How to be a Trans Ally

This is a comment to an article in About.com, by Kathy Belge. I got the feeling it needed complement, allthough it is allright as a starter.

As a transactivist I belive it´s very important to have those trans allies. But, I also belive in telling them it´s not only about being nice to trans people. Being nice is common sense, somthing you can demand from everyone beling in human rights. And to remember things like using the preferred pronoun (don´t forget the s/he or ze for them who do not define themselves as men or women!), not assuming anything about peoples gender or sexual orientation, not labeling people, not tolerating anti-trans jokes, spreading rumours or go around telling things you heard in confidence, well, thas just common sense. It´s what you do to everyone, if you´re a nice person.

But, being a transally, you have to work. You do have to start with understanding how to be a nice peson, of course. After all, thats´s common sense in any movement, about any issues. Juat ask trans people themselves and you´ll soon find out how to behave properly. Then it´s time to roll up your sleves and start working. If your not into the making coffe, carrying things, printing poster kind of work, you pick a transissue. Hatecrimes, discrimination, better healthcare or schools, right to marry, right to change legal gender, to get sex reassignment therapy, and so on, there are numerous to choose from.

And then you do your homework, do the research about it. And of course start the never ending work enthuseing people in your campign. Doing that research, there are some simple advice to follow, to avoid the biggest mistakes.

Precedence of the target group!
Check so transpeople themselves agree with your opinions and how you prioritaise! And do primarly check with the transpeople that are concerned in the specifik issue, not other transpeople.

Never let anyone loose anything because your lobbying!

Trans people is a very heterogeneous gorup, with different needs. Do never act in a way letting one transgroup gain a right on another transgroups looses of a right

Check up on representativity!
Be carefull to listen not only to the ones who are loudspoken or your own contacts. Do systematicly investigate what different transgroups thinks about the issue and the networks you lobby in, for example by controlling what different transpersons in different transorganisations think.

Check up on the transgender-normativity!

All transpersons are not male–to-female transsexuals or transvestites, even tough it looks like that sometimes. Neither are all young and identifies as queer. Listen to many transpeople to get approval from the whole transcommunity.

Check up on the main opinion!
Not every transpersons think alike. If you not deliberatly want to lobby in a way only a minority of transpeople agree with, you should controll it´s the main opinion you actually do lobby in, nothing else.
Involve transgendered people

Try to involve transgendered people in your work.
Send texts for proofreading, ask for opinions on your work, accept help when offered and ask transgendered people to lecture together with you if your invited to lecture in a transissue.

Never say LGBT without meaning it!
Don´t write LGBT in headlines but forget transgendered in the rest of the text. That makes it much harder for transactivists to reach out with real transinformation.

Do your homework!
Make sure you know what you talk about. If you bring up wrong facts, you´ve made the work harder for others. The whole transmovment will look like we´re not serious.

You´re alright as yourself!
You can be a good transactivist, not having the experience of being a transgendered. But, if you do let people think your a transgendered, people will assume you have an experience you don´t have. People will not check up on your opinions the way they otherwise should have done, to see if transgendered people think alike. That excludes transgendered. Your good enough as you are, as your self!

Let transgendered be experts on their own lifes!
Doctors and psychiatrists might be experts in treating transsexuals. But not in transgendered peoples lifes, problems, opinions, feelings or need for human rights.

Don´t claim mandate you don´t have!
Please tell the world you’re transinclusive or even a GLBT-organisation, if thats your ambition. But if very few, or none, transgendered themselves are involved in your work in transissues, please clarify that too. Let the world around you have a reasonable chance to estimate your credibility and mandate in transissues.

Remember the differences between gay and transissues
The exposure is alike to all GLBT-people. Both homo- and bisexuals and transgendered suffer from prejudices, discrimination and harassments, hatcrimes and violence. But often the law offer protection only based on sexual orientation, not gender identity or gender expression.
Please remember, the laws does not protect transgendered as they protect homo- and bisexuals!

Homo- and bisexuals does get oppressed because of their sexual orientation, love and relations are considered not within the heteronormativity. Transgendered people does get oppressed because of our bodies, clothes, names, self-identified gender and legal gender are considered not within the gendernormativity.
Please remember not talking solely about sex and love when talking about GLBT-issues!

The gaymovement has been out of the closet since the seventies, the transmovment has just started opening the closet door in many countries. Because of that, gay- and GLB-organisations often have much better resources than the transmovement.
Please, do not lobby in transissues in a way that excludes organisations with very little resources, that excludes transorganisations!

With love and hope for a better society for all LGBT-people, Lukas Romson

Lukas Romson
Equality Consultant
Transactivist since 12 years
Has been in the board of RFSL and the Steering Committee for Transgender European Network Meeting, for the moment in the board for GLBT-Socialdemocrats Stockholm and president of KIM

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