As a nation we have less than two months until the master of reality television, Donald J. Trump, is inaugurated as the next President of the United States. Like a majority of the country, and a trans person, I feel like this idea is disgraceful, overwhelming, and sobering. As Trump's choices for his cabinet reveal themselves I am struck with terror for myself and the rest of my country. Though my anguish tends to surrounds trans folks of color because they are the most vulnerable to violence and oppression in many ways.
LGBT, and especially trans, issues were not discussed in the presidential debates. This fact is alarming when so many are concerned about or have an opinion on bills like HB2 in North Carolina. On top of that, a majority of Vice President-elect Mike Pence's platform has been based on the oppression of women and LGBT people. Sure, gay marriage has been passed in the United States but we're nowhere done and Mike Pence directly threatens the equality, safety, and livelihood of LGBT people in our country. The lack of education and acceptance of marginalized people in our country is encountered by us daily.
On the eve of Thanksgiving I was traveling with my girlfriend. We were waiting for our flight to board and seated near a family in the Newark, NJ airport. The husband randomly and without solicitation asked his wife, "Was that a man or a woman?" She looked confused and said, "Who?" My ears perked up and I found myself witnessing a cis straight couple attempt to dissect the gender identity of a person who they did not know, saw twenty-four hours previously, and would never see again. He said, "Yesterday, he or she was next to you at the salon." The wife went on to list the reasons she believed this person was a woman. He kept saying, "Are you sure?" following everything she said. I was staring him down with rage and breaking my own fury with rolling my eyes. His wife noticed my disapproval and ended the conversation with him by claiming to "really like her look and her hair cut."
Instead of screaming at these people, I gave physical disapproval because this man had already talked about supporting Trump. As someone who is trans and was triggered in the moment I wasn't going to be helpful. We need allies to step into situations like this for us.
My partner and I went to Mexico for the holiday. Over dinner a number of topics came up: the safety pin controversy, the 37 gender options on Tinder, police brutality and the Black Lives Matter Movement. Sharing points with straight, white, and cis people allowed the fragmentation amongst the left become glaringly obvious to me. I tried to curb my anger by devouring another slice of sweet potato pie but I did end up losing my temper when talking about the actions to take next when supporting black folks and ending police brutality.
I feel like there are a number of ways to show people you are a safe person in our society. The biggest way to combat intolerance and to ensure others safety is listening to the communities when they take action. This may look like white people not having an opinion on the best route to end police brutality, non-Muslim people may sign up for the Muslim registry if it comes out, and cis dudes pushing to have trans men included in their spaces. To me an ally is someone who shows up to events that groups put on and engaging face to face with marginalized people. I know that getting involved with oppressed communities can be very uncomfortable. I ask you today to get uncomfortable, learn, listen and absorb these ways that will allow you to show up and be an ally to the trans community in particular.
1. Get Educated.
I know, I know. You watch Rupaul's Drag Race. You have a gay cousin. Those are all legit things but they are not trans specific and don't mean that you really comprehend the backcloth of the community, our needs, or our struggles. If possible, I recommend getting a trans 101 from a local trans advocacy group if you have one. If not, here are a few resources I recommend for education:
2. Speak Up. Seriously.
Like I said, many of us are too triggered at this point to take on people like the dude I encountered at the airport. Not only that, we need you to take a firm stance on the fact that trans men are men, trans women are women, and gender non-conforming folks are humans and we all deserve kindness, representation, and privacy. Please engage with other cis people. Not just online but face to face too. Our already very limited rights are seriously at risk.
3. Do You Know a Trans Person?
If you know a trans person, please consider personally helping them with their transitions. Name changes, gender marker changes, surgeries, housing, hormones, electrolysis, and doctor visits all cost money. Trans people face high levels of employment discrimination, homelessness, due to their transition that they can't move forward in because nobody wants to hire them. Consider giving them anything you have -- this may look like legal counseling, a job, a couch to crash on, therapy, or straight up cash. If you don't know a member of the community, please support LGBT and trans centric organizations.
4. Get Involved
If you can't volunteer for a trans advocacy group in your area please consider donating to a bevy of organizations such as:
5. Own Your Identity
One of the most effective things an ally can do for any movement is bring that movement's ideology in the mainstream. I suggest openly identifying as cisgender on dating apps and social media. This is a safety pin you can wear anywhere! Using this term will not only legitimize the existence of trans identities but it will help create conversations with other cis people. This will give you the chance to have hard and educational conversations for us. We're pretty burned out and would love it if you did some educating for us.
Marginalized people need true allies more than ever. I believe we all want the same things but are filled with fear and miss the mark regularly. For instance, ya'll arguing about safety pins is not the best way to go about using our energy and time. So, as we have more holiday fights and an insane news cycle to keep us busy -- I ask that we all try to take the time to listen to communities we are not a part of and do the work they ask us to do. Let's make 2017 a protected and affirming place during a dark time for many of us.