A GUIDE FOR TRANS ALLIES
We created this guide in collaboration with MaineTransNet, the largest state-level transgender peer support organization in the country, to cut through misinformation and disinformation shared by supporters of anti-trans legislation, identify the issues we should be focusing on, and offer tips and resources to help you be a better trans ally. We will update this page regularly, so check back often. Have suggestions for info we should add? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
TIPS FOR BETTER ALLYSHIP
Understand the terminology. “Sex” refers to observable biological, genetic, or physical characteristics that typically define males and females. “Gender” refers to traits influenced by social, cultural, and psychological factors. “Gender identity” refers to an individual’s personal sense of self as male, female, both, or neither.
DON’T assume that someone’s sexual orientation can be determined by knowing their sex, gender, or gender identity.
Use “assigned male or female at birth.”
DON’T: Use “biological male” or “biological female.” Gender identity is much bigger than biology or the reproductive organs a person may have at birth and a person’s gender identity may not align with the one they were assigned at birth.
Use transgender, cisgender, and nonbinary as adjectives.
DON’T: Use transgender as a verb. People who transition don’t “transgender.”
Use correct pronouns. If you aren’t sure what pronoun someone uses, take your cue from people who know them, or share your pronouns first.
DON’T: Ask “What pronouns do you prefer?” A person’s pronoun isn’t a preference; it’s who they are. Instead, ask “What pronouns do you use?”
Promote inclusivity by adding your pronouns to your email signature, your social media profile, your Zoom name, etc. And embrace “they” as a singular pronoun.
DON’T: Ask only trans people in a group for their pronouns or force someone to share their pronouns if they don’t want to.
Make mistakes with grace. If you accidentally use the wrong pronoun, stop, correct yourself, apologize, learn from your mistake, and move on.
DON’T: Call more attention to the infraction with repeated apologies. The bigger deal you make of it, the harder it is for the person you’ve misgendered.
Listen to trans people. If someone tells you they are transgender, they are. Transitioning is an individual, private process that isn’t dependent on a person’s physical appearance.
DON’T: Ask a transgender person if they take hormones or have had surgery. Some people choose to access hormone therapy or surgery as part of their transition and some don’t. Gender identity isn’t dependent on medical procedures or how someone looks.
Seek out information and resources to learn more about transgender people and the issues that are important to them.
DON’T: Expect trans people to be your source for all things transgender. Talk to the trans people in your life, but be prepared to educate yourself on terminology and issues.
2021 has been a record-breaking year for legislation targeting transgender people, with more than 100 anti-trans bills in 33 states as of mid-April, including at least three bills in Maine. It appears to be a coordinated national attack, focusing mostly on issues affecting trans youth. The bills in Maine and elsewhere are harmful, unnecessary, aren’t coming from constituent requests, and in many cases, aren’t even written by the legislators sponsoring them. They’re modeled after legislative templates produced by anti-LGBTQ hate groups such as the Alliance Defending Freedom. And they are overwhelmingly opposed by the majority of Americans, including most Republicans.
SPORTS BILLS (That aren’t about sports)
Four states have laws banning trans girls and women from participating in girls’ and women’s school sports and at least 25 other states—including Maine—are considering similar legislation. But trans women have been allowed to compete in women’s NCAA collegiate athletics since 2011 and in the Olympics since 2004, and trans girls have participated in girls’ sports in Maine schools since 2013 under a policy adopted by the Maine Principals’ Association. These bills aren’t about sports.
These bills are a solution in search of a problem. The majority of student athletes in Maine and elsewhere are cisgender. While 68% of high school seniors nationwide play at least one sport, one study found that only 12% of trans girls do. Another found that of the 200,000 women competing in NCAA women’s sports, only about 50 are transgender. During the 2018-2019 school year, 49,519 Maine high school students played sports. But since the MPA enacted its trans-inclusive athletics policy, only about 30 trans students have requested permission to play sports. All were approved, but some decided not to play.
When cisgender and transgender female athletes do compete against one another, cisgender athletes can—and do—win. Just ask Chelsea Mitchell, a plaintiff in a Connecticut lawsuit who claims one of her transgender teammates has an unfair strength advantage when competing in track events. Two days after she filed the lawsuit, Mitchell beat her transgender teammate in a 55-meter dash.
Trans sports bans hurt young people. Research suggests that students who participate in school sports have higher self-esteem, better grades, and lower rates of obesity, depression, suicide, and tobacco, drugs, and alcohol use. Yet, in states that limit trans students participation in athletics, only 20% of LGBTQ students partipate in a sport.
Inclusive sports participation helps trans youth. Compared to LGBTQ youth who don’t play sports, those that do are much more likely to feel safe in their classrooms. That’s important as research suggests that 41% of trans boys, 34% of trans girls, and 31% of non-binary youth don’t feel safe.
