How To Be a Gender Affirming Trans Ally
To be a trans ally, you must be gender affirming to the transgender and non-binary people in your life. And there are many ways to be gender affirming! This little guide will help you be a better trans ally by affirming the gender of the trans people in your life, first and foremost. [This post is brought to you by transmasculine non-binary person, Jess!]
Use their name and pronouns
Using your trans friend’s new name and pronouns is the most basic thing a trans ally can do. I’m lucky enough to feel comfortable using a name that most people have used all my life (Jess). But when someone does revive my deadname (a longer version of the nickname, Jess, you can probably guess it), it does throw me off guard.
(Note: A “deadname” refers to the name a transgender person was born with and no longer uses.)
Pronouns are also important. I’ve been using they/them pronouns for a few years now. I always remember the first time someone in my life used my new pronouns. When close friends and family first began embracing my new pronouns, it made me feel real. It was pivotal for my gender journey and self-confidence.
- Don’t use a trans person’s deadname or old pronouns even when talking about them in the past. It is gender affirming to use their new name and pronouns in reference to the past even before they transitioned.
- If you mistakenly use the wrong name or pronouns, don’t overly apologize. Quickly correct yourself by using their correct name and/or pronouns and move on.
Use gender affirming compliments
When complimenting how your trans friends look, think about how those compliments can be gender affirming.
My wife and I spent a weekend with our transmasculine non-binary friend and their girlfriend. Their girlfriend always called them a “king” when they looked great, and they visibly beamed from it.
When I tried on each piece of my wedding fit, I thought about getting my suit vest tailored to fit a little more snug. My friend said, “No, I don’t think you need it tailored. It fits more masculinizing this way.” And while I agreed, I worried that others would think the vest didn’t look good because it was slightly big. But this one little comment boosted my confidence and I felt very assured in my gender and in the way I looked.
Small comments that uplift your trans friends while being sensitive and assuring about their gender can make the world of a difference.
Check in with what language is gender affirming for your friend
Another way to be gender affirming is to check in with what your trans friends are comfortable with. This can be especially important in the beginning of their transition and gender journey. As trans people become more comfortable with their gender and gender expression, their pronouns, titles, and informal pet names can also change and adapt. Check-ins are great to keep up with this!
When I went through the hardest parts of figuring out my gender, I found check-in templates on Twitter. Trans and non-binary people I followed posted these templates with updates about what they were comfortable with. The check-ins help allies know what words to use for their friends, and in turn, they help trans people feel affirmed in their gender.
While trans people get comfortable within themselves, it’s likely that some words they used to be okay with now make them uncomfortable. Words and adjectives have very gendered meanings in society. That is not a trans person’s fault. They did not construct society’s perception of gender, but are subjected to it.
Trans men might not like to be described as “beautiful.” Trans women might not be okay with friends referring to them as “dude.” Checking in with your trans friends is a good idea to make sure you use words that are gender affirming.
Remember every trans person is different
Lastly, it’s important for trans allies to remember that all transgender people are different. There is no one right answer; there is no one single approach. Try your best to balance educating yourself (like reading this post!) and maintaining open conversations between your trans friends. That way, you’re getting a baseline for how to be gender affirming and allowing nuance for each trans person.
Remember that when a trans person shares their identity, their name, their pronouns, their transition, they are inviting you into their journey. It is an invitation for you to show up for them. How you move forward with their trans identity can make or break a relationship. Stay open, compassionate, and remind yourself to be gender affirming at any opportunity.