We live in a world that recognizes two options for gender. If you’re not exactly “man” or “woman” you’re going to have a hard time finding your place, because right now there isn’t a place for you. Let’s change that.
Following is a list of suggestions to make the world a bit less binary and a lot more transgender inclusive. Read ’em, live ’em, and add to ’em in the comments below.
1. Read our list of cisgender privileges (link) and share it with your friends.
Awareness is the first step in confronting a problem. If people don’t know it exists (as most don’t know about the issues pertaining to transgender folks), there won’t be any movement to make a solution. Read through the list of 30+ (and counting!) cisgender privileges we’ve compiled, comment with any additions, and, most importantly, share it. Send it to your friends, parents, children, congressmen, anybody and everybody. Seriously. Especially the congressmen part (note the gendered term).
2. Wrap your head around the idea that gender is is not tied to genitals.
Following up on the last point, it’d be helpful if you understood what, exactly, transgender is. Well, lucky for you, I wrote an article that’s a solid intro to gender identity. Read it and you’ll have a better idea of what it means to be transgender or genderqueer. Share it with a friend and they will, too. Then you’ll both understand what Steven Taylor means (in the comments below) by “outer dress has no moral obligation to match inner anatomy.” After you’ve read that, if you find yourself wondering how sexual orientation works for genderqueer people, we’ve got you covered there, too.
3. Thank businesses that are trans*-friendly with your cash dollars.
Shop at stores that have gender neutral bathrooms. Buy products from companies that have protections for transgender employees. If you’re unsure of who is and isn’t trans*-friendly, check out the HRC’s Corporate Equality Index. They profile corporations and rate them on their equity for LGB and T employees. In the newest edition, you can even see a list that shows businesses that have at least one transgender-inclusive health care coverage plan (page 29). Policy changes with public opinion; if we make it clear we prefer businesses that are trans*-friendly, more businesses will make an effort to be trans*-friendly.
4. Bring trans*-inclusivity to your workplace or organization.
Following up on the last point, does your employer offer transgender-inclusive health insurance? Would a trans* person feel comfortable working there? Bringing their partner to work? Are there protections in employee contracts to prevent against wrongful termination based on gender identity? If not, why not? Talk to your boss. Talk to the owner. Having a trans*-friendly workplace is just as beneficial to employers as employees, as they will be able to attract and retain top talent, regardless of how someone identifies.
Also, whether you’re at a job or still in school, you’ve likely completed an application form that asked for gender (and odds are it wasn’t very transgender inclusive). Check out this article on how to be inclusive in asking for gender on a form and implement the idea wherever you can.
5. Interact with individuals on an individual basis.
Odds are you know someone who identifies as transgender. In fact, odds are you know several people who are. Did you know that? Odds are, you didn’t. Here’s a simple fact for you: it’s our tendency to interact with individuals based on our perception of the group(s) they belong to. For example, if you perceive someone to be a guy, you’ll act differently around him than you would around someone you perceive to be a gal. Stop that. Or at least try. If you’re unsure how, start with the Platinum Rule. If you need help after that, ask. And, for the love of Pete (Pete’s a great person), if you’re going to use gendered pronouns (he/she) be sure you’re using the right ones. A general rule: use the pronoun that aligns with the gender the person identifies with.
6. Ask questions, both of yourself and others.
Transphobia is standing smack-dab in the way of us creating a trans*-friendly world. As much as the idea that someone isn’t exactly (or wasn’t exactly) “man” or “woman” is scary, I’ve never encountered a person who didn’t come around after a few minutes of conversation. Once people realize being a transgender person isn’t that different from being a “normal” person (in fact, it’s not different at all), you can see the transphobia start to recede. Investigate your own gender. Use the Genderbread Person to help. I’d bet my lucky tooth (the good one) that you aren’t 100% Man, even if your t-shirt says so.
7. Share more ideas in the comments below.
I’d love to have a list of 30+ concrete ways we can make our world trans*-friendly to balance out the list of cisgender privileges, but I want to hear from you. I call this “crowd-sourcing social justice.” Consider the five above just the beginning. Share some ideas in the comments, and we can work through potential problems and create a fantastic list.