devastating negative consequences in a society which is still highly intolerant especially of Trans and Non-Binary identities.

  • 1. Trans Specific Allyship

    Trans people do not want to receive special treatment but they do want to be treated with dignity. Services, organisations, and individuals should actively seek to understand the issues associated with living a life with a Trans identity and some of the specific challenges and issues encountered by Trans people.
    It is also important to remember that some Trans people experience mental ill health that is completely separate from their gender identity and should be treated as such. Whether you are a family member, a friend, a colleague, or providing a service that is available to a Trans person, please remember that you are dealing with another fellow human being.
    The following are tips that can be used as you move toward becoming a better ally to Transgender people. Of course, this list is not exhaustive and cannot include all the ‘right’ things to do or say – because often there is no one ‘right’ answer to every situation you might encounter.
    When you become an ally of Transgender people, your actions will help change the culture, making society a better, safer place for Transgender people – and for all people (Trans or not) who do not conform to gender norms or expectations. You can’t tell if someone is Transgender just by looking? Transgender people don’t all look a certain way or come from the same background, and many may not appear ‘visibly Trans’. It’s not possible to look around a room and ‘see’ if there are any Transgender people (it would be like a straight person looking around the room to ‘see’ if there are any gay people). You should assume that there may be Transgender people at any gathering.

    2. Don’t make assumptions about a Transgender person’s sexual orientation

    Gender identity is different than sexual orientation. Sexual orientation is about who we’re attracted to. Gender identity is about our own personal sense of being male or female (or someone outside that binary). Transgender people can be gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, straight or any other sexuality.

    3. If you don’t know what pronouns to use, listen first.

    It’s perfectly OK to ask someone which pronoun they use, start with your own. For example, “Hi, I’m Dani and I use she/her pronouns. What about you?”. If you’re in a social situation and unsure which pronoun a person uses, listen first to the pronoun other people use when referring to that person, or simply use their name.
    Someone who knows the person well should be using the correct pronouns. Then use that person’s preferred pronoun and encourage others to do so. If you accidentally use the wrong pronoun, apologise quickly, then move on. The bigger deal you make out of the situation, the more uncomfortable it is for everyone.
    It’s worth noting that these are not ‘preferred’ pronouns for someone any more than the ones you use are preferred – they just are the pronouns that feel right for someone.
    You can always try practicing these with other friends if someone has just come out and you are trying to get used to their new pronouns.

    4. Don’t ever ask a Transgender person what their ‘real name’ is.

    For some Transgender people, being associated with their birth name is a tremendous source of anxiety, or it is simply a part of their life they wish to leave behind. Respect the name (and pronouns) a Transgender person is currently using. If you happen to know the name someone was given at birth but no longer uses, don’t share it without the person’s explicit permission. Similarly, don’t share photos of someone from before their transition, unless you have their permission.
    This is also sometimes known as someones ‘dead name.’ Dead-naming people purposefully and constantly is one of the most Transphobic and hurtful things you can do.
    Top tip from our team
    “Always use the current name and pronoun that someone uses, even if you are talking about them in past terms such as when you were at school. Dead-naming someone can not only be hurtful but it can put people in danger as they may not be out to other people who may hear you talking.”

    5. Understand the differences between ‘coming out’ as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or pansexual and ‘coming out’ as Transgender.

    ‘Coming out’ to other people as lesbian, gay, bisexual (LGB) and pansexual is typically seen as revealing a truth that allows others to know your authentic self. The LGB community places great importance and value on the idea of being ‘out’ in order to be happy and whole.
    When a Transgender person has transitioned and is living as their authentic gender – that is their truth. The world now sees them as their true selves.
    Unfortunately, it can often feel disempowering for a Transgender person to disclose to others that they are Transgender. Sometimes when others learn a person is Trans they no longer see the person as a ‘real’ man or woman, or they can be dismissive of Non-Binary and other gender variant people.
    Some people may choose to publicly discuss their lives in an effort to raise awareness and make cultural change, but please don’t assume that it’s necessary for a Transgender person to always disclose that they are Transgender in order to feel happy and whole.

    6. Be careful about confidentiality, disclosure, and ‘outing’.

    Some Transgender people feel comfortable disclosing their Transgender status to others, and some do not. Knowing a Transgender person’s status is personal information and it is up to them to share it. Do not casually share this information, or ‘gossip’ about a person you know or think is Transgender.
    Not only is this an invasion of privacy, it also can have negative consequences in a world that is very intolerant of gender difference – Transgender people can lose jobs, housing, friends, or even their lives upon revelation of their Transgender status.

    7. Respect the terminology a Transgender person uses to describe their identity.

    The Transgender community uses many different terms to describe their experiences. Respect the term a person uses to describe themselves (e.g., transgender, transsexual, genderqueer, cross-dresser, etc.).
    If a person is not sure of which identity label fits them best, give them the time to figure it out for themselves and don’t tell them which term you think they should use. You wouldn’t like your identity to be defined by others, so please allow others to define themselves.

    8. Be patient with a person who is questioning or exploring their gender identity.

    A person who is questioning or exploring their gender identity may take some time to find out what identity and/or gender expression is best for them.
    They might, for example, choose a new name or pronoun, and then decide at a later time to change the name or pronoun again. Do your best to be respectful and to use the name and/or pronoun requested.

    9. Understand there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to transition – it is different for every person.

