How to: Be a better ally for transgender and gender diverse people
Everyone deserves a chance to be their whole selves – safe and respected. To fully thrive and be celebrated.
On 31 March, Transgender Day of Visibility is observed internationally. It’s a day to celebrate the achievement and contributions of transgender and gender diverse people, as well as to raise awareness of the discrimination they face.
Being a better ally for transgender and gender diverse people means helping to create a safe environment in which everyone’s dignity and visibility is respected. Here are a few meaningful things that you can do, today and every day.
Use the right pronouns …
Words have power, and when transgender and gender diverse individuals are misgendered, it can be very hurtful – so using the right pronouns is an important way to be inclusive and show respect.
Making your own pronouns known helps to create a safe space and an opportunity, in which a transgender or gender diverse person can broach the subject and let you know what pronouns they use. It’ll also help you to keep the richly diverse world in which we live, front-of-mind.
So, add your own pronouns where you can – in email signatures, social media profiles, online meeting handles, conference name tags, and opening addresses.
… but if you slip up, apologise and move on
It may happen that you misgender someone inadvertently. In which case, apologise, correct yourself, move on and allow them to do the same – don’t draw it out and blow it up, because this can make a someone even more uncomfortable.
Protect a person’s privacy
If someone trusts you enough to confide in you, always be mindful to respect and protect their privacy and agency, especially when it comes to disclosure and “outing” anyone – that’s a really personal decision, and one an individual deserves to make for themselves.
Say something, mindfully
If you’re a witness to misgendering, inappropriate language or intrusive questions, be supportive but mindful – the priority should always be the potential consequences for a transgender or gender diverse person, with their own safety and agency paramount. Follow the lead of the person who has been misgendered. Offering the correct pronouns should be done calmly, simply and neutrally, as should pointing out the inappropriateness of any questions.
Wear your allyship on your sleeve – or on your desk or office door. It’s a sign that you can be a supportive presence if one is needed. Visible signs can include stickers, buttons or pins, flags or posters, among others.
Use the right name – in person, and in the system
‘Deadnaming’ is the term for calling a transgender person by the name that was assigned to them at birth, prior to transitioning – it can be inadvertent or a form of bullying and dismissal of a person’s identity.
In addition to teachers, classmates and colleagues using the right name in everyday interactions, change it in official systems where you can.
For teachers looking to support students in a name change, that can be done in MyUC, by clicking on ‘Profile’ > ‘Edit my profile’ and updating ‘Preferred name’.
Teachers and administrators at UC can also add a Canvas page, which will allow you to update details for a student. Click on this link to Staff News, to find out how.
Think outside the box – and don’t put people in one
Avoid gender segregation exercises, in which students or colleagues are divided into groups depending on whether they are male or female.
Also, be mindful of icebreakers in which people have to introduce others, whom they may have just met themselves – this can often lead to misgendering, for transgender and gender diverse people.
Set the right tone
Whether it’s meetings, events or classes, create an inclusive atmosphere. Reflect on the language used – forget the old binary-focused “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen”, for instance – and include your pronouns when you introduce yourself.
Use your position to provide support
If you are in a leadership position and a transgender or gender diverse person asks for help to introduce their name and pronouns, consider sending out an email to staff and/or students. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like some guidance on how to word it.
Find out more about how UC embraces diversity by clicking on the link for Let's Dance: Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging Plan 2020-2022, and check out the UC Ally Network at this link.
UC’s People and Diversity Canvas site provides awareness modules about LGBTIQA+ at this link for staff. Staff need to enrol in the site at this link to access the modules.
A Gender Agenda and TransHub are both very valuable resources, if you’d like to know more.