States that pass these laws face an economic backlash. States that have passed anti-trans legislation are facing a backlash, with the NCAA threatening to move its championship games out of states that pass sports bans like those under consideration in Maine. Passage of such discriminatory legislation could also influence the future business plans of close to 100 companies that signed a letter opposing bills that target transgender people.
CURRENT LEGISLATION IN MAINE:
» LD 1401 would block federally-funded schools from allowing trans girls and women to compete in girls’ and women’s sports. Learn more and take action.
» LD 926 goes further, requiring any female athlete whose gender is called into question to undergo an invasive pelvic exam and chromosomal study in order to compete in girls’ or women’s sports. Learn more and take action.
SHELTER AND BATHROOM BILLS (That aren’t about shelters or bathrooms)
Bills that block trans students’ access to bathrooms and locker rooms aligning with their gender identity are close to becoming law in Tennessee and Iowa, and Arkansas and at least 13 other states are considering similar measures. Other states, including Maine, are moving to block trans girls’ and women’s access to emergency shelters, reminiscent of a Trump administration rule that the Biden administration recently rescinded. One stark flaw in the arguments used to support these bills: There is no evidence to suggest that including trans women and girls in women-only spaces poses a threat to cisgender women. These bills aren’t about shelters or bathrooms.
This is a solution in search of a problem. Despite the claims of supporters of bathroom and shelter bans, reports of assault or voyeurism did not increase in states that passed laws allowing transgender people to use the bathroom or locker room that aligns with their gender identity. Sexual assault prevention advocates, educators, and law enforcement agree that laws and policies protecting transgender people don’t compromise public safety, claims backed up by a 2018 analysis that found no difference in criminal incidents in municipalities with nondiscrimination laws and those that don’t.
A shelter ban will only cause harm. While there is no evidence that anti-trans shelter bans increase public safety, there is evidence that they could cause harm to transgender people in crisis. Trans people are nearly twice as likely to experience intimate partner violence compared to cisgender people and nearly one-third of trans people experience homelessness during their lifetime, including 36% of trans people in Maine.
Bathroom and locker room bans are unconstitutional. Federal courts have ruled that laws banning trans students in Florida and Virginia from using the bathroom and locker room that matches their gender identity are unconstitutional.
CURRENT LEGISLATION IN MAINE:
» LD 1238 would allow private emergency shelters in Maine to deny access to trans girls and women in crisis. Learn more and take action.
HEALTH CARE BILLS (That aren’t about health care)
In early April, Arkansas became the first state in the country to ban medically necessary gender-affirming health care for transgender youth. Similar legislation has been introduced in 14 other states, putting the health of care of more than 45,000 young people at risk. These bills aren’t about health care.
Gender-affirming health care is medically necessary. Every major medical and psychological society in the world supports the use of gender-affirming health care as evidence-based and medically necessary. The health care bans are opposed by every major medical society, including the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Psychiatric Association.
Gender-affirming therapy saves lives. Trans youth who received puberty blockers reported significant improvements in behavioral and emotional problems and improved psychological function after just 6 months of therapy. And those who wanted this therapy during adolescence and received had a lower risk of suicidal thoughts as adults than those who wanted the therapy but didn’t receive it. Another study examining trans youth who received gender-affirming hormone therapy found significant decreases in depression and suicidal thoughts, as well as improved quality of life.
Puberty blockers are safe. Despite the claims by supporters of bills that strip transgender health care from children, puberty blockers are safe and reversible. Puberty resumes when the medication stops.
Americans oppose these bans. These bans are also wildly unpopular across political lines, with 69% of Democrats, 70% of Republicans, and 64% of independents standing against prohibiting gender-affirming health care for transgender youth.
THE ISSUES WE SHOULD BE TALKING ABOUT
WE NEED TO PASS THE EQUALITY ACT. NOW.
While the sheer volume of anti-trans laws under consideration in state capitols has captured widespread media attention, these legislative attacks are not new, and they won’t end when state legislatures adjourn for the year. We need a federal law protecting transgender rights that would overturn discriminatory state laws on the books and head off new ones in the future. The Equality Act would do just that. The bill, which has already passed the House, would amend existing federal laws to include gender identity and sexual orientation as protected classes. The law would ban discrimination against LGBTQ people in employment, housing, credit, education, public spaces and services, federally funded programs, and jury service. The legislation is currently in the Senate and lacks the 60 votes needed to pass.
Learn more about the bill. Find links to the bill and details about what it would do and why we need it in this primer from Human Rights Campaign.
Email your senators. Does your senator support the Equality Act? If they do, send them a note of thanks. If they don’t, tell them why they should. Mainers can email their senators with this form from EqualityMaine. People outside Maine can use this Human Rights Campaign form.
