Working Towards Trans Inclusivity
Today marks the start of Transgender Awareness Week and culminates with Transgender Day of Remembrance on November 20th – a solemn day across the US and the world. Each year, folks across the globe take a step back and create space to honor the memory of folks who lost their lives due to anti-transgender violence. This year alone in the US, 25 transgender or non-binary people were brutally murdered – and they primarily have been trans women of color. The 2017 Transgender Day of Remembrance is on November 20th. To learn more about this memorializing event or to find a vigil near you, please go to https://tdor.info/.
While we can’t end anti-transgender violence overnight there are things you can do right now that can improve the lives of not only transgender folks but for everyone.
Avoid Assumptions: Don’t assume you know the gender of everyone you meet. Introduce yourself with the pronouns you use and ask others for theirs in addition to the name they go by. Just because someone looks or acts in a specific way, doesn’t indicate anything about them.
Quick tip: Did you make a mistake about someone’s pronouns or name? Simple, acknowledge, apologize and move on.
Be Aware of Impact: Sometimes we say or do something with good intentions but they end up having unintended consequences. When you say things that are gender specific (ladies and gentlemen), minimize a person’s identity (neutrals pronouns are too hard to remember), or ask inappropriate questions (have you had the surgery yet?) could be incredibly harmful to a transgender or non-binary person.
Quick tip: Not sure if you should ask a question or say something to a transgender or non-binary person? Before you say anything think about how the other person may interpret what you’re saying? Would you want to answer that question yourself? Do you know the person well enough that you would share that information? Think before you speak.
Be Proactive: We are often in settings when we can be proactive to avoid anti-transgender behavior but often don’t act in the moment. If we’re planning events we can be proactive about name tags and bathrooms. If we’re leading meetings, we can universally ask everyone what pronouns they use. We can model inclusive behavior.
Quick tip: Getting push-back on trying to be trans inclusive? Respond by explaining why it’s important to you (even as a cisgender person). It’s harder to push back against something when it’s personal.
Intervene: Sometimes anti-transgender behavior isn’t passive and rather it’s quite explicit. If a co-worker says something transphobic, let them know. If a legislator is sponsoring an anti-transgender bill, give them a call. If someone misgenders another person, correct them. A family member, says there’s only two sexes – let them know the truth. It’s not always easy to call out someone and the most appropriate way depends on the situation. You can do it.
Quick tip: Practice makes perfect. Role-play with your friends and family about interrupting anti-trans rhetoric.
Acknowledge your Power: Deciding whether or not to intervene against anti-transgender behavior, to be proactive about creating trans inclusive events, to have folks assume your correct pronouns – are all benefits you have because of your cisgender privilege. Own that your have that privilege and use it to improve the lives of folks who don’t.
Quick tip: Our identities are intersectional – most of us hold privilege in some ways and are also oppressed in other ways. Let’s work collectively to address all injustice as we can’t isolate anti-transgender violence from other types of oppression such as racism, classism and sexism.