trans allyship

The ‘Shit Cis People Say’ Alphabet: V is for “valuable ally”

Welcome to another episode of the Shit Cis People Say Alphabet! Today:

V is for “valuable ally”

Somehow it seems like the only time cis people really talk about how valuable they are as allies as when y’all are threatening to stop. As in, “Why are you trans people so rude? You’re going to lose valuable allies that way.”

The thing about this phrase is it seems to misunderstand what allyship is in the first place, and what makes an ally valuable.

So first things first: simply believing that trans people have the same right that cis people have to go through life as the gender they identify as does not an ally make. All that qualifies you as is “not a virulent transphobe”.

Allyship isn’t about your personal beliefs, it’s about actually fighting alongside us and taking actions to make trans people’s lives better now and in the future. This can be something as simple as calling out people who say transphobic things, or doing work to educate your fellow cis people on trans issues (thus taking the burden of education off our shoulders), but it has to be something you’re actually *doing*.

Second, if your allyship (or, as is often the case, your “allyship” in the form of believing that trans people are worthy of dignity and respect) can be lost because a trans person (or even more than one trans person!) was mean to you one time, let me tell you: your allyship ain’t worth shit.

All people are worthy of dignity and respect, regardless of how they treat you. If trans people’s basic human rights are being offered to us at the cost of us being nice to cis people all the time, then what you’re talking about isn’t even equal rights in the first place. What you’re talking about is extending trans people the privilege of being treated as well cis people, as long as we behave correctly.

Cis people don’t have to deal with any of that shit, and neither should trans people.

Real talk: if you were actually a valuable ally, you wouldn’t be wasting your time telling us how to act, or making sure we know how valuable you are. You’d be doing the work, and your actions would speak for you.


Check out the rest of the “Shit Cis People Say” alphabet!

Gender Perspectives vol. 12. Special Edition: Perspectives on trans allyship

download[In the Gender Perspectives series, I aim to highlight diverse kinds of personal narratives and reflections on gender, gender presentation, and identity, to broaden the gender conversation and boost a variety of voices. Check out the rest of the series.]

For this special edition of the Gender Perspectives series, I’ve pulled together a bunch of posts that highlight what it means to be an ally to trans folx, and especially how to be a good one. I’ve deliberately included both the voices and perspectives of trans folx, and some examples of good allyship from cisgender people.

I’ve written very basically about the first steps toward becoming an ally, including how allies can be important, because they can use their privilege to accomplish things that those facing oppression cannot:
What to do now that you’re aware of your privilege(s) | Valprehension

Commonly, the refrain from someone who has their privilege pointed out to them is “So, what, then? Should I feel guilty about being [white/thin/straight/etc.]?” The answer to this question is, of course, no. Feeling sorry for your advantages in life does no one any good. But being aware of your privilege is important for a whole host of reasons. And there are things you can do with your awareness of your privilege.

 

Raye takes a very personal approach to describing ally behaviours that have had a positive impact in their life:
Five Ways Cis People Have Supported Me As A Genderqueer Person | Gender: Awesome

Some of the most meaningful forms of support I’ve encountered are moments where a cis person takes it upon themselves to do the work of educating other cis folks. Again, it’s important to first ask, then act. In one case, I was experiencing repeated misgendering from someone in one of my communities. It was hard for me to correct this person because I knew they weren’t doing it on purpose and I didn’t want to make them feel bad. But it was frustrating! When I vented to a friend, he volunteered to talk to that person if I wanted him to. I said yes, so he did. It was a perfect example of allyship and a huge relief to me.

 

Vincent discusses the problem of false allyship, and the problem of people who claim to be allies but then offer no support to those with whom they claim to be allied:
Allies: How to Tell False From True | Becoming Vincent

This shit is literally a matter of life or death for a lot of trans people. We often face much harsher words and attitudes just while trying to go about our day-to-day lives. There are, it seems, a great many people who want to jump on board the ally bandwagon without being fully aware of exactly what that entails. And so, mostly for the benefit of my fellow trans people but also for any cis person who is interested, I present my personal ‘true ally vs fake ally’ lists.

 

The author of genderrolling examines her own cis female privilege in a way that exemplifies the kjind of awareness that is vital for good allyship:
Females, and cisness, and privilege- oh my! | genderrolling

Explaining trans identity to cis people as a cis person, rather than as a trans person is like the difference between a man explaining feminism to a man compared to a woman explaining it. The man automatically has more respect because of how we privilege a man’s experience and opinion in society. Likewise, my cisgenderness is a privilege that transwomen simply do not have.

 

Finally, the Cisgender Privilege Pledge is a good starting point for anyone who wants to start actively thinking about being a cis ally to trans people. Please consider doing your own, and let me know in the comments!
Example 1
Example 2