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Transgender Awareness Week: 10 Ways to Become an Ally

Gender identity is a person’s true, personal sense of being a man or woman, or a boy or girl. An individual who identifies as transgender is someone who does not align with the gender they were assigned to at birth.

Transgender people who do not feel that their gender identity falls into the two binary categories of “man” or “woman” may describe themselves as non-binary. People who feel this way may also identify themselves as genderqueer or gender fluid, however non-binary is the most common term used today. People who describe their gender identity as non-binary typically also identify as transgender. However, they might separate these two identities, non-binary can mean many different things to different people. It is always best to listen to how a person uses the word non-binary and try to understand how they are using it. There is no right or wrong way to be non-binary, just like there is no right or wrong way to be transgender.

Gender identity is different from sexual orientation. Sexual orientation is about who you are attracted to and fall in love with; gender identity is about who you are. Sexual orientation describes a person’s romantic, physical, or emotional attraction to another person. For example, a person’s sexual orientation may be gay, lesbian, straight, or bisexual. Gender identity describes a person’s internal, personal sense of being a man, woman, or someone outside the gender binary. Like everyone else, transgender people have different sexual preferences. A person who transitions from male to female and is attracted to men would typically identify as a straight woman. A person who transitions from female to male and is attracted to men would typically identify as a gay man.

Transition can start as a process with the sense of self, first. Before bringing bodies into alignment, the sense of self goes through a transition where the person discovers what their gender identity is and comes to terms with it. This can begin with asking people to use the pronouns they identify with, the name they identify with, etc. Some trans individuals seek to bring their bodies into alignment with their gender identity. As a part of that process, many people will be prescribed hormones by their doctor and some will undergo surgeries as well. However, not every transgender person can or will take these steps. Being transgender is not contingent upon medical procedures.

It’s also important to know transgender is an adjective, not a noun, and should never be used as a noun. Instead of calling someone a transgender, say “they are a transgender or trans person” or “transgender or trans man (or woman).” transgender never needs an “-ed” at the end.

Awareness Week and Day of Remembrance

Transgender Awareness Week is from November 13-19. Every year, people and organizations around the country work together to raise awareness and work to address issues that members of the transgender community face. The week leads up to Transgender Day of Remembrance on November 20th. This is an annual observance that honors the memory of transgender people whose lives were lost in acts of anti-transgender violence that year.

TDOR was founded by Gwendolyn Ann Smith, a transgender advocate, as a vigil to honor her remembrance of Rita Hester. Rita Hester was a transgender woman who was killed in 1998. Participate in TDOR by attending or organizing your own vigil to honor all those whose lives were lost to anti-transgender violence this year. Look for vigils held by local transgender advocates or LGBTQ+ organizations held at community centers, parks, places of worship, and other venues

During Transgender Awareness Week, transgender people and their allies take action by educating the public, sharing stories, and raising awareness about issues of discrimination, prejudice, and violence that affect the transgender community.

This year for Transgender Awareness Week GLAAD is encouraging everyone to watch the documentary DISCLOSURE on Netflix. This documentary explores the history of transgender representation in TV and film.

Why is Raising Awareness Important?

These stats from the GLAAD website speak to the importance of raising awareness and creating a more inclusive and kind environment for everyone despite their gender identity. According to the "2015 U.S. Trans Survey," a report by the National Center for Transgender Equality:

  • 29% of transgender people live in poverty, compared to 14% of the general population

  • 30% of transgender people report being homeless at some point in their lives, with 12% saying it was within the past 12 months

  • Transgender people experience unemployment at 3x the rate of the general population, with rates for people of color up to 4x the national unemployment rate

  • 30% of transgender people report being fired, denied a promotion, or experiencing mistreatment in the workplace due to their gender identity in the past 12 months

  • 31% of transgender people experienced mistreatment in the past year in a place of public accommodation, including 14% who were denied equal service, 24% who were verbally harassed, and 2% who were physically attacked because they were transgender

  • 40% of respondents reported attempting suicide in their lifetime, nearly nine times the attempted suicide rate in the United States (4.6%)

According to GLAAD, “transgender people, particularly transgender women of color, face shockingly high rates of murder, homelessness, and incarceration. Most states and countries offer no legal protections in housing, employment, health care, and other areas where individuals experience discrimination based on their gender identity or expression.”

LGBT youth report higher rates of anti-LGBT harassment and bullying than straight youth. The relationship between bullying and suicide is complex. However, consistent bullying can lead to or worsen anxiety and depression as well as feelings of isolation, rejection, exclusion, and despair which could lead to suicide.

The Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health reported that 42% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth. 52% of transgender and non-binary youth thought about committing suicide and 20% died by suicide this past year. Transgender and non-binary youth who reported having their pronouns respected by all of the people they lived with attempted suicide at half the rate of those who did not have their pronouns respected by anyone who they lived with. Transgender and non-binary youth who were able to change their name and/or gender marker on legal documents also reported lower attempted suicide rates than those who could not.

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, there is always support. If you need immediate help, call 911.

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK

  • Crisis Text Line: Text HELLO to 741741

  • The Trevor Project Support Line: 1-866-488-7386

  • The Trevor Project Text Line: Text START to 687-687

  • The Trevor Project Chat

10 Ways to Be an Ally

You cannot tell that someone is transgender just by looking at them. Many transgender people do not appear “visibly trans.” You should always assume that there could be transgender people at any gathering or any space. Here are some ways you can become an ally to transgender people:

  1. If you don’t know what pronouns to use, it is always best to listen first. Listen to how they refer to themselves or how people they are close with refer to them before you make assumptions. If you must ask what pronouns they use, start with your own. Say “Hi I’m ____ and I use pronouns ____. What about you?.”

  2. If you do use the wrong pronouns by accident apologize quickly, sincerely, and move on. The bigger deal you make about the situation, the more uncomfortable it will be for everyone.

  3. Do not ask a transgender person what their “real name” is. This can be a tremendous source of anxiety or a part of their life that they wish to leave behind. Respect the name that they are using and if you do know the name they were given at birth and no longer use, never share it without their explicit permission.

  4. Understand the difference between “coming out” as gay, lesbian, or bisexual and coming out as transgender. “Coming out” as gay, lesbian, or bisexual is typically seen as revealing a truth that allows other people to know your authentic self. Coming out is seen as an important way to be happy and whole in the LGBTQ community. When a transgender person has transitioned and is living as their authentic truth that is their truth. It can feel disempowering for a transgender person to reveal to other people that they are transgender. Some people choose to share their gender history and identity to raise awareness and make cultural change, but not everyone does. That is okay.

  5. Do not assume that it is necessary for a transgender person to diclose that they are transgender in order to feel happy and whole. If a transgender person has shared this information with you, do not share this information. Be careful about confidentiality, disclosure, and “outing.” Not only is this personal information, but it can also have negative consequences for that person. It is not uncommon for transgender people to lose their jobs, housing, friends, or even lives, when people find out about their gender history.

  6. Challenge anti-transgender remarks or jokes in public spaces.

  7. Support all-gender bathrooms. Encourage schools, businesses, and agencies to have single user, unisex bathrooms and make it clear that transgender and gender non-conforming people are welcome to use whichever bathroom they feel comfortable with.

  8. Set an inclusive tone in group settings. Instead of referring to someone as “the woman in the front” say “ the person in the blue shirt.” Encourage people to introduce themselves with their pronouns. However, if you feel that this practice is singling out transgender people, avoid it.

  9. Don’t be afraid to admit that you don’t know something or ask questions. This is better than making assumptions or saying something incorrect or hurtful.

  10. Remember that being an ally is a sustained, persistent pattern of action; not a stable or idle noun.

Finding Mental Health Treatment

Transgender individuals are nearly four times as likely as cisgender individuals to experience a mental health condition. Each sub-community of the LGBTQ+ community faces unique challenges, rates of mental illness, and experiences. It is important to find the right mental health professional. Here are some important considerations

  1. Think about what you are looking for

    1. If you want a provider who shares part of their identity with you, you may be able to find an LGBTQ+ provider by reading their profile

  2. Gather referrals

    1. Many websites that provide mental health professional directories, including insurance company websites, have filters that allow you to search for mental health providers who have competency or specialization in working with LGBTQ+ patients

    2. Many LGBTQ+ organizations and community groups provide directories of professionals who have been vetted by LGBTQ+ people. Check with local LGBTQ+ community and health centers, LGBTQ+ community groups, and affirming places of worship

  3. Make the call

    1. It can be uncomfortable or difficult to make the initial call to a mental health provider. If you are reluctant to call, ask a friend or family member to call for you

  4. Ask Questions

    1. In your first visit with your mental health provider, it is important to be upfront with the fact that you are looking for an LGBTQI competent provider

    2. Consider asking these questions:

      1. My experience is ______. What experiences do you have with people with that identity?

      2. What experience do you have with the LGBTQI community?

      3. Do you have any specific training or certifications that relate to working with the LGBTQI community?

  5. Build a relationship

    1. It may take several calls to find the right mental health provider for you. If you feel that it is not working out, don’t be afraid to move on and keep searching

Visit our LGBTQIA+ page for more resources. Download our flyer below for additional resources.

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Jay Boll
Jay Boll

Great information. Thank you for posting this!

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