For Transgender Day of Visibility I asked several transgender individuals for short statements on how allies can assist in helping empower trans people to increase awareness and visibility amoung the community. I was going to simply highlight them on Facebook throughout the day. When Capri Culpepper responded it challenged how I thought about being an ally and how we use labels. I knew right away this wasn’t just another Facebook highlight. So, here’s Capri’s point of view …
On what makes a good trans ally.
When it comes to supporting trans and non binary people, I think that there are many ways to show solidarity; but I believe that actively listening and taking up less space is a great way to begin to empathize with and understand the plight of trans and non binary people.
I also think that displaying the same amount of respect you’d afford any person, and their identity, beliefs and life essence , is definitely appropriate.
In my personal experience, I’ve had a lot of people attempt to try to be supportive but actually ended up being overbearing because it almost seemed like they pity trans folk for not being the “normal” or meeting up to misogynistic stereotypes of the archaic “this is what a man should do, or what a woman should be.”
I think when you genuinely are trying to be an ally to trans /nonbinary people , it takes unraveling the wheel of misogynistic and cisnormative patterns of thinking that influence how we view gender and sex. That includes embracing people that don’t meet strict standards of what it means to be a “man” or a “woman.”
That includes trans folks of all walks of life, and varying bodies and expressions.
So being an ally is showing true respect and being genuine about it.
On the subject of limiting identity by using labels.
People who happen to be trans often don’t want to be reduced to that one aspect of their identity in order to be respected. It seems like a barrier in developing a supportive relationship with people.
It certainly is for me. I’m definitely less likely to feel comfortable around someone who views me solely as a trans woman, because in reality I’m just a woman that had a different path because I was socialized and interpreted to be a certain way for a few years of my life. I think our society gets so caught up in labeling everything and we should stop being so eager to simplify the complex beauty of diversity just because it’s more palatable that way.
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