On February 22, the Trump regime officially revoked the Obama administration’s protection guidance for transgender students in federally funded schools. Already, only 14 states have nondiscrimination protections for trans kids in K-12 schools, and with Democrats only in control of the trifecta of both chambers of the state legislature as well as the governorship in a meager six states, trans folks have few powerful allies in the government. It is really up to communities and municipalities to protect trans youth, even if Democrats make meaningful gains in the 2018 midterms. Here are seven ways you can support trans folks right now:
1. Educate yourself
The number one thing here is to understand that this is not just a political battle. This is about the very humanity of transgender Americans. “Debating” our identity trivializes and demeans us. We are not a discussion topic. So rather than reading unscientific, bigoted articles by cisgender folks, use the resources available online. Don’t expect your trans friends, family, and acquaintances to explain their identities to you. Do your own research.
You can start here:
- Vox: 9 questions about gender identity and being transgender you were too embarrassed to ask
- GLAAD: Transgender FAQ
- National Center for Transgender Equality: Frequently Asked Questions about Transgender People
- The Huffington Post: Transgender Explained: Everything You Need To Know About Being Trans
Ultimately, cis folks can never fully understand transness. Only trans folks can. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Trans folks aren’t asking cis folks to know what being trans is like. We’re just asking you to respect our identities and support us.
2. Highlight trans voices
funny how there have been more 'we are being silenced about trans people' columns in the last month than columns by trans people full stop
— TW (@TyronWilson) March 19, 2017
There are countless thinkpieces about trans identity written by cis authors. But even well-intentioned articles, such as cis writer Alyssa Rosenberg’s recent Washington Post piece, ultimately diminish trans folks by centering the conversation on cis voices. While some may argue that transphobic cis folks will only listen to other cis folks, research by the Human Rights Campaign found that people are more likely to support trans rights when they personally know a transgender person. Advocating for trans folks is important, but it is also important not to speak over us. So rather than reducing the conversation on transness and trans rights to cis allies vs. cis transphobes, find trans authors and let them tell their own stories. Then share those stories. Support those voices.
You can start by reading articles by these wonderful trans authors:
- Alex DiFrancesco: The Risks Of Telling Our Authentic Trans Stories
- Ana Valens: This Is Why I Write: Almost All Stories About Trans Women Are Written By Cisgender Authors
- Dr. Cary Gabriel Costello: A Red State is “Detransitioning” State Employees–Like Me
- Gender Bent: Being Violently Forced to be Someone You’re Not Is Not A Privilege
- Jarune Uwujaren: Why Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Comments on Trans Women are Wrong and Dangerous
- KC Clements: Being A Trans Kid Is Hard. Period.
- Laurie Richards: No, trans women do not grow up with male privilege
- Mia Violet: Dear Cis People, Please Support Trans Kids
- Morgan Page: Trans Women Shouldn’t Have To Constantly Defend Their Own Womanhood
- Sam Riedel: Deadnaming A Trans Person Is Violence — So Why Does The Media Do It Anyway?
- Ugla Stefanía Kristjönudóttir Jónsdóttir: Why I’m Sick Of Your ‘Male Privilege’ Argument
You can also follow these trans folks on social media:
- Alok Vaid-Menon, writer, entertainer, and performance artist
- Avery Edison, comedian
- Isis King, model and fashion designer
- Janet Mock, author, advocate, and TV host
- Jen Richards, writer, actress, and producer
- Katelyn Burns, essayist
- Laverne Cox, activist, actress, and producer
- Morgan Page, writer, artist, and activist
- Raquel Willis, activist, writer, and podcast host
- Sabrina Symington, model, illustrator, and cartoonist
- Seranine Elliot, model, musician, and actress
- Sophie Labelle, author, cartoonist, and public speaker
- Ugla Stefanía Kristjönudóttir Jónsdóttir, activist
3. Educate others
Unfortunately, not everyone is willing to do their research. So it’s your job to educate those that don’t want to be educated. If they are ignorant or bigoted, it’s on you to be their pro-trans resource. Transphobia cannot be fought with passivity. If you encounter transphobia, you must not just call it out, but attempt to explain to others why it is wrong.
