What Are Allies?
Allies are individuals who are committed to being open and affirming individuals in the lives of transgender and gender non-conforming folk. Allies are everyday people like teachers, healthcare providers, clergy, neighbors, friends, and family members. There are no special qualifications for becoming an ally, just a commitment to standing up for your transgender loved ones, speaking out against oppression, and being inclusive in all that they do.
Check Your Privilege
As a cisgender ally, you experience large amounts of privilege which transgender and gender non-conforming folk do not have. For example, you most likely have never had to worry about where you can safely use the bathroom and your identification most likely accurately lists your gender and name. You also have the privilege of not having your personhood constantly called into question and debated in the statehouse. You should not feel guilt for having your privilege, but you should be mindful of it and how it effects the way you view the world.
Stop and Listen
The role of an ally is to be sensitive to the experience of the transgender community and to help them in the ways in which they need help. A good ally takes the time to listen to their transgender loved one, to hear their needs, and to provide a non-judgmental and empathic ear. Unfortunately, because of their privilege, allies can fail to listen and try to tell their loved ones how to live and how to fight for their rights. This kind of allyship is not helpful. Just take the moment to listen.
Education is Key
Educating yourself about transgender identity and transgender issues and current affairs is essential. It is difficult to support someone and make the world a better place for them if you don’t have a good understanding of who they are and what things affect them. No one can claim to be an expert. Even transgender people who have lived the transgender experience for a lifetime cannot claim to be an expert because all of our experiences are different. Take every opportunity to learn more by listening and attending lectures, talks, and training sessions conducted by transgender people.
Use Your Privilege for Good
Use your privilege to speak out against transgender oppression, to fund transgender organizations, or to defend a transgender person who is being verbally or physically assaulted. Speak out against oppression, speak up in aid of a transgender person in distress, and speak loudly when transgender voices are drowned by their oppressors. Just remember, if you are speaking over a transgender voice, then you are not being an ally. By listening to what transgender people need from you, your privilege can be used in conjunction with their efforts to fight for themselves and improve the likelihood of systemic change.
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