How To Be A Better Ally To Trans People — On Trans Day Of Visibility & Beyond

Amanda Picotte
Transgender and gender-diverse people have a right to be treated with dignity and respect, to equality under the law, and to be protected from discrimination and violence in our schools, homes, and workplaces. But to make this vision a reality, we need allies to stand with us as we fight for it.
Today is Trans Day of Visibility here in Australia, a day to celebrate gender diversity and to raise awareness through storytelling, events and conversations. But of course, showing up for trans people shouldn't be limited to one day, especially after the tumultuous year we've already had.
In early February, the government tried to push its Religious Discrimination Bill through parliament by trading off the rights of trans and gender diverse students at religious schools, in favour of minor concessions for gay students. 
For Prime Minister Scott Morrison, trans kids and their right to a safe and affirming school environment is a key political battleground. The government and many backers of the bill see transgender people, and specifically transgender children, as their political ‘wedge issue’. They believe that if they can win public support for an anti-trans agenda, then it will be easier for them to undermine the broader LGBTQIA+ movement.
In recent years we have seen this strategy play out in the fights over safe schools, marriage equality, and banning conversion therapy to mixed results, but often in a way that harms our community.
These developments are part of a global assault on the rights of transgender people. Last year over 110 pieces of anti-trans legislation were tabled across the US, while in 2019, following the rise in TERF [Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist] activism in the UK, anti-trans hate crimes rose by 81%.
The result of these campaigns has been to limit access to gender-affirming care for trans people, banning trans people from accessing spaces that align with their gender identity (e.g. shelters, bathrooms, sports teams), and normalising anti-trans conversion therapy rhetoric.
I realised I was trans about eight years before I decided to transition. Part of what held me back was a deep sense of fear about what would happen to me, and the ways I would be discriminated against. The terrible representations I had seen of trans people through the media and politics told me that if I chose to transition I would be unlovable, unemployable, and profoundly alone. Luckily this has not been true for me in the slightest. 
But having lived through that fear, I know how important it is that the next generation of trans kids grow up in a society that celebrates and loves them for who they are. A future where they can expect to be respected, treated with dignity, and be safe from harm. 
In Australia, there is currently overwhelming support for transgender people and right now campaigns like these are being driven by a small, yet vocal minority.
Seeing the outpouring of support for the trans community over the last week has been incredible but now we need to take the next step. There is an election coming up and our community may well be placed in the debate against our wishes once more. We will need allies to take action in their own communities, businesses and organisations now to help defend our rights.
Below are some actions that you can take over the coming months.

Educate yourself and those around you

The best defence against anti-trans campaigns is education. However, this means not just talking about pronouns and bathrooms, but having a conversation about how trans people are systematically oppressed, legislated against, and marginalised by society, and how this marginalisation is then compounded by people's intersecting oppressions - such people who are also working-class, live with disability, are non-white, and/or First Nations.
We need cis-allies to do the heavy lifting in terms of helping people hear about our experiences and what it means to act in solidarity with us. The public having a greater level of literacy on trans issues from a diversity of trans people is incredibly important and will allow us to be more resilient and effective as we face new attacks.
Some easy ways to do this would be by:
— Amplifying the voices of trans and gender diverse people through social media,
— Arranging for trans people to speak to your workplace or uni class, 
— Inviting trans people to speak on your panels.
— Actively challenge casual transphobia
There are a number of organisations and individuals that do this work and would love to collaborate with you. 
In terms of your personal education check out these resources to get started:


Donate to help support trans-led projects and campaigns. Despite how effective many organisations in this space are, almost all of them are incredibly underfunded. Lots of important work is funded by LGBTQIA+ people chipping in their own money to support campaigns and initiatives. This is pretty messed up when you consider that trans people experience extremely high rates of poverty, unemployment, and homelessness.

If your NGO, council or funding body can chip in to help cover costs for community programs, staff or overheads then do so. In particular, look to support work that is being led by First Nations people and/or people of colour, migrant communities, and people seeking asylum.

Workplace reform

Is your workplace explicitly trans-positive? Does your workplace have a gender affirmation plan? What about affirmation leave? These policy structures are vital to protecting trans people from discrimination at work, especially for those who decide to affirm our gender, or transition, in the workplace. Make the policies explicit and put them in the staff manual so they are accessible to all workers from induction. I wrote an article about this with links to templates and resources — read it here.


Feet talk, baby. Make a sign, buy a flag, bring some friends, and stand together with us on the streets when we are fighting for our rights and trying to change unjust laws.

Push back against transphobic news articles

It's important to go after news websites when they publish bad articles that dehumanise trans people. Become a keyboard warrior for trans rights. Try to get into the comments early, post affirming messages that focus on the rights of trans people, and when articles are blatantly transphobic make sure to send them a complaint. 
This week has been hard for many of us but there are people you can reach out to if you are doing it tough. QLife provides anonymous and free LGBTI peer support and referral for people in Australia wanting to talk about sexuality, identity, gender, bodies, feelings or relationships at 1800 184 527.
Jackie Turner cut her teeth as an organiser and campaigner in the climate and economic justice movements. She is passionate about community power, developing the leadership of LGBTQIA+ people, and building movements that can win. They are now scheming about how to build a powerful grassroots movement to push back against anti-trans activism and win a society that guarantees the dignity, safety, and equality of all transgender and gender-diverse people. You can reach them on Twitter: @JackieMaeTurner 

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