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It turns out that I already had an essay entitled On Being an Ally.

Many of you are probably aware that last week a diary of mine encountered a commenter who was upset that any advances in our social, political, and/or socio-economic situation could be taken advantage of by people who only wished to "game the system".

So I was forced to spend some time trying to wrap my head around the concept of the commenter's "big hairy linebacker" claiming to be transgender to take advantage of the benefits of being perceived to be one of us.

I guess what I am missing is an enumeration of what those benefits exactly are.

That got me thinking about the allies for transpeople as opposed to those who are our enemies, the transphiles versus the transphobes--and those who fall someplace in between.

Rebecca Kling at Thought Catalog has Four Steps to being a better Trans Ally.  The piece was originally written at her personal blog in 2012, but it is still apropos.

Now Rebecca came out to her parents when she was 14.  Her parents responded positively.

We will love you, no matter what.

--Rebecca's mother

We’ll love you, whatever you are.  As long as you’re not a Republican.

--Rebecca's father

Rebecca's parents, in other words, accepted her…rather than merely tolerating her.

Just a reminder about the Riddle scale:  to tolerate something is to permit or allow it even though you disapprove of it.  Tolerance is better than repulsion (homosexuality/transgender is a crime against nature) and pity (heterosexuality/cisgender is a preferred state), but not as good as any of these states, in order of increasing desirability:  acceptance (That's fine with me as long as you don't flaunt it.), support (working to safeguard the rights of those who are different), admiration (willing to truly examine and acknowledge discriminatory attitudes, values, and behaviors), appreciation (willing to combat discrimination in themselves and others), nurturance (being willing allies and advocates).

To summarize Rebecca's steps:

Step Zero:  Don't deny someone else's reality.

Know when to keep your mouth shut.  Try to avoid saying things like:

1.  "But aren't transpeople just reinforcing gender stereotypes?"

2.  "I didn't like dolls or dresses when I was growing up, and that doesn't make me a man."

3.  "Gender reassignment surgery is just like any other plastic or cosmetic surgery."

4.  "But how could you ever want to cut off your penis?"

Rebecca suggests reading Derailing for Dummies to become aware of other ways you can assert your privilege over a marginalized groups, even in the case when you are in a marginalized group yourself (horizontal hostility).
Step One:  Educate yourself.

Ah, work.  Being supportive takes an effort.  That requires first admitting your ignorance and then trying to shore up the holes in your knowledge base.  Remind yourself that it is not the responsibility of every transperson to educate you.

Bumping into someone that you heard is trans at some social event does not give you the right to grill that individual about gender theory or what’s between their legs, in the same way straight people don’t have the right to ask gay or lesbian individuals, “Wait, how does sex work?”
Don't just read a Trans 101 somewhere.  Read every Trans 101 you can find.  Because there are as many different ways to be transgender as there are transgender people.  For instance, I support eveything that Asher Bauer at TranArchism (Not you mom's trans 101) says about being transgender, but the likelihood of finding the same words coming out of our mouths or brains or keyboards is extremely small.

Know when and where it is socially appropriate to ask questions.

StepTwo:  Begin to speak up.

Okay, you understand why you shouldn't use the words "shemale" and "tranny."  What now?

Flex your ally muscles.  Call out the next transphobic joke you hear.  Explain to your friends how they are bullshit.  Ask your friends, coworkers, and family to stop using offensive language about us.

Requires some courage, right?  You bet.  Just like living a transgender life requires some courage.

Be awesome!

Step Three:  Go big or go home.

Step up your game.  Ask your employer why there isn't a gender-neutral bathroom in your workplace.  (Unless there is, in which case you compliment your employer for being so forward-looking).  Check to see if transgender issues are covered by your health insurance plan.  Ask why that form you filled out requires you to disclose your gender by checking one of only two boxes.

Check to see if your community has protections for transpeople.  How about your state?  The Federal Government doesn't.  Put some effort into changing that.  And add some effort into changing the fact that transpeople still cannot serve in the military.

Be sensitive to other issues when they arise and step forward to help out.
Step Four:  Evangelize.

Get your friends to join you in being an awesome ally.  Explain to them how gender freedom really does impact them as well as transpeople.

If gender expression isn’t included in non-discrimination laws, you might be protected from being fired for being a lesbian but could still be fired for being “too masculine.”  If gender expression isn’t included in anti-bullying policies, a student might be protected from being called “faggot” but not from being told he “looks like a girl.”  Being a strong trans ally ultimately means being an ally to the entire queer community, as well as all the folks out there who aren’t queer but are read as being a little bit “different.”
The time is now.  End transphobia.
Transphobia is irrational fear and hatred of trans people. Transphobia is Silence Of The Lambs.  Transphobia is referring to transgender surgery as self-mutilation.  Transphobia is believing that trans people habitually “trick” or “fool” others into having sex with us.  Transphobia is believing that we are out to rob you of your hetero-or-homosexuality.  Transphobia is trans people being stared at, insulted, harassed, attacked, beaten, raped, and murdered for simply existing.

--Asher Bauer @ TranAnarchism

The time is now.

If you need some transgender advocates to emulate, I've got a link for that.  Highlighted are bisexual transman Bryan Ellicot, Allyson Robinson (OutServe-SLDN for a while more), Kylar Broadus (Trans People of Color Coalition), Bamby Salcedo (The TransLatin@ Coalition), Kokumọ (Kokumọmedia), and author/speaker Ryan Sallans.

People who want to be effective allies in the struggle for trans rights need to gain more understanding of the issues confronting trans individuals.  One way to educate themselves is to look at the work of transgender activists.  Whether the issue is workplace rights or transgender individuals serving openly in the military, these activists are taking action to secure equal rights for the trans community.

Originally posted to TransAction on Tue Jul 02, 2013 at 04:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by LGBT Kos Community.

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