Supporting Gender Diverse/Questioning Friends
Do you have friends who may be gender diverse, or questioning their gender? Do you sometimes feel unsure of how to support your friends in their transition journey? Are you sometimes unsure of a new friend’s gender, and are unsure of how to address them?
Keep reading for key information on how you can be an ally to your gender diverse or questioning friends!
Allyship: To be an ally is a lifelong commitment to continual learning and reflection. Being an ally requires active and consistent support to those who do not have the privileges that you do. It involves owning your mistakes, de-centering yourself, and leveraging your power to transfer the benefits to those who lack it.
The first step to becoming a supportive ally is to take ownership over your education and educate yourself.
Below you will find a list of ways that you can be a supportive ally- this list is not exhaustive.
1. Be careful with confidentiality
If someone you know is going through a transition and they share their new name or gender with you, ask them if they feel comfortable with you sharing this information, and which people you can use this name/pronoun around. Unless they explicitly tell you that it is okay to use this name/pronoun around others, do not disclose this information to others. The person who is going through the transition may not be at a place where they are sharing their transition with everyone yet, and it is important that they are able to make that decision for themselves.
2.Commit to learning and doing better
If someone navigating a transition shares their pronouns with you, ensure that you actively work to use their new pronouns moving forward. One way to practice using a friend’s new pronouns would be to talk about that person in your head and try to come up with 5 compliments using their new pronouns.
If you do happen to make a mistake by misgendering someone, ensure that you apologize swiftly, correct the mistake and move forward by committing to doing better in the future. You can also be a supportive ally by standing up for others if you witness someone being misgendered or harassed for their gender.
3.Don’t make assumptions
When meeting someone new, don’t make assumptions about their gender, pronouns, or sexual orientation. Ensure that you leave space for those you are meeting to introduce themselves. Additionally, if you meet someone for the first time and you don’t know what pronouns to use, listen first! You can also try introducing yourself by offering your pronouns to create a safe space to share their pronouns. Should they choose not to offer pronouns, it is most inclusive to not use gender binary language (I.e., try not to say he/him or she/her), and instead use the person’s name instead of a pronoun (I.e., “John just said this” instead of “He just said this”), or use gender neutral pronouns such as they/them.
4.Be respectful to their process
Be patient with those you know who are navigating through a transition. It can take some time for them to figure out what feels most affirming, and they may change their mind about different aspects of their transition throughout their journey. Don’t take it personally if it has taken some time for someone you know to share parts of their identity with you, as it is their journey and their decision to make. Instead, reflect on what you might be able to do to help them feel safer around you. Commit to being respectful and honouring what feels right for them.
Support those you know going through a transition by avoiding backhanded compliments or “helpful” tips such as:
- “You look just like a real woman!”
- “I would never have known you were transgender!”
- “You should try seeing a voice coach.”
- “You’re so brave!”
Instead, try saying things like:
- “You look great!”
- “You look so much happier!”
- “Is there anything I can do to help?”
Want to learn more about how to be a great ally? Check out the following resources:Relationships, Sexual Health