TRANS CHILDREN DON’T FEEL SAFE IN SCHOOL
According to the 2019 National School Climate Survey, 84% of transgender students don’t feel safe at school. 43.6% have missed school and 23.6% have changed schools for safety reasons. The numbers in Maine are equally troubling. According to the Maine report of the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, 67% of transgender K-12 students in Maine report being verbally harassed, 26% have been physically attacked, and 4% have been sexually assaulted because of being transgender. The 2019 Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey found that compared to cisgender students, trans students are twice as likely to be bullied, nearly 4 times as likely to have been injured or threatened with a weapon, and 3 times more likely to have skipped school because they didn’t feel safe. But kids whose schools have a Gay Straight Transgender Alliance (GSTA) or Gender & Sexuality Alliance (GSA) organization feel more supported and are less likely to miss school. Inclusivity through initiatives like those in the Human Rights Campaign Schools in Transition guide also help trans students thrive.
Find youth and parent support programs. Maine students and parents can find resources from EqualityMaine’s Youth Initiative, youth support groups from MaineTransNet, youth and parent programs from OUT Maine, Outright Lewiston-Auburn, Portland Outright, and Trans Youth Equality Foundation in Orono. And find a list of national programs here.
TREATMENT OF TRANS PEOPLE BY THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM
Nearly 60% of transgender people in the 2015 U.S. Transgender Surey (USTS) who interacted with law enforcement reported harassment, abuse, or other mistreatment by the police. That could explain why 57% of trans people say they are afraid to go to the police when they need help. A review of 25 of the largest police departments in the U.S. by the National Center of Transgender Equality (NCTE) found that most don’t include gender identity in their non-discrimination policies, don’t have policies on housing trans inmates, don’t allow transgender medical care, and don’t offer required training on transgender policies. Incarcerated trans people are 10 times more likely to be sexually assaulted by fellow inmates and 5 times more likely to be sexually assaulted by staff. Law enforcement and correction officers frequently misgender trans people and refer to them by the name they used before they transitioned, called deadnaming.
Support local legislation. Mainers can support LD 1044, which would prohibit physique and anatomy from being considered in a housing placement determination for incarcerated people. No public hearing has been scheduled yet for the bill, but you can email your legislator and ask them to support it. Find your legislators here.
Support federal legislation. Learn more about national legislation and reform programs to improve the treatment of trans people in the criminal justice system from the National Center for Transgender Equality.
VIOLENCE AGAINST TRANSGENDER PEOPLE
2020 was the deadliest year on record for violent fatal incidents against transgender and gender non-conforming people. The Human Rights Campaign reported at least 44 murders, the highest number since the organization began tracking these statistics in 2013. The real number is almost certainly far higher, as many of these crimes are underreported or misreported. The majority of those killed were Black transgender women, six of whom were killed in a span of nine days last summer in unrelated murders. Nearly 80% of all transgender and gender non-conforming people murdered in the U.S. since 2013 were people of color and research suggests the murder rate among Black and Latinx transgender women is more than double that of Black and Latinx cisgender women. According to the 2015 US Transgender Survey, nearly half of respondents reported verbal harassment, nearly 1 in 10 were physically attacked, and nearly 1 in 10 were sexually assaulted, all because they were transgender.
Learn more about anti-trans violence. Learn more about national efforts to fight anti-trans violence from Lamda Legal.
Support reform efforts. Urge the Biden Administration and your federal elected officials to support recommendations from Human Rights Campaign to address anti-trans violence.
Allyship begins with listening, reading, and learning, and the resources on this page are a great place to start. You can also contact the Maine advocacy organizations listed below for information about their ally trainings. Much of this information may be new to you, and there may be missteps on your journey to becoming a good ally. Learn from them, practice what you learned, and do better next time. Support other new allies and share your experiences. The fight for trans rights isn’t new and doesn’t end with an election, a new law, or a court ruling. So, most importantly, don’t give up.
LEARN HOW TO BE AN ALLY
- GLAAD Transgender FAQ: Learn more about transgender people and the issues that are important to them.
- Human Rights Campaign Myths and Facts: Battling disinformation about transgender rights.
- Tips for Allies from GLAAD
- Straight for Equality: PFLAG’s guide to being a trans ally
- A Guide to Being an Ally to Transgender and Nonbinary Youth: A resource from the Trevor Project.
- Supporting the Transgender People in Your Life: A guide to being a good ally from the National Center for Transgender Equality.
- Understanding the Issues Facing Transgender Americans, published by the Movement Advancement Project, National Center for Transgender Equality, Transgender Law Center, and GLAAD.
- Support Maine LGBTQ+ businesses: A list of locally-owned businesses from EqualityMaine.
- Track legislation affecting trans people with the ACLU Legislative Tracker and the LFreedom for All Americans Legislative Tracker.
ADVOCACY ORGANIZATIONS AND SUPPORT