By Tony Foster
Want to be a trans* ally? Be ProACTIVE!
Chances are that if you’re reading this, you’ve already heard how important Allies are to the
trans* community; maybe you’ve been reading about trans* issues, or a friend has recently
come out or you have attended an event at work. The problem is, you’re not sure what to do
now… well, the answer is to be ProACTIVE.
Pro – use the right Pronouns
Gender is not driven by how you look, it’s all about how you feel. So if someone has
recently come out as trans*, then use the pronouns appropriate to their announced gender
when referring to them. This can feel strange at first, but don’t worry if you make a mistake –
apologise once and move on. They will appreciate your effort to get it right.
For non-binary people, it can feel even stranger, particularly if this is the first non-binary
person that you’ve (knowingly!) met. Most non-binary people use they/them/their, which can
sound odd as a singular when you’re not used to it – but if you look at the previous paragraph
carefully, you’ll see that it’s actually commonplace English! Even if they prefer other
pronouns (such as ze/zir, xe/xem/xyr or ve/vir/virs) then they won’t have just decided on
them on a whim, so respect their choice and remember that practice makes perfect.
A – check your Assumptions
Just because someone looks male or female to you, don’t assume that’s how they identify.
A quick question is all it takes: “Excuse me, which pronouns should I use for you?”
C – Call out inappropriate language
If someone is getting it wrong, let them know! This doesn’t have to be right-there-and-then,
or confrontational – you could have a quiet word with them later
T – use the right Terms
There are many different identities under the trans* umbrella; “trans*” itself is a safe choice
as an adjective (never a noun), though often trans* people will identify more specifically – for
example as “transgender”, “non-binary” or “genderfluid”. However, unlike with pronouns, it’s
not really polite to ask – but of course if someone openly identifies as something more
specific than trans*, then use that term for them yourself where appropriate.
I – Increase your knowledge
There is so much diversity under the trans* umbrella that it can seem daunting at first. Start
with the basics – articles like this – and then keep learning steadily.
V – Volunteer
Trans* groups are often looking for help – whether that’s the LGBT network in the office, or a
trans* charity. Ask and see!
E – Educate others
Now you know how to be a ProACTIVE trans* ally, share what you’ve learned and create