Since the “6 Things I Don’t Need to Hear From Cisgender People” post was so popular (and since I think Brian is a genius and I like to copy him) I am following up that post with “8 Awesome Things Cisgender People Can Do.” Again, this is from my own experience, other people might have different opinions. And if you have more great things cisgender people can do/have done, leave them in the comments!
*Get my name and pronoun right. This seems like such a simple one, but it makes a huge deal to me (and it’s amazing how many people got it wrong). When someone tells you what name and pronoun they are going by, remember it. Get it right. Make a commitment to respect the other person by honoring their name. Even if you don’t think they “look like” whatever name or gender they tell you, this isn’t about you, it’s about them. Practice if you have to, pull out a photo of them and practice saying their new name and pronoun until it feels natural.
*Correct other people who get my name or pronouns wrong. Early in transition I got exhausted having to advocate for myself all of the time; not only about names and pronouns, but also about everything else. So it was great when a friend would step up and say, “hey, you got his pronoun wrong.” I had friends who would pull aside professors after class, who would correct other students. This was such an encouragement to me and made me feel loved and supported. It’s such an easy thing to do.
*Wear a Legalize Trans* shirt. Okay, this is kind of a funny one, but I would love to see a ton of cisgender people rocking Legalize Trans* shirts out in the world. At Pride, at church, at school. There are some trans folks who can’t wear the shirts for fear of being outed (and then being in danger), so we need cis folks to rep for us. And it’s not just about a tshirt, it’s about showing visible support for a marginalized community. It’s about advocating for us.
*When someone makes a transphobic joke, don’t laugh. And then tell them to knock it off.
*Listen to trans people tell their stories.
*If your church has a men’s Bible study, make sure to invite masculine identified trans people. If your church has a women’s group, invite female identified trans people. And don’t just invite them, but make them welcome. This is such a vital thing in churches where there are still gendered spaces. Trans people need to know that they can walk into the space in which they feel most comfortable and be welcome.
*Escort someone to the bathroom. This seems silly (and maybe others will disagree with me) but when I was visibly genderqueer it helped for me to have a cisgender friend go to the bathroom with me. It helped to make sure that they had my back if there was trouble and it sent a clear message to the other people in the restroom that I belonged. This helped to ease my anxiety about public restrooms. So if someone asks you to accompany them to the restroom, just do it.
*Make a commitment to becoming educated about trans issues. Read blogs, zines and books penned by trans people. Find out what protections there are (or aren’t) for trans people in your state or city.
*This is the most important one of all: Learn to see trans people as whole people, not just trans people. I am so much more than my gender identity. I am a poet, a writer, a brother, a baseball fan, a reader, etc. I don’t want to be reduced to just “your trans friend”. I want to be able to live and speak out of the fullness of my life and identity. This is why I get so cranky about continually having to do gender 101 for people. Other people have done that work, it’s out there if you would just do a little digging for it. And when you can educate yourself, then trans people have the chance to talk about something else for a change. When I no longer have to do gender 101, then I can move the conversation to be about deeper theological issues, or about other justice issues. But you have to do your part and get the education.
Feel free to add more in the comments. Let us know what great things the cisgender people are doing in your lives, and what they can do to be even better!