An ally is a person of privilege who supports and advocates for the rights and freedoms of a target group to which they do not belong. With an ever growing trans* demographic within our community, it’s important for our fellow kinksters of privilege to know how to effectively and sensitively align themselves with trans* folks. There are many general rules for any person of privilege aligning themselves with a marginalized group (meaning people without certain privilege, such as women, people of colour, trans* people, non-heterosexual people, disabled people, and so forth, or any combination of the aforementioned), however there are specific codes of conduct for each of these target groups that one must respect in order to be an informed, respectful, and effective ally. This is not political correctness. This is being a decent, considerate person.
The Gender Binary Myth
The first step to being a trans* ally is doing your best to abolish something that has been ingrained in us from the moment we were born.—that there are two genders. This is simply incorrect. Plenty of people who claim to be trans* friendly will argue that there is male and there is female, and how trans* people identify is an addition to that. This is completely incorrect. Gender is a spectrum. Male and female, while the most commonly occurring gender identities, are neither the only nor the most valid or “real” genders on this spectrum, nor are they so concrete.
How we tend to define male and female is based on what chromosomes you do or do not possess and what genitals you do or do not possess at birth. Babies with a penis and testicles are assigned a male gender, babies with vulva and a uterus are assigned a female gender. Medically speaking, this is already problematic.
People with a combination of male and female physical characteristics are intersex. Intersexuality is when a person cannot be medically defined as distinctly male or female. Often intersex people are raised to be the gender their parents or doctors feel they are “more”, whether by their chromosomes or the simplest mode of surgical alternations. Yes, often doctors of intersex patients will recommend to their parents surgically altering their genitalia to better fit a more binary concept of gender. Even when their natural genitalia poses no immediate or long term health risks.
A trans* person is someone who was assigned a specific gender at birth that does not accurately describe or encompass them. Simply speaking, their doctors/parents got it wrong. A trans man is not a woman and a trans man, he is simply a man. Their identity as a trans man is every bit as valid and real as that of a cisgender man. We must not only remember this, we must perpetuate it. In our language, in our actions, and in how we address one another.
When you hear the term “men and women” used to define all persons, you need to be thinking to yourself, “But that’s not everyone.” It may seem like a big, pointless effort, but I assure you, the trouble you face in altering your habits to be a better ally is nothing to the trouble it is to be a trans* person in a cis-dominated society.
Similarly, you are not either a man or a woman, or a trans man or a trans woman. This exclusive sort of “trans allyship” is every bit as damaging to the trans* community as straight up transphobia—or rather, it is straight up transphobia. When a person identifies as a gender, any gender, you must take them seriously. You must acknowledge that that gender is every bit as valid as either male or female variants. It doesn’t matter if it seems silly or odd or unlikely to you. This line of thinking is harmful and incorrect. Being an ally means constantly expanding your realm of inclusion and acceptance. If someone identifies as genderqueer, transgender, agender, non-gender, genderless, genderfluid, bois, grrls, third gender, bigender, or any other gender identity under the trans* umbrella, it is your job to simply accept it, respect it, and move on.
Codes of Conduct
Some alterations in our behaviour to be respectful of trans* people are easy. Some take work. Nevertheless, they are important and must never be undermined. Here is a list of some basic do’s and don’t’s for being a good trans* ally (and a generally respectful person).
Use preferred titles and pronouns only. If you are unsure of a which pronouns they prefer, ask them as privately and politely as possible. It is far less grievous than ignorantly misgendering them. If you do misgender them, apologize and correct yourself. Even when this person isn’t around, you must refer to them correctly. Misgendering or mislabeling even when someone isn’t around is transphobic behaviour.
If someone’s gender isn’t evident to you, do not ask them to disclose it. This is very rude. Asking for pronouns is one thing, passing judgment on how a person presents themselves is another. How would you feel if you got asked every day whether you’re a girl or a boy? Try to pick it up through context or conversation. If you become comfortable around each other, the situation may arise where it’s appropriate to politely ask, “Do you have a preference on how I refer to you gender-wise?” Again, as politely and privately as possible.
Referring to someone as a gender they are not is as harmful as outright misgendering them. “You were such a pretty girl,” is very offensive. That person was never a girl, they were simply assigned that label. This causes dysphoria and implies they were something and are now something else.
Do not inquire as to a person’s gender before their transition or before they came out. No asking about what they looked like, how they were referred, their former name, or anything to that effect. This is invasive and often painful. If the information is not given voluntarily, it is not yours to know.
