In October of 2016. Walden Living collaborated with the Eating Disorder Support Network, and Clearpath Counseling to deliver a Transgender Mental Health Conference called Transforum. One of the reasons we, as three cis- gendered women, felt the need to start educating ourselves and others about competent and ethical care was the number of horrifying stories we heard from trans clients about the abuse, violation, and detrimental “support” they have received. This list of five ways to support your transgender friends, family, clients, etc.. is a summary of some of the things we learned from our amazing presenters at Transforum. This list is very simplified but effective. Please Comment for more tips
1. Use preferred pronouns
Ever been accidentally called a Sir when you’re a Miss or a Miss when you’re a Sir? Doesn’t feel good does it? Pronouns are important because they demonstrate acceptance, respect and dignity to the trans community, not to mention it’s just a common courtesy. If you are not clear on what pronouns a person uses, don’t be afraid to ask, most individuals will appreciate the question, but go about it in a sensitive manner. You can always start with “Hi, I’m Margo, I use the pronouns “she,” “her,” “hers,” taking a proactive approach shows that you are not only respectful, but also willing to educate those around you about the necessity of preferred pronouns. If you are in a group setting, set the tone by asking everyone to share pronouns instead of singling people out.
2. Don’t make assumptions
Understanding that some people’s gender does not align with the gender they were assigned at birth, or their biological gender, is crucial. That being said, don’t assume that just because someone has changed their gender, their sexual and romantic orientation has changed as well, or vice versus. For example, trans women can be sexually attracted to men, women, both, or no one.
3. Don’t generalize
Studies show a high suicide rate in the trans community, however this does not mean that all transgender people are suicidal or depressed! Just because someone is transgender does not mean that they have mental health issues and if a trans person goes in to see a therapist it is not necessarily because they are transgender. The two things are mutually exclusive! Transgender does not equal mental health concern. Having the courage to seek therapy is difficult enough, without the judgement of others.
4. Don’t ask questions that you don’t need to know the answer to
Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it’s also harmful to our human relationships. Would you walk up to a cis- gendered man and ask him if he has had a vasectomy done? No, of course not. You can be a good friend and make it clear that you are there to listen if your friend ever wants to talk, but resist the urge to ask questions about surgeries, hormones, and other personal information. Keep your curiosity in check, ask what you need to know, not what you want to know. Remember, what’s important in building relationships is how you make people feel, so ask questions that make the other person feel supported not interrogated or violated.
Watch this video for more:
5. Advocate Kindness
Advocate for your fellow community members, and correct other people’s harmful language and potential denial. We, as humans, have to be the positive change we wish to see in our world. Be not only empathetic towards the transgendered community, but be an advocate as well. It is up to us to intervene and educate others who are speaking negatively of the trans community or even worse, denying its existence. That being said, don’t assume that you are all knowing and always keep on educating yourself.
Following our Transforum event that took place in October, I would like to take a little time to share with you a list of providers in the Madison area that are skilled and comfortable in working with transgendered individuals.