Advance Your Ally ship

Connor French, Staff Reporter

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Last year, I was standing outside of the school with some friends and acquaintances from theater. I can’t tell you how the conversation was brought up, but a boy said something to me along the lines of, “But you know you have a girl’s body, right? You can’t expect everyone to get it right away.”

Yes, thanks for reminding me.

I, of all people, know that people mess up my gender more than you would guess, and I also know that most people have good intentions. However, I know that these same people have probably said something offensive, such as reminding me of my dysphoria, simply because they didn’t know any better.

That can’t be the excuse forever, though. I didn’t know much about anything LGBT related until I was in eighth grade, and in the process of coming out as transgender. Now, I could practically write an encyclopedia on all things gay, but that’s certainly not what I am asking of you. There are many gay and Trans students at Linn Mar, and it’s important that teachers and students learn about being better allies.

Pronouns. There are a few things about pronouns that both students and teachers should understand. Pronouns are not optional for most Trans people, but that isn’t to say that a slip up is unforgivable. The most important thing to know is that when you do slip up and you realize it, catch yourself and move on. The situation becomes more uncomfortable when you stop me after class to profusely apologize for messing up.

Earlier this year, one of my teachers stopped me after class to ask me a question. As she began to apologize in advance for it possibly being an offensive question, I braced myself. It would either be the most or least offensive question. Good news, it turned out to be the least. She simply asked me, “What are your pronouns?” I want it to go on the record that this is an incredibly polite question that should always be asked when you’re unsure in regards to a transgender person.

An even better way for teachers to solve this problem is to normalize their students sharing their pronouns. We do so many introduction activities on the first day of each new class, one usually being answering questions about ourselves on notecards. I always have to put my pronouns, or share that I am Trans, in the extra section, but I don’t believe it should be extra. Normalizing students by introducing themselves with their name and pronouns will allow your Trans students, who you may have not known existed at first, to be more comfortable.

Inappropriate Questions. I will never not welcome curiosity. Knowledge is a superpower, but there are boundaries. It’s a common phrase that you should never ask a woman her age. The same thing goes for Trans people. My first tip: ask before asking. Find out if the person is okay with answering questions you may have. Even if they are, understand they have the right to not answer certain questions.

Sometimes in conversation, I’ll mention my birth name, like how it could be spelled in a million different ways. I always know what’s going to come next: I’ll be asked what it was, or be stared at expectantly to say it. For the Trans community, our birth names our referred to as dead-names, which I’m hoping will give you the hint. Most Trans people, especially pre-transition people, are not comfortable sharing their dead-names. It’s always a huge relief when someone knows not to ask.

Another thing to always avoid is any medical questions. Asking if someone’s gotten the surgery is incredibly inappropriate; you wouldn’t walk up to someone and ask if they’d been circumcised! I would say the only exception to this is if the Trans person brings it up. I’ve had conversations with many friends, usually close friends, about testosterone treatments. If I’m talking about it, and you have a question about the effects, when I’m starting treatment, etc., you can ask!

Casual Allyship. Being an ally isn’t only showing up for pride parades in June. There are multiple things you can do in your daily life to show your peers or students that you’re an ally. Believe it or not, the littlest things can cause Trans people to come out to you.

There’s a huge chance that you’ve seen the safe space stickers on many classroom doors at Linn Mar. I’ve had a teacher ask me, “Shouldn’t it be inherent that this is a safe place?” It was a good question, because it should, but in reality, it’s not. Last year, when my friend saw the safe space sticker on his teacher’s door, he immediately felt comfortable about coming out. If you want a student to know that you’re a safe person to talk to, having a safe space sticker will show them.

As for students, who do not have classroom windows to put stickers on, there are many pins and bracelets to wear that show you are supportive. In many classes in which discussion is a major part of the curriculum, knowing another student is there to support them may lead a Trans and/or gay student to speak out about their experiences.

As the current co-president of Spectrum, I want all students and faculty to know that when they want to be a better ally, they can always turn to me and my co-presidents. I believe most people have the best intentions, and I know that navigating a topic you may not be educated on can be tricky. That’s why finding more information is important. You never know if your actions can impact somebody around you.