How can I support someone who's trans or nonbinary?
To end transmisic harassment and discrimination, cisgender people must work to support transgender and nonbinary people — and the systemic issues affecting them.
Support is important.
Every community has trans and nonbinary people. However, transgender and nonbinary communities continue to face discrimination, erasure, disapproval, violence, rejection, and even murder because of transmisia. It can also result in depression, substance use problems, self-harm, and suicide.
Transmisia affects trans and nonbinary people in all areas of life. Cisgender individuals and communities must all fight alongside their trans and nonbinary friends.
We have to create safer, more inclusive communities that are welcoming to trans, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming people. We can’t stop until everyone is treated with the respect and dignity they deserve — and can live free of violence and discrimination.
What do I call people who are transgender or nonbinary?
Ask if they use pronouns and what their pronouns are — just like you’d ask them their name. Remember to use the name and pronouns that the person shares with you every time.
Check out these common terms.
Generally — and especially if you don’t know the right words to use for someone yet — use inclusive language. Inclusive language is saying “person” instead of “man” or “woman,” or “they” instead of “he” or “she.” Never call someone “it” unless they’ve asked you to.
If someone isn’t sure which identity label fits them best, give them time to figure it out for themselves. The language a person uses may change over time, and that’s totally normal.
How do I support the transgender and nonbinary people in my life?
Whatever your relationship — parent, friend, partner, teacher — your support is important.
The people closest to us are usually the best at helping us feel safe and connected. So, it can be dangerous for trans and nonbinary people when their loved ones are unsupportive. Many who experience violence are hurt by family members or partners, and many trans and nonbinary young people experience being unhoused (aka homeless) because their families kicked them out.
Trans and nonbinary people are more likely to feel healthy, happy, and safe if they have support from family members and others who are close to them.
Here are some tips for supporting a trans or nonbinary person in your life:
- Listen to them and believe them about their identities and needs.
- Use the person’s chosen name and pronouns.
- Support them in accessing trans and nonbinary community resources, if they want.
- Remember that being trans or nonbinary is normal and natural — at any age and in every community.
- Educate yourself about sex, gender identity, and gender modality.
- Seek out resources for loved ones of trans and nonbinary people.
- Find support for yourself outside of your relationship with them — especially if you’re a parent. You deserve space to process your feelings about your loved one’s transgender or nonbinary identity. Local and national organizations like PFLAG have programs for loved ones of LGBTQ+ people.
If you’re a parent, check out our tips for talking to your child about gender identity.
What if I’m a partner of a trans or nonbinary person?
Partners of trans and nonbinary people may have particular challenges or questions about how to be supportive — especially if your partner is just coming out or starting to transition. Partners of openly trans and nonbinary people — or who appear to be in a non-heterosexual relationship — may also face discrimination, harassment, and violence.
Your partner’s gender identity doesn’t define your relationship or your sexual orientation. However, your partner’s identity or transition may encourage you to reflect on your sexual or romantic orientation differently than you have before — especially if they have a gender that isn’t what you’re used to being attracted to. For example, a heterosexual woman whose partner comes out as a trans woman might come to feel pansexual, bisexual, or another sexual or romantic orientation.
Loving or being attracted to trans and nonbinary people is totally natural, just like being trans or nonbinary is. But transmisic ideas and stereotypes have made some people judge the idea of being attracted to trans or nonbinary people. It’s never OK to respond to a trans or nonbinary person’s identity or body with hostility, rudeness, or violence.
Here are some tips for being supportive to your trans or nonbinary partner:
- Ask your partner what they need and want day-to-day. For example, avoid making assumptions about the words they want you to use, or what kind of support they’d like if someone misgenders them.
- Ask your partner what they need and want in your sex life, including what kinds of touch they do or don’t want.
- Get support. Some LGBTQ+ organizations have groups or services for the partners of trans and nonbinary people. There are also online groups and discussion spaces. Supportive friends, family, or a trans-knowledgeable therapist can also be helpful.
- Remember that your partner’s transgender or nonbinary identity is an important part of who they are, but not their only identity, challenge, or beauty that they have.
- Ask your partner about their desires, goals, and resources related to transition. Avoid assumptions about the ways your partner will or won’t transition. And remember that these choices are always up to your partner.
- Read articles and books or watch videos and performances made by trans and nonbinary people.
- Use resources made specifically for partners, like the “Let’s Get Real” guide from the Rainbow Resource Centre, which has information about dating and sex with trans and nonbinary partners.
It’s normal to have questions, concerns, and feelings as a partner of a trans or nonbinary person. It’s also normal to feel curious, happy for your partner, or excited to learn more about this person you care about.
Where can I learn more or get support?
- Learn about gender identity and gender modality.
- Learn about some trans and nonbinary terms and identity labels.
- Gender Spectrum, which works to create gender-sensitive and inclusive environments for children and teens
- Trans Lifeline’s helpline for friends and family of trans and nonbinary people
- Your local PFLAG chapter or other organization serving loved ones of LGBTQ+ people
- Fenway Health’s “Tips for Parents and Guardians of Trans Youth”
- The Family Acceptance Project's LGBTQ Youth & Family Resources
- The National Center for Transgender Equality
- The Trevor Project's publication, "A Guide to Being an Ally to Transgender and Nonbinary Youth"
- PFLAG's Straight for Equality site
- The ACLU