November 20th is International Transgender Day of Remembrance. This day is dedicated to remembering and honouring the trans people whose lives have been lost to transphobic violence.
As a genderfluid and transmasculine person, this day is particularly important to me. I have been a part of queer and trans communities for most of my youth and adult life, and I personally know (and fiercely love) many trans folks who have been physically abused or sexually assaulted because of their trans identities. I am fortunate that all of my trans friends are still alive, but we are among the lucky ones who have had each other to lean on for support and have carved out little spots in this world where we can belong.
Trans folks (especially those with little to no support from friends and family and transgender youth in particular) are also at a much higher risk for suicide. In Canada, trans youth are five times as likely to experience suicidal ideation and 7.5 times more likely to attempt suicide than their cisgender peers. Therefore, on this day, I also like to remember not only those who were murdered but those who took their own lives because the world they lived in did not treat them with the kindness, love, and respect that they deserved.
In honour of the trans folks who have been taken from us this year and of the trans people whose hearts are still beating inside them, we wanted to share a few ways that cis allies can work towards making their feminism more trans-inclusive. By actively committing to trans inclusivity as a community, we can shift our culture and make it safer for trans people to thrive, not just survive.
DID YOU KNOW?
1. Do your Research
You are already reading this article, so you have made an excellent first step!
Too often, marginalized people are expected to take on the emotional labour of explaining and justifying their existence with little or no compensation for their efforts. This applies as much to trans identities as it does to race, religion, ethnic background, sexuality, or any other marker of difference.
Don’t rely on transgender people to tell you how to be a good ally or educate you about transgender terminology and issues. Do your research and understand the difference between credible and not credible sources. Websites like Wikipedia, where anyone can edit the information, are often not considered credible sources. Here are some credible resources to get you started:
GLAAD’s “Tips for Allies of Transgender People”
Spectrum Waterloo’s Resources Page
Planned Parenthood’s List of Transgender Identity Terms and Labels
2. Be Intersectional!
Understand that not all trans people experience oppression and privilege the same. For example, a white trans man does not have to contend with the additional challenges of racism and trans-misogyny that a black trans woman does, even though they may both face transphobia.
Understanding intersections of identity and how they impact the lives of the people around us are one step toward making our feminism not just trans-inclusive but all-inclusive (i.e. Intersectional).
Watch Kimberlé Crenshaw’s TED Talk on “the Urgency of Intersectionality” to learn more.
3. Use Gender-Inclusive Language
Avoid using language that assumes that binary genders are the ‘neutral’ or the ‘normal’ way of being in the world.
For example, when discussing issues such as menstruation or pregnancy, recognize that trans men and non-binary people (not just cisgender women) have uteruses. Instead of saying “pregnant women,” try using “pregnant people” or “people with the ability to become pregnant” instead of “women.”
Additionally, instead of referring to unknown subjects (for example, when writing about an anonymous author) using “he/she” or “he or she,” try using the singular “they.” This avoids the assumption that the unknown subjects’ gender identity is binary.
Please take a look at the 519’s Media Guide and their section on Trans and Non-binary communities as a starting point.
4. Speak up and Speak out
When you hear or see other cis people saying or doing something transphobic, call them in if it is safe to do so and let them know why it is hurtful. Do this even when there are no trans people around.
If someone misgenders (uses the wrong pronouns) for someone, politely correct them!
Take a look at this article from Healthline about how to identify and address transphobia.
5. Elevate Trans Voices
If you have the privilege, use it!
In matters concerning trans folks, use your voice to elevate the voices of trans people. Let us speak for ourselves on the issues that concern our health, safety and well-being. Trans people are the best experts on their own lives.
For example, consider asking trans employees how policies around name changes could be improved in a workplace setting. Be careful not to place undue expectations on trans folks to come up with all solutions to trans-related issues, as you may fall into the same trap as tip #1 (emotional labour without compensation). Consultation with trans people is better than placing the burden of creating change entirely on them.
Read the article “Amplifying Marginalized Voices: Steps Toward Allyship” from the David Eccles School of Business as a starting point.
6. Reflect on your own Gender Identity, Presentation, and Expression.
For many trans people, gender is something we are constantly aware of and engaged with. It may be helpful for you to think about your gender identity, presentation, and expression.
For example, what does it mean to be a man or woman? What does your culture say about masculinity and femininity? Do you fit into your culture’s standards or occupy spaces outside them?
What kind of masculine or feminine expression do you present? Maybe you are a ‘tomboy’ or a ‘girly’ girl. Perhaps you are a ‘macho’ or nerdy’ man. What does it mean to express your gender in these ways? Are you always masculine? Are you always feminine? What does it mean to be masculine or feminine?
Thinking about your own gender identity and expression will help you to understand yourself better, and it will also help you to understand the spectrum of gender. Try reading this article by the Trevor Project to get started.
You can also consider your cisgender privilege by reading this list from IPM.
7. Engage with Trans Content / Trans Creators
Enjoy media from and about trans people! It’s that simple!
Trans people deserve to be celebrated, not just mourned. Engaging with trans artists, musicians, actors, and social media influencers are just some ways that we can celebrate and honour the many contributions that trans people have made to our culture and society!
Visit Carleton University’s Transgender Media Portal to find your new favourite thing!
8. Vote for Political Candidates who will Protect Trans Rights
There has been a lot of transphobic rhetoric in the news lately, especially in the recent Ontario school board elections. Thankfully many of these anti-trans candidates did not gain seats, but this is only because trans allies came out and voted for the candidates who would protect trans rights and the right for all students to feel safe and represented in the classroom.
If you are eligible to vote, you should do your research and vote in a way that supports the rights of trans people and other marginalized communities.
I hope this post has given you something to think about on this Trans Day of Remembrance and that you take the time today to remember the trans people whose lives have been cut short. I also hope that you take the time today and every day to support the trans people in your lives and your communities so that we can all make this a better world to live in together.
SASC stands in solidarity with transgender survivors and offers services to people of all gender identities and expressions. If you need support today, please get in touch with our 24-Hour Support Line at 519-741-8633. You can also sign up for our groups and workshops or fill in an intake form to be connected with our other services.
Written by Danny
Danny is the Fundraising and Social Media Assistant for SASC.
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