Avoid scrutiny when trying to determine someone’s gender. It may be a natural reaction to look a little longer at a gender ambiguous person on the street or at a party. Try to catch yourself or stop yourself from doing it in the first place. It may not seem like a big deal to you, especially when the person in question has no idea you’re looking, but it is still an example of transphobic and invasive behaviour. You would feel insulted if someone was staring at you trying to figure out “is that a he or a she?” so try not to do that to others.
You wouldn’t ask a cisgender person about their genitals. Don’t ask a trans* person. I can’t believe I even have to disclose this. This includes questions or comments about whether they have had surgery, will have surgery, or their thoughts on getting surgery. Do not ask if they are taking/want to take/will be taking hormones. Super rude and not your business.
Don’t ask trans* people if/how they have sex. Again, super rude and not your business.
Don’t assume the only way someone can transition is through surgery/hormones. Transitioning is a huge process that encompasses many alterations to one’s life. Medical transition is simply one part of it.
Do NOT assume all trans* people feel “trapped in the wrong body”. This is an oversimplification and is not experienced by all trans* people.
Don’t assume that trans men are wholly exempt from male privilege, or that trans women don’t experience very real misogyny.
Avoid comments on someone’s appearance based on their gender that you wouldn’t make to a cisgender person. Comments on how “well” a person “passes” or how they “do/don’t really look like ____” are very demeaning. They aren’t passing as anything. They are who they are whether you choose to see it or not.
Instead of saying someone was born a man or a woman, say they were assigned that gender at birth. This is more correct and far less offensive as trans* people are born exactly as they are—their identities were simply not recognized.
Never use derogatory terms such as tranny, shemale, he-she, etc. Even in jest. Even when there are no trans* people around. Note: Many trans* people actively try to reclaim these words. Just because a person uses them to refer to themselves does not give you the right to use it.
Avoid fetishizing trans* people. Check yourself and how you phrase things. Phrases like, “Trans girls are so hot!” is othering and demeaning. Trans* people are every bit as valid and normal as cisgender people and vary among one another every bit as much as cisgender people. Appreciating someone’s gender is not the same thing as defining them by it.
Sexual orientation and gender identity are two very, very different things. Do not make any assumptions about a trans* person’s sexual orientation and do not ask invasive questions regarding it. Again, you wouldn’t ask a random cis person if they’re gay, straight, or what have you, what makes you think it would be okay to ask a trans* person?
Sometimes aspects of trans* genders can be confusing. Why someone chooses or does not choose to have surgery. Why a trans man is still in a relationship with a lesbian. Why an agender person prefers gender specific pronouns. It’s important to remember that trans* people do not exist as educators. They have to deal with explaining themselves constantly. If you truly wish to be informed, take steps to educate yourself. Don’t expect others to do it for you. How a person expresses their gender is personal. If personal information is not offered voluntarily, assume it is not your business.
Do your best to be accommodating. If you have a business or you’re in charge of public bathrooms, provide a gender neutral or “family” option. Do not berate trans* people for using gender specific bathrooms contrary to their assigned gender at birth. Some trans* people have no issue with this while for others, simply going to the bathroom can be very unsafe and distressing. It’s not hard to put up a sign saying “unisex” or “family”.
Avoid referring to people as either male or female. Use terms such as “all genders” instead of “both genders”. Plural instead of dual. This may seem like semantics, but when your existence is excluded from every day speech or when referring to people as a whole, it can be very dehumanizing.
Never, ever, ever out a trans* person without their permission. This means disclosing that they are trans*, in transition or fully transitioned. Not only is this extremely disrespectful, it is potentially extremely dangerous. It also invalidates their identity by taking their power over it away from them. Be conscious of your surroundings when discussing a trans* person or people, in case you are in a hostile, transphobic environment. And remember, there is a difference between being supportive of a trans* person’s decision over whether or not to come out, and imposing yourself upon that decision. If someone says they are not ready, they are not ready. Respect that.
Above of all, what you must remember is that how a person identifies is not about you. Ever, at all. Do not make it about you with how “hard” it is to adjust to someone transitioning. When those thoughts arise, remind yourself, “This is not about me. This is about respecting people.” As a cis person and a trans* ally, when a trans* person points out that something you are doing/saying/perpetuating is transphobic or problematic, your job isn’t to argue or go on the defensive. Your job is to reevaluate that behaviour and figure out how being around you can be made a safer space for trans* people. This includes being understanding of when trans* people prefer exclusively trans* environments and spaces.
