The “T” in LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer) often used to go unnoticed, but it’s important to know what it means to be transgender and how to support individuals who are gender diverse. Many people don’t understand much about gender diversity, and that’s okay. As long as you educate yourself about gender diversity and ask questions in a sensitive manner, you’ll learn and be able to support someone in your life who is transgender or thinking about transitioning.
Learn All You Can
The first step to learning about individuals who are gender diverse is to do your research. Don’t be afraid to use Google as a tool and ask simple questions. Remember to look at reputable sites for accurate information. One example of a trustworthy source is GLAAD. GLAAD is a nongovernmental media organization that covers issues that impact the LGBTQ community and stimulates conversations that lead to acceptance and cultural change. Here are a few links from GLAAD that can guide you to the right information:
- Defining Transgender and the Differences Between Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
- Tips to Being an Ally – A Do and Don’t List
Become an Ally
The National Center for Transgender Equality offers excellent information on ways to become an ally and to support someone in your life who is or has transitioned. Below are some ways to be supportive:
- Understand the importance of respecting all individuals, regardless of their gender identity and gender expression.
- There isn’t a “right way” to be transgender. Each individual person has their own needs, and not every transgender person is the same.
- You can’t tell that someone is transgender just by looking at them.
- There’s no one way to be a perfect ally. The transgender community is very diverse, and each person has their own priorities when transitioning. Every situation is different, which means every situation is handled differently.
- Youth Gender Services at UMass Memorial Children’s Medical Center offers resources and support to transgender and gender non-conforming youth. Our team of caregivers assists patients with gender transition, if desired, or exploration of their gender identity.
- PFLAG is a Worcester organization that holds meetings that discuss LGBTQ topics for parents, families, friends and people who identify as LGBTQ. Resources can be found on their website.
- Children’s Friend is an organization that strives to improve the lives of children by strengthening families. Through their Gender Wellness Initiative, they address the needs of transgender and gender diverse youth. They hold meetings for caregivers of gender diverse youth. For more information, call 508-753-5425.
- Each university in Worcester has a pride alliance. They promote gender identity education and inclusion throughout the campus, especially among staff and faculty.
Remember that an individual who is gender diverse is a person first, regardless of their gender identity. If you want to be a good ally, it’s important to treat them with respect, and most importantly, treat them like you would any other person. If you make an error with respect to their name or pronouns then apologize. The questions that are appropriate for you to ask your friend depends on your relationship with the person, and how close you are with them.