Some of us are newer to the whole transgender world than others, and this blog post is meant for the newbies. While fully supporting the transgender community and trying to be more vocal about it, I’ve made a few mistakes without meaning to – either because I didn’t know better or I failed to think before opening my mouth. (Those who know me know that happens from time to time. My mouth opens before my brain can put the brakes on. Especially when it comes to chocolate, but that’s another story.)
I came across this from GLAAD, which covers things that allies should know. I found it really interesting, so I thought I’d share it here for others who might also enjoy it. Think of it as a kind of “Ally 101” tip sheet. Some of it seems pretty damn intuitive to me — like, don’t “out” someone as trans, and don’t assume you know someone’s sexual preferences based on which gender they identify with. Duh. But there were a few interesting things I hadn’t really thought about.
For instance, do you know the differences between “coming out” as lesbian, bisexual, or gay and “coming out” as transgender? I guess I thought I did but I was wrong. (You heard it here first.) Here’s what GLAAD has to say:
“Coming out” to other people as lesbian, gay, or bisexual is typically seen as revealing a truth that allows others to know your authentic self. The LGB community places great importance and value on the idea of being “out” in order to be happy and whole.
When a transgender person has transitioned and is living as their authentic gender – that is their truth. The world now sees them as their true selves. Unfortunately, it can often feel disempowering for a transgender person to disclose to others that he or she is transgender. Sometimes when others learn a person is trans they no longer see the person as a “real” man or woman. Some people may choose to publicly discuss their lives in an effort to raise awareness and make cultural change, but please don’t assume that it’s necessary for a transgender person to always disclose that they are transgender in order to feel happy and whole.
This is a huge distinction and one I hadn’t really thought through, even with all of my good intentions. I guess I thought it would be liberating for them to disclose it, that it denotes a special strength inside to ‘come out’ and live their authentic life. I have much to learn.
I also liked the explanation of why you shouldn’t ask for a trans person’s name at birth:
For some transgender people, being associated with their birth name is a tremendous source of anxiety, or it is simply a part of their life they wish to leave behind. Respect the name a transgender person is currently using.
Perhaps because I’m a writer, I’ve always loved naming things. Pets, my children, and businesses. Words have power to me, and names are at the top of that list. So I might’ve wanted to know what their birth name was, and how they came up with their trans name, simply out of curiosity. Like, “How did you go from X to Y?” But I realize now, after reading that, it doesn’t matter. They are now “Y” for their own reasons which are none of my business. Point taken.
Thank you, GLAAD, for sharing these tips for those of us who are trying to learn. And thank you to the trans community for bearing with me and others who really do want to learn. This is uncharted territory for some of us and there are bound to be some hiccups along the way. But with time, love and acceptance, I hope we’ll get to a place someday where primers won’t be necessary. It’ll be second nature to us.