Transgender Day of Visibility marks an annual event that celebrates the lives and contributions of transgender people while raising awareness of discrimination faced because of their authentic representation. As I continue to learn how to be an ally, I constantly reflect on ways to build better lives and relationships with my transgender siblings. This is not a one size fits all situation and causes constant self-reflection and community engagement on multiple levels as a person that lives and loves in my community.
This can be seemingly increasingly more difficult the farther out from the intersections we become. There is a norm in society that says if we don’t understand something, we can’t accept it. And that just can’t be more untrue. It is the very uniqueness of people AND THEIR HUMANITY that should make this world a place of more humility and acceptance.
Here’s my list of 4 things that we can do to be better allies for our transgender siblings:
1. Give them opportunities.
Not just for frontline work that you wouldn’t take. Good opportunities. Sustainable opportunities. Integral places to wield power. This includes training and educational opportunities that will allow them to move in a trajectory of established leadership. From my learning and growing, transgender people don’t only need people in power that can make their lives better, they need to be in power and empowered themselves. Over 30% of Black transgender women reportedly make less than $10,000/ year and sit as the most marginalized financial sector of America. Financial stability is, many times, more advocacy than you can imagine.
2. Stop calling on them when the numbers, data and pictures need to be taken.
When we approached my transgender siblings to begin to do work around allyship, I thought it would be an easy sell; after all, I’ve been working in the Houston community for over a decade and believed I was relatively known. They said, “No.” without even a second thought the first time. It took us many months to cultivate a relationship in which they felt comfortable. So many people show up with words and grants that don’t pay them for their lived experience, brilliance or their traumas that we constantly open up for the benefit of more funding. If you want to be an ally, it takes work, sacrifice, grit and resilience. Most importantly, it takes doing the work for their benefit and not for your data.
3. Know that there is no lack of brilliance.
We spend quite a bit of time talking about their hardship—and it is so important—but I see how it then desensitizes the need to celebrate their brilliance. Right here in Houston, we have some of the most esteemed thought leaders, creatives, leaders and educators who live a transgender experience. Out of being sensitive to their journey, I will not name them without permission for outing them. Still, they are the people I follow for information, go to for advice and laugh with during my times of socializing. Yes, their plight is difficult, but they still show up—and not only show up but show up BRILLIANTLY.
4. Speaking of outing people, don’t out people for your benefit.
Now that visibility is becoming more apparent there is always conversation about someone being “so passible” or “not passible”. (Passability politics will be coming up in a future conversation announced soon.) In other words, we end up talking about someone’s journey in being who they always were. That is not your business. Period. Depending on one’s comfort level, they may be willing to discuss this with you, but only on their terms. It’s their body and life. Don’t we all hate having to explain questions that are not important to random people? Just don’t do it.
These four things range from personal work to more structural work to be done as we celebrate Transgender Day of Visibility. Wherever you are on your ally journey, know that there is work to be done and our siblings need all of us to make their lives safer and their futures brighter. Tell us: what would you add to this list?