6 Ways to Help Your Trans And Nonbinary Friends Feel Safer

November 5, 2018

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By now, you might have heard that Trump has plans to redefine gender, despite actual evidence of any real societal pressure to do so. This would be a huge step backward for the trans and nonbinary communities.

The Department of Mental Health and Human Services memo regarding Trump’s gender policing crusade proposed defining both gender and sex as, “either male or female, unchangeable, and determined by the genitals that a person is born with.”

This would essentially eliminate a lot of transgender, nonbinary, intersex, and gender nonconforming folks from existence. Even if just on paper, this kind of oppressive nature can have a dramatic affect on transgender and nonbinary people. Everything from lack of resources to changing the tone of how we feel about trans and nonbinary folks as a society in general.

People are up in arms over this news. And rightfully so. As a trans and nonbinary person myself, I’m frightened by this news. It felt like we were finally starting to make some real progress in being seen as legitimate, worthwhile, citizens. Redefining gender in such a way that intentionally excludes such a large portion of human beings in our country can and will snowball into something horrifying.

I stay hopeful that this kind of bigotry will not be tolerated in 2018. At least not without some serious uprising. While activists work diligently, organize, protest, and create change, I’m thinking a lot about what allies can do on an individual level to help trans and nonbinary people feel a bit safer. We need to do what we can to create spaces where trans and nonbinary folks feel seen, validated, and protected. And so, I’ve got a helpful little list for you.

6 Ways To Help Your Trans And Nonbinary Friends Feel Safer

Scope Out The Bathroom Situation

This might seem strange, but start paying attention to where the bathrooms are. As someone who feels safest using gender neutral/all gender bathrooms, I can’t express how much of a relief it is when my friends give me a hot tip of where an all gender bathroom is located. Start looking for accessible bathroom signs, family bathrooms, all gender bathrooms, and gender neutral bathrooms. Usually these will come in the form of an individual, one person, bathroom next to or near the traditional, multi-stall, mens and womens room.

Bathrooms are often scary for trans and nonbinary folks. We have to worry throughout the entire process (of just trying to pee!) about the awkward double takes, the disgusted stares, the eyebrow raises, whispering, or worse. Trans people are especially at risk of experiencing transphobic violence in bathrooms. Even as someone with a significant amount of privilege in the trans community, I feel uncomfortable using either restroom because no matter what – people look at me funny and wonder if I’m really supposed to be in there.

If you keep an eye out and take note of bathrooms that can serve as alternate options to multi-stall, gendered bathrooms, you can really help your trans and nonbinary friends out. Next time you’re out with your trans and nonbinary friends and they say “ugh I need to find a restroom,” you can say “oh, I saw an all gender bathroom on our way in.” They’ll sigh in relief of not having to even mess around with multiple stall, binary, restrooms.

Not sure if your trans or nonbinary friend would want you to do this? Ask them. Most of us really appreciate any conversation where you are expressing that you want to have our back and make life a little easier.

Introduce Yourself With Your Pronouns

To set yourself up for success, and to help make a new person feel safe and avoid making a mistake, introduce yourself with your pronouns. You don’t always know when someone is trans and/or nonbinary. Doing so will open the door for a new person to have the opportunity to share their pronouns with you. These pronouns may or may not be what you expected. It is important either way, for the broader message you send when asking such a question.

Using our pronouns properly validates and affirms that you respect us. However, as a nonbinary person who uses they/them pronouns, it can feel super intimidating when meeting new people and trying to find a way to tell them my pronouns. I’ve been in situations where upon introduction, the other person stated their pronouns first and it made such a difference. This kind of gesture gives me the heads up that a person is knowledgeable about trans advocacy and wants to create a safe space for me.

A polite way to open the floor up to this conversation is to introduce yourself by saying something like, “Hi, I’m Ev. My pronouns are he/him/his.” You can take it a step further by following up with, “Can I ask what yours are?” Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable and let folks know you’re new to this and just want to make sure you’re getting it right!

You’re setting a new person up for the ball to be in their court in an open and respectful manner. Doing this will also create dialogue in your community about trans advocacy and the importance of proper pronoun usage amongst folks who may not know the importance of such things. Which is cool and again, very helpful.

You can also purchase a Pronoun Pack and wear your pronoun pin with pride to help get the convo started!

Use Gender Neutral Language About Others

Just as you can’t predict someone’s pronouns, you also can’t tell what gender someone is just by looking at them. Not even by hearing their voice, or by assessing what they wear. If you meet someone new or want to talk to your trans or nonbinary friend about another person, but this new person hasn’t told you their pronouns yet, try using neutral pronouns and language first. It makes your trans and nonbinary friends feel like you understand the complexity of gender. It shows them you care about getting someone’s pronouns right and letting them feel seen.

Try using “they/them” pronouns to start. Oh, and don’t forget the gender neutral language attached to it! Ditch identifiers such as “ladies/girls/men/son” and use neutral terms instead like “friends/everyone/child.”

This is a BIG one. A toughy, for sure. I’m still working on it myself. Don’t get down on yourself for feeling weird or stumbling through this the first many times. We have known language to be productive and useful one specific way all of our lives. And we are finally finding new ways to use language that is more inclusive to others, which is great. It takes time to unlearn and relearn. And its okay to make mistakes.

Ask Them What They Need

You can’t go wrong with just straight up asking your trans and nonbinary friends what they might need right now. You don’t have to have it all figured out. People are unique. What might be a great gesture for one trans or nonbinary person, might not matter to another.

Check in with your trans and nonbinary friends. Let them know you heard about some sort of law changing that might affect them and that you want to know if they’re doing okay or what you can do to help. Show us that you’re listening and looking out for us. Even if the best you can offer is someone to listen to them talk about their frustrations, that is totally helpful.

Call Out Your Family And Friends

With the holidays just around the corner, I encourage you to take a stand against that racist, homophobic, transphobic, relative that always says something terribly offensive.

Instead of rolling your eyes, laughing awkwardly, or shrugging it off, make it a point to call them out on their bullshit. Tell them they are being transphobic. Educate them when they complain about trans people wanting to use certain bathrooms. Hell, if you have to come up with ways to shut that shit down ahead of time so you can feel prepared, do so. Don’t let transphobia slide. Use whatever tone works best for you. Call them in to a conversation if that method works best for you. Do your part to help change the narrative.

Use Your Privilege and Vote

Use your privilege for good! Educate yourself on the issues affecting trans and nonbinary individuals. Raise awareness on those issues. Listen to trans and nonbinary people. Drop a few bucks in a trans or nonbinary person’s Go Fund Me or cash app.

If you are able to get out to the voting polls, please do so. Brush up on the platforms of politicians in your area. Even in hella red states where progressive politics are rare, do your part to vote against anyone lobbying to prevent trans and nonbinary people from having equal access to resources like healthcare and bathrooms. These kinds of conversations are totally happening and we need you, our allies, to stand up.


  • Siran Sullivan January 1, 2019 at 11:04 pm

    Thank you so much for all your useful advice and help. ^_^ Hugs!!

    • JAprileo January 7, 2019 at 6:28 pm

      thanks for leaving a kind message!

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