It is surprising how many people I know with whom I have started a conversation about trans rights who have more or less said the same thing: “Well, if I knew somebody like that I would do anything I could help them and I would support them, obviously, but I don’t know anybody who is trans, so…”
If you would do it if somebody did come out in your life, don’t wait: do it now. You have no idea who there could be in the various circles that you travel in, whether that’s your friends, your family or your colleagues, who is trans and is terrified of being themselves – because they don’t know that they will have that support from you. They might not know that they will have that support from anyone.
Make sure that your allyship is loud and constant – not just one day year like today, on the Trans Day of Visibility. I’m not saying you have to post on social media “By the way I’m totally cool with trans people and I think they should have the same rights as everybody else” every single day, but follow a few pages on Facebook, or a few people on Twitter and when you see a positive sentiment about trans people that you share, share it! Make it clear to everybody in your life that you are somebody that it is safe to be yourself around, somebody who people don’t have to pretend around, and somebody who will support them and love them unconditionally.
This has the added benefit of making it clear to people that you’re not the kind of person who will tolerate transphobia. Transphobes and other peddlers of hatred are currently feeling empowered and emboldened by people in the public eye like JK Rowling using their massive platforms to push an anti-trans narrative. Just as we saw Islamophobic incidents rise a staggering 375% after Boris Johnson compared Muslim women to ‘letterboxes’, transphobia is on the increase because of people who are allowed to share anti-trans rhetoric, seemingly without reproach. Being a loud and active ally can help to combat this, as well as challenging people directly if you feel safe to do so.
Just because you don’t think you know any trans people doesn’t mean you don’t know any trans people. Despite certain groups of people who would try to tell you otherwise, you cannot tell just by looking that somebody is trans. There are two reasons for this: either because they pass or because they have not come out yet.
There could be people who are trans in your life right now who don’t feel that it is safe to be visible, and don’t feel like they can be their authentic selves because they don’t see that support. They might not see anybody in their lives talking positively about trans people, sharing positive things about trans people, celebrating trans people and their achievements… Therefore they have this fear, which is entirely valid, that if they are honest about who they are that they might be rejected, ridiculed or worse. Trans Day of Remembrance is a stark reminder that the price that an alarmingly increasing number of trans people pay for being visible is paid with their lives.
So don’t wait. Don’t wait. Don’t wait for someone you know to explicitly come out and say they are trans to start your allyship. Don’t wait for somebody to turn around and actually say “I need your support” – be that person anyway.