I cannot stress this enough: words are important. If you are corrected for misgendering someone, for using an incorrect term or a term incorrectly, it is your job to apologize and correct this behaviour. Yes, you will sometimes be met with hostility. Yes, it may cause confrontation. This is a reaction to constant invalidation and ignorance. Understand this. Respect it. The best you can do is work on educating yourself so you will be equipped with the correct terminology when the situation arises.
Agender/Genderless/Non-Gender is an identity some people have when they have no specific gender, or gender does not apply to them. Some feel this is a gender in and of itself, and some do not, and/or omit a gender identity entirely when describing/defining themselves.
Androgyny is a label for qualities exhibited by a person that cannot be assigned as distinctly masculine or distinctly feminine. Some androgynous people still identify as cis and some do not.
Assignment of gender is when a person is prematurely assigned a male or female gender, typically at birth or as a presumption based on their physical characteristics. Sometimes it works out that a person is the gender assigned to them, sometimes it does not. The acronyms trans* people tend to use when referring to gender assignment are AMAB (assigned male at birth) and AFAB (assigned female at birth).
Cisgender/Cissexual simply describes someone who is not trans*. The prefix cis (along the side of [assigned gender]) is the opposite of trans (across/beyond [assigned gender]). Specifying cis rather than simply omitting trans* is confirmation that cis is not the normal or the default, it’s simply cis, and therefor trans* is not the abnormal or the “other”.
Coming out can have two meanings. For non-transitioned people, it usually means coming out that you are trans*, and that your gender is not the one others have been perceiving you as. For a transitioned person, it usually means coming out as trans*, and that the gender you are perceived as is not the gender you were assigned at birth.
Crossdressing is the act of someone wearing clothing and sometimes adopting mannerisms perceived as those of the “opposite sex”. Crossdressing is not necessarily related to gender or sexual orientation. Some cis people crossdress, some straight people crossdress, and a combination thereof. Crossdresser has more or less replaced the term transvestite.
Dissociation is the sense of disconnect from some aspect of your physical or psychological circumstances. Dissociation for trans* people psychologically usually refers to a disconnect of socialized behaviours or norms, while physical dissociation is a disconnect with physical attributes. For example, a trans man dissociating with his breasts, or a trans woman dissociating with her penis. Some people who experience dissociation make alterations accordingly, and some do not.
Drag is more of a theatrical form of crossdressing, in that the person in drag is usually performing. Women are referred to as drag kings and men as drag queens. Many kings and queens may be queer or trans*, but not all.
Dysphoria, not unlike dissociation, in this sense, is having deeply negative sentiments or connotations related to one’s gender or sex, or a profound discomfort with aspects of their bodies or socially acceptable behaviours. This may lead to averse reactions to being misgendered, mislabeled, or treated in a way that is disrespectful or in disregard to their gender. (Note: Not to be confused with “gender identity disorder” or symptoms of this “disorder”. This is extremely invalidating and an incorrect line of thinking. The solution to gender related dysphoria should be to make it easier for a person to assume their gender, not encourage them to “accept” their assigned gender at birth.)
Femininity refers to qualities that may be described as womanly or typically ascribed to women.
Female-to-Male (FtM, F2M) is a term for men whose bodies were initially assigned female. Many FtM men undergo medical and/or social transition, as the acronym implies.
Gender is a sociological set of boundaries and signifiers that tend to describe people as masculine, feminine, androgynous, or some combination thereof.
Gender binary is an incorrect dual concept of gender upheld by many people and institutions. It infers that people are either masculine or feminine, or, more specifically, either men or women.
Gender identity is the psychological state of being a member of a certain gender. Gender is identified by a person’s internal perceptions. It cannot be defined physically or behaviourally, though many physical attributes and social norms are commonly grouped into various genders, and are therefor often subscribed to by people of those genders.
Genderneutral qualities are those that typically can’t be assigned as either feminine or masculine. Some (definitely not all) examples of gender neutral pronouns are:
they/them: They laughed. I love them. Their cat purred.
ze(sometimes zie or sie)/zir(sometimes hir): Ze laughed. I loved zir. Zir cat purred. (pronounced zee/zeer/hear)
xe/xyr/xem: Xe laughed. I love xem. Xyr cat purred.
ey/eir/em: Ey laughed. I love em. Eir cat purred.
Gender presentation is how a person chooses to exhibit gender. Usually how they dress, look, or behave. For example, drag kings who use stick on beards are attempting a masculine gender presentation.
