Being part of the LGBTQIA+ community isn’t always doom and gloom, and is filled with love, positivity and FUN, however this doesn’t mean that there are times when you need to be aware of the struggles and issues that concern people within our community. Creating allies and informing non LGBTQIA+ people about the issues that concern our community is SO important to creating a society and world where there is openness, acceptance and freedom.
I have recently started volunteering as part of the Stonewall Information Service with their digital and social communications team, and I felt is SUPER necessary to share the information that I have learnt, and share the resources that they have created with you all to ensure we can all educate ourselves, and that includes our LGBTQIA+ brothers and sisters who should always be educating themselves in the ever growing diversity of our OWN community!
I have written this 5 step guide for people who want and need to educate themselves on trans issues that may not know a lot, or have recently found themselves making some form of connection or relationship with a trans person, and they want to know how best they can help!
Trans people, especially younger trans people are more likely to need our support, and will have lots of questions and thoughts that they might want answering or advice with. Lets run through 5 THINGS that are super important to know when supporting young trans people.
- Enter with an open mind
Even if you don’t know absolutely everything that there is to know about the LGBTQIA+ community, it’s important that you enter all situations with someone who’s discussing their own identity with an open mind. All trans and LGBT+ people identify in different ways, and no one person is the same as another, so therefore a lot of accounts of what you might THINK being trans is like, it’s important to remember that this instance can be different, and individual and unique to the person. Not everyone identifies as male or female, and a lot of trans people don’t actually want to medically transition, so when discussing trans issues with young people, it’s important to potentially have to ‘unlearn’ some misconceptions that you may have of trans people and their lives.
2. Not all Trans people want to transition, and not all can.
One large issue that a lot of older people have about talking to young trans people is that they think due to their age, they’re wrong or misinformed and that they’re ‘jumping to conclusions’. It’s important to know that, as I have just mentioned, trans people can decide not to transition because they don’t have what is known as Gender Dysphoria. This is when someone experiences discomfort or distress because there is a mismatch between their sex assigned at birth and their gender identity, and this distress is usually caused by potential human characteristics that they may have that they feel doesn’t match the gender that they identify as. However, this doesn’t have to be the only reason that not all trans people don’t want to transition. Some people feel that they don’t want to because they’re content with the human body that they have and that the characteristics that they may have don’t distress them when related to their gender. Also it’s important to realise that a lot of trans people DO want to transition, however due to social/economic/religious mobility, it’s difficult for them to be able to just ‘pop to the doctors’ and ‘have the op’. This isn’t true and really isn’t the case for the majority of trans people, and is influenced by high profile trans people such as Caitlyn Jenner, who has a lot of money and privilege, being able to transition quickly without money being a problem for her. It’s important to not rush young trans people into a decision that YOU think is better for them, and let them tell you how they’re feeling.
3. Pronouns aren’t preferred, they’re essential.
Language and the words that we use are a real trigger in alerting someone that you care, and are on board with them for their trans journey. It shows young trans people that you understand, and that what they’re doing isn’t wrong and isn’t arbitrary in any way. Pronouns aren’t preferred and should be used at all times. It’s not difficult to learn pronouns, we use them every single day, and misgendering someone, whether or not it’s on purpose or not isn’t ok, and should always be rectified. It’s important however to ensure that if you do use the wrong pronoun, don’t dwell on it, apologise, and move on. Young trans people are at the very start of their trans journey and exploration, and by using the wrong pronouns at the beginning, it can show the young person that you’re invalidating their identity which isn’t supportive.
4. Encourage their school to be LGBTQIA+ friendly
When talking to trans young people, it’s important to never push them into doing something they’re not ready to do. It’s all about encouraging, suggesting and just displaying the relevant support that they may need at that time. One thing that you can suggest to the trans young person is to talk to their school and see whether or not it’s trans inclusive. This needs to be a conversation that you have with a trans young person and see whether or not THEY want to take this step. It wouldn’t be appropriate to ring the young trans persons school/college/university on their behalf, as they may not be ‘out’ yet, and feel like this could draw unwanted attention to them at this stage. However having a trans inclusive and safe environment for a young trans person at school is incredibly important as most young trans people are in education during the time that they explore and find their identity. Some ways in which you can advise your young trans friend into making their place of education more trans inclusive can be by discussing their identity with senior members of staff/close friends at school. This can improve trans peoples lives in education by making things such as:
- Gender binary specific situations such as ‘split into boys and girls’ activities
- School dress code
A LOT EASIER! ALLIES SHOULD ALWAYS SUPPORTIVE!
5. Be Positive and LISTEN
Ensure that you’re open, honest and ABLE to know that going through this emotional process of coming to terms with your gender identity in a world that can seem like it’s constantly invalidating you. A trans ally and someone who can listen, be there and accept what they’re saying as true is all it takes to support your trans friend. Even if you can’t yourself comprehend what your young trans friend is going through, listening is a great way to validate what they’re going through, and help them understand that its OK to feel like there are 2809289 different feelings going through their head. Being young and trans isn’t highlighted enough in the media which can create an incredibly isolating atmosphere for young trans people. Being positive, and listening can help alleviate this feeling, and help them open up more if they feel like they need/want to.
Other organisations that can help young trans people, and their friends/colleagues and schools can be found at the Stonewall website.
Stonewall have also just outlined a new document of research that highlights the next 5 years for trans people, and what they hope to increment over those next 5 years in the UK through ‘A Vision For Change’. This was written by the Stonewall Trans Advisory Group to reflect the issues facing trans people in the UK, and discusses empowering, transforming and changing the UK for trans people.
I hope that these 5 pieces of information have been helpful in anyone who has trans friends, or is trans themselves and wants to know JUST what they deserve from the society that they live in. Never forget that your life is just as valuable, important and flawless as everyone else’s and you’re MEANT TO BE HERE.
Lots of love ladies,