What do you think of when you hear the word ‘ally’? Not everyone has the same definition, but it’s a term we’re seeing pop up more and more in our daily lives.
An ally is someone who supports and gives help to others. With Trans Day of Visibility around the corner, it’s more pertinent than ever to discuss good allyship. A lot of transgender people face discrimination and hate crimes regularly. We live in 2023 yet transphobia still lingers in places that you wouldn’t think could exist.
But in the fight against transphobia, we need good allies by our side.
A good ally is someone who adapts language to be inclusive of everyone, who actively supports the transgender community, who advocates when they can. A good ally corrects others when they use the wrong pronouns, is willing to be part of difficult conversations, and isn’t afraid to admit when they’re wrong. A good ally never assumes someone’s gender.
Owning up to our mistakes and holding ourselves accountable may seem bold, but it can mean so much to the trans community. For example, if you previously assumed that all trans people had surgery as part of their transition, but later educated yourself and learned that this wasn’t the case, good allyship would be holding conversations with other cisgender people and admitting your mistake. You’re allowing yourself to grow as a person, educating others, and breaking down those barriers.
The burden of educating everyone should not be on trans people, and allies can play a big part in breaking down stigma and stereotypes. The trans community is so diverse, yet we are a small minority of the LGBTQ+ community. Having allies in our corner advocating and including us as part of the wider conversation and making sure our voices are heard is what we need.
I have had some amazing experiences when it comes to allyship. When I first came out as transgender, being trans was still classified as a ‘mental health disorder’ so right from the get-go I felt ashamed and like I couldn’t be a normal boy. When I was growing up, LGBTQ+ identities were never talked about. Anyone who did come out was met with a never-ending string of insults. So, little me hid my identity and sexual orientation until I just couldn’t anymore.
After I came out, I did face some negativity, and was even the victim of a hate crime. But it also turned out that there were people around me to help me up. They empowered me to build myself up stronger as a trans man, and with small acts of kindness they made me feel like I mattered in the world. After years of bullying I felt free, and my allies were an important part of that process. I’m so grateful for the positive network of people I had surrounding me, because they helped me become the man I am today.
One of the reasons I began volunteering for Just Like Us and speaking in schools was that I wanted to be that inspirational figure that young people need. A trans man living life to his full potential and being a positive role model. I want those young people to know that you can be happy, trans and live the life you want. But my work also means that I can encourage young people to be strong allies, and this gives me hope that future generations will be able to live authentically, whether they are LGBTQ+ or not.
Charlie is an ambassador for Just Like Us, the LGBT+ young people’s charity. If you’re LGBT+, age 18-25 and living in the UK, you can volunteer for the Ambassador Programme here.