By KC Clements
In light of the recent election results, many cisgender people have reached out to me to ask what they can do to help support me and other members of my community.
With threats to reverse policies that have made it easier than ever for trans people to change their gender markers on federal IDs, to overturn Obama’s recent directive demanding schools allow trans people to use bathrooms that align with their gender, to enact state and federal anti-transgender legislation, and to repeal the Affordable Care Act, trans people, like so many other minorities, are increasingly concerned for our safety and well-being.
With so much heaviness and a real dire need for help from cisgender allies, I decided to call on my trans community and my own personal experience and knowledge in order to compile a resource for cisgender folks who want to support us emotionally and materially right now and as we face an uncertain future.
While this list is far from exhaustive, it’s a good jumping off point for those who are ready to get to work.
1. Check in on us and offer to help with the little things; not just now, but in an ongoing way.
Shoot a text, email, letter, or phone call to your trans friends asking if we’re OK. If you know we’ve been out, ask if we got home safe; better yet, offer to escort us home or cover cab fare if we don’t have the funds. Offer to make us a meal or run errands for us.
We’ve got a long road ahead, and it’s important that we know the people in our lives are invested in our well-being and safety on a day-to-day level.
2. Take our fears, concerns, and anger seriously.
We have legitimate reason to be afraid, concerned, and angry right now. Don’t delegitimize our pain. Don’t tell us things will be fine or that Trump’s promises won’t be realized. If we’re angry, and if we express particular anger at cisgender people, don’t take it personally. Witness, listen, and learn.
Not only should we be allowed our full range of emotions, but our opinions should also be respected regardless of how calmly or politely we are able to express them.
3. Use your privilege to educate yourself and other cisgender people, in real life and online.
Now, more than ever, it’s important that you use the correct language and pronouns to refer to your trans friends. Now, more than ever, it’s important that you don’t out trans people and you don’t make judgements about how out we are.
Now, more than ever, it’s important that you check your assumptions about passing and binary cisnormative standards of beauty and consider how cissexist language (like that which associates certain body parts with people of certain genders) harms trans people and perpetuates stereotypes against us.
If you see or hear someone saying something transphobic, using the wrong pronouns for a trans person, or making a joke at trans people’s expense, step in and correct them. If you see or hear someone asking a genuine question about trans issues that you’re capable of handling sensitively, offer to do the work of educating.
4. If you have the funds, offer to help support our transition needs (medical or otherwise) and our document changes.
Even before the Trump regime, trans folks have struggled to gain access to life-affirming surgeries, electrolysis, and hormones because these things are often not covered by insurance; it can cost us hundreds, even thousands of dollars out of pocket regardless of whether they’re covered.
Trump’s threats to repeal the Affordable Care Act will cause many of us to lose the affordable insurance we’ve relied on to access this necessary health care. Additionally, trans folks are now scrambling to change our gender markers on our identifications, a process which can cost several hundred dollars or more.
Being read as our gender and having documents that reflect that gender could become an even more crucial safety issue in the months and years ahead. Offer financial support to your friends directly, give money to crowdfunding campaigns, or sign up here to get matched with a trans person who needs to change their marker.
5. Go with us—to the bathroom, to the courtroom, to the doctor.
Entering gender-segregated spaces like bathrooms and locker rooms can be especially nerve-wracking for us, particularly in states like North Carolina where laws have been enacted to keep us from using facilities that correspond with our gender identities.
And while institutions like courts, the DMV, and medical facilities offer us access to certain harm reducing identification changes and life-affirming care, there’s no guarantee that the people serving us will treat us with respect and be educated about how to deal with trans issues effectively and sensitively. Offer to go with us, and promise to intervene if anything goes awry.
6. Follow trans leaders, particularly trans women of color.
And moreover, offer them your time and money.
This is true for cisgender people, as well as for those of us trans folks who are privileged with respect to race, class, ability, cis-passing status, AFAB status, and more. Trans women of color (TWOC) often not only have an intimate knowledge of the most pressing needs of the trans community, but are also some of our fiercest and most experienced leaders. It is imperative to our political resistance that we listen to them, follow their lead, and offer our bodies where they’re needed most.
If you’re considering making financial donations, avoid major non-profits like HRC that are already overfunded (not to mention out of touch with the communities they purport to serve), and send your dollars to grassroots organizations led by and centering TWOC instead. Trans Women of Color Collective, TransJustice, TGI Justice, Sylvia Rivera Law Project, Trans Tech, El/La Para TransLatinas, Trans Justice Funding Project, and Familia Trans Queer Liberation Movement are a few people doing amazing work!
7. “Leverage your access to resources to create opportunities for our community.”
This instruction was given by Lourdes Ashley Hunter, the co-founder of the Trans Women of Color Collective, and I think it succinctly and powerfully articulates an everyday way that cis folks can support the trans community.
Are you a lawyer or medical professional? Offer sliding-scale or pro-bono services to trans people. Are you a teacher or student at a college or university? Use your access to space, printers and copiers, and educational resources (books and PDFs) to help trans individuals and organizations meet and disseminate information. Do you work in a school, business, or government office that could use trans competency training? Pay a trans person to come in and speak about how to make these spaces safer. Are you a publisher or editor? Use your platform to boost the voices of trans people.
8. Consider stockpiling hormones.
Cisgender people often face fewer barriers to accessing hormone-based medications than trans people do, and it is possible that these will be even harder to access in a Trump presidency. Most cis women and AFAB (assigned female at birth) trans people can ask their doctors for spironolactone for acne or blood pressure issues, and estradiol for birth control, both of which can be useful to AMAB (assigned male at birth) trans people who use hormones.
Cis men who are diagnosed with hypogonadism can be treated with testosterone, which AFAB trans people who use hormones need. If you can, access these medications and distribute them to trans folks in need. Check out this page for a more detailed resource.
9. Think intersectionally.
Trans issues don’t exist in a bubble. Anti-immigration policy, police brutality and mass incarceration, access to housing and healthcare, gentrification, clean water and environmental issues, attacks on indigenous peoples and their land, xenophobia and Islamophobia, women’s rights and reproductive health; all of these are trans issues because they (disproportionately) impact transgender people. If you’re involved in advocacy or organizing in any of these areas, ensure that trans people are not only involved in your work, but are also actively centered and given space to lead. If the organizations you’re working with don’t have any trans people involved, lead efforts to recruit them and be the person to bring up intersections with trans issues.
10. Make some phone calls.
You can call your elected officials today to voice your support for the transgender community and to pressure them to take an active approach to protecting trans rights. And, be aware that we will need you to continue to call them as legislation is introduced at the state and federal level that directly impacts us. In light of the ongoing estrogen shortage that has devastated trans women nationwide, you can also call the FDA and the pharmaceutical companies that manufacture injectable estrogen, Perrigo and Par Sterile, and put pressure on them to get these necessary medications back on the shelves.
The support of our cisgender allies is and will continue to be crucial to the safety and well-being of the transgender community. I encourage you to share this list with your networks, and to make a commitment to doing at least three of these things before Trump takes office. Together we can push back and build powerful coalitions of solidarity.
KC is a queer, non-binary, white, able-bodied writer based in Brooklyn, NY. They hold an M.A. in Gender Politics from New York University. You can follow their writing at aminotfemme.wordpress.com.