    Some Transgender people access medical care like hormones and surgery as part of their transition. Some Transgender people want their authentic gender identity to be recognised without hormones or surgery. Some Transgender people cannot access medical care, hormones, and/or surgery due to many reasons such as lack of financial resources.
    A Transgender identity is not dependent on medical procedures. Just accept that if someone tells you they are Transgender – they are.

    10. Don’t ask about a Transgender person’s genitals, surgical status, or sex life.

    It would be inappropriate to ask a non-Transgender person about the appearance or status of their genitals, and it’s equally inappropriate to ask a Transgender person those questions.
    Don’t ask if a Transgender person has had ‘the surgery’ or if they are ‘pre-op’ or ‘post-op.’
    If a Transgender person wants to talk to you about such matters, they will bring it up. Similarly, it wouldn’t be appropriate to ask a non-Transgender person about how they have sex, so the same courtesy should be extended to Transgender people.

    11. Avoid backhanded compliments or ‘helpful’ tips.

    While you may intend to be supportive, comments like the following can be hurtful or even insulting:
    “I would have never known you were transgender. You’re so attractive.”
    “He’s so hot, I’d date him even though he’s transgender.”
    “You look just like a real woman.”
    “She’s so gorgeous, I would have never guessed she was transgender.”
    “You’re so brave.”
    “You’d pass so much better if you wore less/more make-up, had a better wig, etc.”
    “Have you considered a voice coach?”

    12. Challenge anti-Transgender remarks or jokes in public spaces – including LGB spaces.

    You may hear anti-Transgender comments from anti-LGBTQ+ activists – but you may also hear them from LGB people. Someone may think that because they’re gay it’s ok for them to use certain words or tell jokes about Transgender people. It’s important to challenge anti-Transgender remarks or jokes whenever they are said and no matter who says them.
    Top tip from our team: “It’s exhausting always being the people in the room that have to call out transphobic or homophobic remarks. Not only does it have more impact if someone who isn’t LGBTQ+ does it, it also makes us feel supported and protected. We can’t be ourselves without allies, and we can’t tell you how much it will mean to the LGBTQ+ person you are protecting. Try to do this even when LGBTQ+ people are not in the room.”

    13. Support gender neutral public restrooms.

    Some Transgender and gender non-conforming people may not feel like they match the signs on the restroom door. Encourage schools, businesses, and agencies to have single user, unisex and/or gender neutral bathroom options. Make it clear that Transgender and gender non-conforming people are welcome to use whichever restroom they feel comfortable using.

    14. Help to make your company or group truly Trans-inclusive.

    ‘LGBT’ is now a commonplace term that joins lesbian, bisexual, gay, and Transgender under the same acronym. If you are part of a company or group that says it’s LGBT-inclusive, remember that Transgender people face unique challenges, and that being LGBT-inclusive means truly understanding the needs of the Trans community.

    15. At meetings and events, set an inclusive tone.

    At a meeting where not everyone is known, consider asking people to introduce themselves with their name and pronouns. For example, “Hi, I’m Nick and I use the pronouns he and him.” This sends the message that you are not making assumptions about anyone’s gender, and that people are free to self-identify. Start with yourself and use a serious tone that will discourage others from dismissing the activity with a joke.
    However, if you feel this practice will have the effect of singling out the Transgender people in the room, avoid it.
    In a group setting, identify people by articles of clothing instead of using gendered language – for example, the “person in the blue shirt,” instead of the “woman in the front.” Similarly, “Sir” and “Madam” are best avoided.

    16. Listen to Transgender people.

    The best way to be an ally is to listen with an open mind to Transgender people themselves. Talk to Transgender people in your community. Check out books, films, YouTube channels, Trans social media pages and Transgender blogs to find out more about Trans lives.

    17. Know your own limits as an ally.

    None of us know everything and things can change pretty quickly in the world of LGBTQ+ terminology and issues. Don’t be afraid to admit when you don’t know something. It is better to admit you don’t know something than to make assumptions or say something that may be incorrect or hurtful. Then seek out the appropriate resources that will help you learn more.

    18 Transgender people are people and can be employees and customers

    Here are some tips for businesses that will help you provide an excellent service for trans people
    Always use the name and title (e.g. Mr, Mrs, Ms, Mx etc.) that the Trans person wants to be called. If you are unsure about a person’s gender identity, or how they wish to be addressed, ask for clarification. Doing this shows a level of understanding of Trans issues.
    Do not comment on a Trans person’s appearance or ‘passability’ unless they specifically ask for your opinion.
    Do not confuse being Trans with sexual orientation. It is a gender issue. Trans people can be heterosexual, lesbian, gay, bisexual, pansexual, asexual, or otherwise.
    In the UK, it is illegal under the Gender Recognition Act (UK) to disclose someone’s Trans status without prior consent or to anyone who does not explicitly need this information. This is something which should be avoided in Guernsey as well (it is also illegal in Guernsey to do these things in a persons place of work due to GDPR rules and Guernsey’s Sex Discrimination in the Workplace Law which covers Trans people).
    Become knowledgeable about Transgender issues by getting training and knowing where to access resources.
    Remember that not all Trans people are the same. Like everyone else, different Trans people have different identities, experiences, needs, and interests.
    Welcome Trans people by getting the word out about your services and displaying Trans-positive information in your workplaces.
    Establish an effective workplace policy for addressing discriminatory comments about and behaviour towards Trans people.