Gender roles are a set of social expectations assigned to various genders. They can often be harmful, especially when one seeks to venture outside of one’s assigned gender roles, though they can also be a source of/confirmation of identity for others.
Genderfluid can be used to describe someone whose gender varies or shifts between what is typically masculine or typically feminine. They may sometimes feel more masculine, sometimes more feminine, or sometimes more androgynous.
Genderqueer can be used to describe someone who feels the substance of their gender lies outside the gender binary. Some people are simply genderqueer, while others feel genderqueer is a part of their gender. For example, some people may define themselves as a genderqueer boy, or a female-identifying genderqueer person.
Male-to-Female (MTF, M2F) is a term for women whose bodies were initially assigned male. Many MtF women undergo medical and/or social transition, as the acronym implies.
Masculinity refers to qualities that may be described as manly or typically ascribed to men.
Misgendering is that act of referring to someone as an incorrect gender or using incorrect pronouns. This is extremely disrespectful and when done accidentally, should be humbly apologized for and corrected.
Non-op is short for non-operation. It typically describes transsexual people who do not wish to make surgical alterations to their bodies in regards to their gender/gender presentation.
Outing is the often harmful and potentially dangerous act of disclosing a trans* person’s status as trans*. This should never be done without a trans* person’s permission and you should never pressure a trans* person to out themselves if they do not feel comfortable doing so.
Passing is usually defined as the act of “successfully” presenting a specific gender. For some people passing is important, for some people it is not. Whether a person “passes” or attempts to “pass” is a personal decision and bares no weight on the validity of their gender, nor is it the concern of anyone else.
Post-op is a term to describe a person who has undergone gender reassignment surgery/surgeries.
Pre-op is a term to describe a person who plans to undergo gender reassignment surgery/surgeries
Sex is a term to describe physical characteristics that determine, strictly in a medical sense, if a person is male, female, or intersex. Gender and sex are mutually exclusive and the former carries far more weight than the latter.
Sexual orientation implies toward whom someone’s sexual preferences lie. It is mutually exclusive to gender and one does not necessarily bear weight on the other.
Sexual/Gender Reassignment Surgery is a surgical alteration to one’s body in regards to gender-attributed characteristics. It is typically used to describe vaginoplasty (the creation of a vagina), metoidioplasty and phalloplasty (two ways to create a penis), and mastectomy (removal of the breasts), and various other surgical alterations.
Stealth describes the level to which a transitioned or transitioning person discloses their assigned gender at birth. Some people live in “deep” stealth and are deeply secretive about their previously assigned gender, some to varying degrees, and some are relatively open. It is important to respect a person’s level of stealth and never out them in any sense without their permission.
Trans* is an umbrella term to describe all non-cis identities. The origin of the asterisk at the end is rooted in computers, as when you type an asterisk at the end of a word in a search, you are telling your computer to search the word and anything else that may come after it. It is distinct from trans in that the latter is typically used to describe namely trans men and trans women. Trans* encompasses people who are transgender, transsexual, crossdressers, genderqueer, genderfluid, non-binary, genderfuck, bois, grrls, genderless, agender, non-gendered, third gender, two-spirit, bigender, trans men, trans women, and other non-cis identities. Some people who do fit the above do not feel comfortable identifying as trans*, usually because of personal reasons or experiences.
Trans man means a man who was assigned a female gender at birth.
Trans woman means a woman who was assigned a male gender at birth.
Transgender is another umbrella term that can describe people who feel they do not identify with their assigned gender at birth, as well as people who do identify with their assigned gender at birth, but in a sort of “broader” scope or in a way that is also inclusive of other gender identities, a term usually referred to as gender-variant or genderfluid. However, some people who do relate to the above may not use this term to describe themselves, usually out of personal preference or experience. Note: Transgender is an adjective. Not a verb. Avoid using the word “transgendered”.
Transition is a process by which a person changes their living situation or themselves to how they feel more accurately presents their gender. It can include a variety of things such as clothes, environment, appearance, medical procedures, surgical procedures, etc. Transition means different things to different folks and should be respected however it is practiced.
Transphobia (also referred to as trans-prejudice, transmisogyny and cissexism) is fear, hatred, or prejudice toward trans* people. It is important to remember that transphobia isn’t always an outright malice for trans* people. It is anything that disregards, disrespects or is otherwise exclusive of trans* people. For example, using vaginal imagery as a symbol of female empowerment is transphobic because not all women have a vagina and not all people with a vagina are women.
Transsexuality is when a person is exclusively or near exclusively what people perceive to be “the opposite” of their assigned gender at birth. A trans man being someone who was assigned female and probably socialized and brought up “as” female, but is actually a man, and vice versa for trans women.
