Stop funding transphobia, and 7 other expert tips for cis people who want to be better trans allies in 2021

Vic Parsons
·8-min read

As we dust ourselves off after the flaming dumpster fire that was 2020 and look ahead to what will hopefully be a slightly better year, PinkNews asked eight trans and non-binary people how cis people can be even better trans allies in 2021.

From Liz Truss and JK Rowling to Ricky Gervais and Donald Trump, trans and non-binary communities were targeted by high-profile cis people like never before in 2020.

But it was also a year of resistance. A year of protests for Black trans lives, of trans people elected to positions of unprecedented political power and of renewed mutual aid and community organising.

Trans people were visible, joyful, loving and thriving – even as governments worldwide, from Hungary to the UK, attacked their rights under the cover of a deadly pandemic.

And more and more trans allies stood up for trans liberation. Literary giant Margaret Atwood. Conservative MP Crispin Blunt. Actress Jameela Jamil. National treasure Olivia Colman. Comedian Frankie Boyle.

Our understanding of what it means to be a trans ally grew from words – writing “trans rights” on a placard, putting pronouns in their bio, asking for trans-awareness training at work – into deeper actions. Whether it was giving money to trans people and groups, writing letters to politicians backing trans rights, or calling out their transphobic boss, cis people supported their trans and non-binary siblings during what has been, for many people, a genuinely awful year. Now, it’s time to build on that, and to help, here are eight pieces of advice from trans and non-binary people that you can start acting on right now.

Sam Feder (he/they), director of Disclosure: Trans Lives on Screen.

“I would love anyone who is moved to be a better ally to look around their world and find one concrete place where they can make a difference.

“So that could be, who do you vote for? Even locally, even if it’s for the Parent Teacher Association board. Do they care about trans issues? It’s about making that extra step. Maybe you feel completely aligned with this person you’re voting for because of everything up to that moment that was important in your life. But now, take the time to find out where they stand on trans stuff. Are you still going to vote for them if they’re not supportive of trans people?

“Or it could be at your job. Any trans people there? If not, go to HR and ask if anyone trans has ever applied. And then if not, ask if they are doing any outreach to trans communities. We know that trans people need jobs.

“Another thing you could do is, if you’re at a job where you have skills to share, do some outreach and mentor a trans person. If you’re a parent then maybe your kid has a friend who’s trans, and they’re interested in your career. Take them on as a mentee, pay it forward, skill share with the trans person. Because not only are there are barriers in terms of getting hired because of the bias in an employment place, so many trans people just have so much anxiety about entering these places. I have left jobs, and with all the privilege that I’m wrapped up in and I’m able to walk through the world with, I’ve left jobs because I’m not comfortable.

“If you want trans people in your world and in your space, what is the outreach you’re doing to make your space a welcoming community?”

Sabah Choudrey (they/them), trans youth worker with Gendered Intelligence, co-director of Colours Youth Network, trustee of the Inclusive Mosque Initiative.

“Solidarity is not a yes or a no, not a tick box. Solidarity is an action, it is a movement, it is a muscle that we need to exercise over and over. Working together is action after action, just like unlearning, anti-racism and anti-transphobia is a process. Solidarity moves; it reacts, it changes, it fits and it connects to whatever a community needs. Solidarity asks, what can we do? And does it. Then, asks again.

“I want to share a quote from the Queensland Aboriginal activists group: ‘If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.'”

Axelle (they/them), queer activist and founder of the Black Trans Foundation.

“Try to actively move towards gender-neutral language. This will be tricky at first which is understandable as we’ve been raised in a binary society. For example: if you see someone on the street and want to describe them (in your head or out loud), try to say things like ‘that person over there’ instead of ‘that woman’ or ‘that man’. This is very powerful as you are taking the assumption away from someone’s gender. If you’re addressing a crowd, instead of ‘ladies and gentlemen’, try ‘everyone’. This is important as the inclusive language ensures no one is misgendered.

“Watch trans documentaries and read trans stories. I would recommend these free ones on YouTube: Meet Young Non-Binary Australians Who Don’t Identify as Male or Female, Gender Diversity and Identity in Queertopia, I Am They: A Non-binary Transgender Love Story, Laverne Cox Presents the T Word.

Juno Dawson (she/her), author and screenwriter.

“We live in a capitalist society and I’m a big believer in voting with my wallet. Do not give your hard-earned money to newspapers, writers and brands which promote transphobic rhetoric.

“Companies might ignore tweets, but they never ignore the bottom line.”

Shash (she/her), trans activist, Glitter Cymru member, Stonewall Young Trans campaigner.

“Speak up when you encounter transphobia in communities and friend circles. If you’re doubtful about something that could be transphobic, look it up! Talk to a trans person! Erase those doubts, don’t just forget and hope it doesn’t happen again.

“Stop supporting the Guardian, the Times and other anti-trans news sources, tell your friends and family to stop it too. Stamp out the sources of transphobia.

“If you can assure a workplace or group is trans-friendly, advertise it as such. For trans people, currently, finding places that are trans-friendly has been hard. Understand that being trans doesn’t just affect how we perceive our own body, but it opens us up to being perceived negatively by others. We’ve lost jobs, house, opportunities, purely because we’re trans.

“Last but not least, educate yourself. Learn to recognise dog whistles when you hear or see them. In my opinion it is one of the most insidious forms of bigotry. Because when transphobic dog whistles are said, you know who winces and recognises it first? Trans people. It makes us feel immediately uncomfortable. It’s a signal from transphobes to trans people without alerting ignorant cis people (mostly well-meaning cis people) that trans people aren’t welcome.”

Wednesday Holmes (they/them), illustrator, activist for queer liberation with Voices4 London.

“Cis people could make a start by researching the difference between sex and gender, how many sexes there are, what intersex is. Many of what people believe about gender and sex is very outdated. Many are still using simplistic and untruthful information that they learned about gender when they were three years old. This misinformation is leading people to spread ignorance about trans, gender non-conforming and intersex (TGNCI) people.

“I would encourage trans allies to stay motivated, keep an open mind and carry empathy with them, always. To change the future for the better, we need to heavily criticise those who attempt to restrict TGNCI people’s autonomy. We need to fact check the rhetoric that anti-trans groups spread. We need to challenge the people who would have trans people erased.”

Rico Jacob Chase (he/him/they/them), director at TransActual UK.

“Most people are blessed with at least one form of privilege, however, when you use your platforms to benefit minorities you even the societal playing field.

TransActual UK is launching a resource in January to empower both trans people and our allies with easy steps they can take to create positive change for trans people. Depending on your free time, five minutes can be spent signing petitions and learning about our community to halt misinformation in its tracks. With more time, asking HR departments to update their policies, talking to MPs or volunteering at a charity can go a long way.

“Any step an ally takes is one less for the trans community.”

Bobbi Pickard (she/her), founder of Trans in the City.

“How cis people can be better trans allies in 2021? I’ll use the three Trans in the City pillars here…

“Educate: learn about trans, teach others, attend and run trans-awareness events so people fill the vacuum of knowledge about what trans actually is with the truth rather than the misdirections from anti-trans organisations and celebrities – speak to trans people before you speak about them.

“Demonstrate: Stop being quiet and passive. Reading terrible things happening to trans people but then doing nothing is not good enough. Get involved with organisations like Gendered Intelligence, Mermaids, FFLAG, MindOUT. Do something to help – trans people really need it right now.

“Celebrate: being trans is a perfectly natural variation of being human so celebrate and support it like we should support all our diversities, be actively positive about trans people and just spread some love in the face of the wave of hate and vilification that is assaulting the trans community right now.”