This Pride month, express your solidarity for and support of gay and queer folx by being more trans-inclusive! Seems pretty obvious, right? But even (maybe especially) within the LGBTQIA community and spaces, so-called allies of gay rights continue to otherize and marginalize queer and trans folks, unintentionally or otherwise. While it’s a struggle, for some, to unpack the problematic ways in which we view gender and to actively diverge from what we’ve been programmed to accept in the ways of gender, it’s nothing compared to the urgent need for solidarity with and protection of the trans people in all of our communities. So, for Pride, do everyone a favor and get your trans-inclusivity in check.
By Erin White*, AFROPUNK contributor
1) Watch your mouth
The words you choose are just as important as the actions you take when it comes to inclusion and welcomeness. When you meet someone new, ask them what their gender pronouns are. Get in the habit of doing this, even when you think you ‘know’ what pronouns someone is comfortable with. Too often assumptions about gender or pronouns are based on what we see and how we perceive someone else, not how they perceive themselves, which is the only thing that matters. Too awkward? Use gender-neutral pronouns, like they/their/them to address folks.
I get that some people feel like this isn’t very organic or that changing the ways in which we speak are too hard to do. But that is false. All it takes is awareness and a little bit of practice. When you fix your lips to say she/her/he/him—don’t.
2) Unlearn the BS
Many TERFs and anti-feminists alike believe that biology = destiny. You’re either male or female and which one is based exclusively on the shape of your genitals. Gender is binary. TERFs argue that trans women are not “real” women if they do not have vaginas and that “deciding” to be women somehow minimizes or evades the misogyny that cis women face, and is subsequently not the “real woman” experience. This bizarre assessment of womanhood reduces women to vaginas and fails to hold responsible the patriarchal systems that oppress them. Further, it attempts to negate the intersectional oppression and violence trans women face for being women and for transcending gender assignments and the social norms that come along with it.
Laura Kacere writing for EverydayFeminism says, “The problem is not that the gender binary exists, but rather that gender is assigned non-consensually, and that anyone who steps outside of the culturally-defined boundaries is marginalized and experience systemic oppression and violence. The problem isn’t femininity or masculinity. It is compulsory femininity and masculinity tied to a value system that devalues all things feminine.”
3) Put some respekt on it
The only thing you need to accept and respect is the legitimacy of someone’s self-identified gender. Existentially, cis people tend not to “understand” or “get” what it means or feels like to feel a disconnect with one’s body and one’s identity. This disconnect, for people who have never thought seriously about their own gender assignment in the first place, seems unfathomable. But in that unfathomability should appear compassion. If the sheer thought of not identifying with your gender assignment in and of itself is too perplexing or too heavy to consider hypothetical, imagine what that experience is like for those who must confront this disparity, in the face of a society that will distrust and abuse them because of who they are. It costs nothing to support them through that.
Photo via workers.org
*Erin White is an Atlanta-based writer and AFROPUNK's editorial and social media assistant. You can follow her on Tumblr or friend her on Facebook. Have a pitch or an inquiry? Shoot her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.