Note: There are a handful of established gender identities I did not define as I could not find a clear consensus for their definition. I decided it was best not to impart my personal views on an identity I do not subscribe to, as it may mean many different things to many different people.
Post-Op/Pre-Op - While this is a common term in the trans* community, it is often used to shame trans* people, or demean their gender entirely. The preferred term, especially for cis people to use, is transition.
Hermaphrodite - The preferred term is intersex person. Hermaprodite is a dated word very often used in a derogatory manner.
Transgendered - Transgender is an adjective, not a verb. You can’t go around transgendering people. The correct term is transgender person or transgender people.
Transvestite - More or less completely replaced with crossdresser. Now widely used as a derogatory term, it shouldn’t ever be used by people who don’t directly identify with it.
Never, under any circumstances refer to a trans* person as tranny, he-she, she-male, transvestite, gender bender, it, he/she, trap
All transsexual people seek surgery.This is simply incorrect. Many transsexual and trans* people are perfectly content with their bodies, or simply do not seek surgery for personal reasons. They are no less trans than someone seeking surgery.
All trans* people see themselves as a third gender.Again, incorrect. Third gender is an identity, but when used in the above context, it implies that two genders are the norm and anything outside is the third, or the other. Similarly, it is disrespectful to people who do feel they fit into the binary. Trans men are simply men. Trans women are simply women.
All trans men are masculine, all trans women are feminine, all genderqueer people are androgynous.The only thing you need to do to identify as a gender, is identify as that gender. A trans man who likes to wear dresses or make up is no less a man than a trans man or cis man who prefers to dress in a stereotypical masculine way.
You can always tell a trans* person from a cis person.Incorrect. You’ve probably come across plenty of trans* people or fully transitioned people in your life and didn’t realize it.
Being trans* is related to sexual orientation.Incorrect. Just as if someone is a cis man or a cis woman having nothing to do with their sexual preferences, the same can be said for trans* people. Many identify as straight, gay, bi, queer, pan, demi, etc.
Genderqueer/genderfluid/agender/etc isn’t as “real” as cis men and women and trans men and women. Everyone either leans more one way or the other.Wrong. Trans* people who are not transsexual men or women experience their identities in every bit as real a way as a cissexual or transsexual person. They may experience the same level of dysphoria, dissociation, or discrimination based on their gender as a transsexual person would. Gender is a spectrum, it doesn’t simply swing one way or the other.
Once you come out as a certain gender, that is what you are. If you alter it later, you obviously aren’t serious about it/are just looking for attention/aren’t really trans*.Accepting/discovering ones identity and coming out with ones identity just isn’t that simple for everyone. Some people come out as genderqueer and later come out as specifically transsexual, or vice versa, or any variation of trans* genders. Unfortunately, in a gender-binary society, it doesn’t make it very easy for some people who don’t go simply one way or the other.
All trans* people have the same values, the same politics the same ideas about gender, and the same lifestyle.Wrong. A trans* person’s gender doesn’t necessarily define them or other aspects of their lives. It is simply their gender. They may be conservative or liberal, they may accept only some gender identities, or all of them. They may embrace trans* cultural practices or they may not. It’s important to realize that gender is simply one small aspect of a person’s identity, not all of it.
All trans* issues affect all trans* people the same way.
Again, lumping trans* people into the same box simply because they are trans* is counterproductive. For example, a trans* person of colour is going to face a lot more discrimination than a white trans* person. Trans women experience very real misogyny with fewer resources provided to them than cis women. Many trans men benefit from male privilege that trans women do not upon transitioning. Trans* people and trans* issues do not exist in a vacuum.
Being trans* is a luxury and relatively new.Nope. Just because you don’t hear about trans* people in oppressive societies does not mean that they aren’t there. Exposure, as we can gauge from our hetero-centric, white washed media, is not equivalent to existence. Furthermore, there are examples and records of non-binary gender people in most cultures around the world, dating back for hundreds, sometimes thousands of years. In fact, many of our stereotypical gender roles are the relatively new concepts.
If there is some crucial information I’ve missed here, please feel free to send me an ask and I will add it!
I'm a girl in transition who has recently been awakened to the truth of her sexuality by strong, beautiful women. I now know that I am a submissive little dyke whose every cell exists to serve, worship, obey, and please female dominants. I'm thrilled to be so close to finally having my pussy, and I know my cunt will be a lesbian cunt for all of eternity.