You can start educating others on a daily basis by doing something as simple as sharing articles such as the ones I linked to above to your social media. Use your online network to increase trans visibility and amplify our voices.
4. Change your cover and profile pictures
Speaking of social media, another simple action you can take is changing your profile and cover pictures to pro-trans slogans or photographs from pro-trans events. This too can increase trans visibility and bring awareness to the pro-trans activism occurring.
The National Center for Transgender Equality found that one in five transgender people in the United States have experienced homelessness due to anti-trans discrimination. And it only gets worse from there.
For those respondents who had attempted to access homeless shelters, 29% were turned away altogether, 42% were forced to stay in facilities designated for the wrong gender, and others encountered a hostile environment. Fifty-five percent (55%) reported being harassed, 25% were physically assaulted and 22% were sexually assaulted.
Transgender Americans also suffer from wage and employment discrimination. Almost half of those surveyed by the National Center for Transgender Equality reported employment discrimination.
You can support trans folks by not only by donating to pro-trans organizations, but also by donating to individuals funds for trans folks to cover healthcare, housing, and other needs.
- Activist Caro Gonzales needs help paying legal fees after being arrested for protesting racism.
- Activist Gigi Thomas needs help paying for legal support in a case where she was forced to defend herself against an anti-trans attacker.
- Katelyn Burns needs help affording surgery.
- Rae Nelson needs help surviving.
- Whistleblower Chelsea Manning, whose sentence was commuted by President Barack Obama, needs help affording “rent, utilities, health care, clothing and other living expenses for the first year after she is released.”
Here are some important organizations to donate to:
- Audre Lorde Project
- Camp Aranu’tiq of Harbor Camps
- Jim Collins Foundation
- National Center for Transgender Equality
- Solutions Not Punishment Collaborative
- TGI Justice Project
- Trans Lifeline
- Trans Student Educational Resource
- Transgender Law Center
- Translatina Network
Along with donating, there are countless organizations, both local and national, that you can volunteer with. Go to the “Get Involved” pages of the organizations linked above to find out how you can help. Also, do research to find local transgender organizations you can support. A simple Google search should help guide you in the right direction.
7. Speak up and show up
Cisgender silence is violence.
Eight transgender people have been murdered this year already, all of them trans women of color. If you do not speak up and show up for trans folks, you are doing nothing to protect us from the violence perpetrated not only by hateful individuals, but by the state.
Because of the risk of violence and discrimination, trans folks are rarely safe to defend themselves verbally or physically. Verbal confrontation can lead to assault. Fighting back assaulters can lead to arrest, which often leads to being held in facilities that do not match one’s gender.
This is not a problem for cis folks. So you must use your safety to defend us at any and every point. This can start with something as simple as always introducing yourself with pronouns. By doing this, you establish a precedent that encourages cis folks not to assume pronouns based on gender expression or stereotypes. If other cis folks do not introduce themselves with pronouns, remind them to. It can be terrifying for trans folks to request that others introduce themselves with pronouns, as it means outing ourselves as “the trans person.” But allies can safely take this action that has a big impact on the way people view gender.
Another specific action allies can take is accompanying trans folks in gendered facilities. Seranine Elliot explains how cis women can assist trans women in using women’s restrooms:
You can also accompany trans folks when they go shopping for clothing or even donating clothing, as it can be unsafe to purchase gendered clothing as a trans person.
In essence, use your cis privilege and safety to fight transphobia at every turn. When you see transphobia, call it out. When you see an opportunity to educate, do so. Take initiative in donating, volunteering, and amplifying trans voices. Learn when to listen and when to speak. Be willing to change and improve. Remember that this is ultimately about our humanity and validity. Defend that. Because for us, it is life or death.
Jordan is a political writer, activist, cinephile, proud queer woman of color, and Mad Max: Fury Road fanatic. She’s cautiously optimistic about the future of humanity.