Daily life can sometimes feel like a nonstop game of self-advocacy Whac-A-Mole when you’re a trans person: correcting people who misgender you, educating others about gender identity, dealing with microaggressions, and straight-up transphobia — the challenges are constant. Trans people also have to face harmful policies, like anti-trans laws and school policies. It’s…a lot.
That’s why it’s so important to advocate for TGNCNB+ friends, family members, coworkers, and communities — allies can use their privilege to help lighten the burden of living in a transphobic culture. Allies can also work on changing the culture to end transphobia. Here are a few simple ways you can help support someone you love who’s trans:
1. Ask your trans friend or loved one what they need.
The desire to be a trans ally is beautiful. But it’s important to center the actual needs of trans people and not what you think trans people need. Make sure your help is actually helpful. Being a real ally is about authentically supporting your loved ones; it’s not about looking like a good person, protecting your feelings, or avoiding your discomfort.
One of the best ways to be a good advocate to your trans friends and family members is simple: Talk to them, and listen to what they say.
You can let them know you love them no matter what. Ask them if there’s anything they need to feel supported — either in your personal relationship with them or within a social setting, like a sports team or group of friends. It’s also important to let them know they can share as much or as little with you as they’d like, and that you’ll keep it private, unless they say it’s OK to tell others. For example, some TGNCNB+ people aren’t out to everybody, so they may use different pronouns depending on the situation.
Open communication is great, but also be mindful of overstepping. If you’re always bringing up their gender identity or asking them questions about it, it may feel uncomfortable, intrusive, and othering. So give them the opportunity to share what they need to feel affirmed, but respect their boundaries around what they choose to tell you.
Basically, treat your friends and loved ones the way you’d want them to treat you: with respect, dignity, and compassion.
2. Speak up.
If you hear someone use the wrong pronouns or say something transphobic or untrue about TGNCNB+ people, say something — either in the moment or at a time when you can have a direct discussion with them. But check in to make sure your trans loved one is OK and feels comfortable with you saying something.
Sometimes it’s a simple mistake, and the conversation is quick and easy. For example, if someone’s calling your friend by the wrong pronoun or name — called deadnaming — you can correct them without making a big deal about it. You can say, “Oh hey, just so you know, their pronouns are they/them, and their name is Casey.”
Other times, the conversation might be tougher. You might be dealing with someone who is deeply transphobic and resistant to change. You can try sharing some basic info about why transphobia is dangerous, explain why their language or actions are hurtful, and let them know that you won’t tolerate it. You can also appeal to their empathy — how would they feel if someone was saying something derogatory about them or their loved one? Or let them know that someone you’re close to is trans, so this topic is really personal and important to you. Remember not to name names or out any trans person without their permission.
The person might not budge no matter what you say, but at least you know that you challenged transphobia when you saw it — this is one of the ways cis people can use their privilege for good. These situations can be super stressful, but remind yourself that you’re defending people you care about, and use that fear as energy to be strong for your trans loved ones. You can do this!
3. Get active!
Beyond personal relationships, advocating for the trans people in your life means also fighting transphobic policies that hurt them. Here are a few easy ways to start:
Vote! The people you vote for and the policies they enact make a real difference. Make sure you’re voting in every election — local, state, and national. Check for upcoming congressional, state, and local elections on USA.gov.
If the rules and policies at your work, school, church, or other places you hang out aren’t trans-inclusive, speak up if you can. Share resources and have conversations with people who have the power to make things more welcoming and safe for TGNCNB+ people. You can also try to get your friends and colleagues involved — the more voices the better.
Check out organizations like the National Center for Transgender Equality, National LGBTQ Task Force, the Transgender Law Center, and the National Black Trans Advocacy Coalition to learn about the policies affecting trans children and adults and how to take action.
4. Educate yourself.
Learning about trans issues on your own so that your TGNCNB+ friend doesn’t have to teach you is a key part of being a great ally and advocate. Check out these resources to learn more:
The Trevor Project: An introductory guide to supporting trans and nonbinary youth.
GLAAD: FAQs, tips, and resources for allies.
PFLAG: A video and training toolkit that helps you learn how to handle tough situations and strengthen your skills as an ally.
Human Rights Campaign: A list of simple ways to support trans equality.