My involvement and advocacy for the LGBTQ community (specifically the transgender community) started when my best friend came out and said that he would be transitioning from female to male. This news came in the form of a Facebook post shared to the public, with a final comment that if anyone wanted to continue to be his friend on Facebook he had created a new profile under his preferred name and pronouns. As this was something that was obviously important to him, it became important to me. However, this was a totally new experience for both of us, so most of the time neither of us knew what was going on. I didn’t always know how to help him and he didn’t always know what to tell me about how I could help him. I am still learning how to be a better ally for him.
The transgender community is not something that I have had a lot of experience with. Hearing members of the transgender community share their experiences helped me to realize the importance of listening when it comes to becoming an ally to the transgender community. There are problems transgender people must face that I will not experience, such as transitioning costs of medications and surgeries, and coming out to their friends, families, and potential partners. Learning to listen gav me a better understanding of what it is like to go through a transition, as well as a basis from which I can research more about the transgender community.
One of the biggest things an ally should do is respect – respect a person’s preferred pronouns and respect them. Allies should be conscious of the language they use, making sure that using preferred pronouns and preferred names are essential. The easiest way to do this is to, again, listen to the trans person when they are talking – what do they identify themselves as? What pronouns and other language do they use? Listening for these things will give cues as to what they want to hear in return, and using their preferred terminology will express the ally’s commitment to caring about and advocating for them. It is important to “not judge a book by it’s cover,” meaning that it is important to actually get to know the person inside versus what you perceive on the outside. To many members of the trans community, transitioning is not a choice; rather, it simply just is. It is their life and the only choice they really have is whether or not they choose to express their true gender.
Hearing more and more stories from the trans community only makes me more passionate about being an advocate and ally for the transgender community. It was great to just listen to and have a real talk about what it is like to be out as a transgender person and how I as an ally can better help the transgender community. I leave this experience with newfound knowledge about the importance of education on the LGBTQ community and will continue to spread awareness to the transgender community.
Molly Slocum is a senior at Central Michigan University studying Special Education for Cognitive Impairments and Secondary English Education. Molly is an advocate and friend for all and can be followed on Twitter: @mollyjae11
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