Supporting a person who is transgender can be displayed by respecting transgender individuals, seeking education surrounding the community, and by standing up/speaking out against jokes, commentary or behaviors that create, or have the potential to create, unsafe environments for transgender people.

Before you can provide support, you need to know what transgender means. It may help you to read Ryan’s interview for the Huffington Post, What Does It Mean to Be Transgender?. This interview covers terminology and identities that may fall underneath the transgender umbrella. It is important to recognize that language and labels take on different meanings to different people, regions, and cultures, so a term that is affirming for one person may feel offensive to another. Listen to the language people use and mirror it when with them. If you are unsure of what a term or word means, ask the person to describe what it means to them.

I Support You . . . In Coming Out

When Someone Comes Out To You:

  • When someone comes out to you, thank them for trusting you.
  • Respect confidentiality by asking if they are out to others, and if so, who they are out to.
  • If someone asks you to use a name or pronoun different from their given name and pronoun, use them.
  • If you make a mistake, acknowledge your mistake and apologize.
  • Ask if they have support from other people, if not, discuss safety options.

The Moment Courage Stepped Into My Life (Guest Blog on Coming Out for Marianne Elliott, 2015)

I Support You . . . In the Workplace

Co-Workers When You Hear Someone Make an Inappropriate Statement:

  • Inform the person that made the inappropriate statement that you were offended. (Use “I” statements)
  • Provide the reason why you were offended and how it can be harmful to other people.
  • If someone who is transgender heard the statements, check in with them privately to see how they are doing.
  • If someone is being harassed, encourage them to speak with human resources or (if a student) a teacher or school counselor.

Human Resources and Managers Ways to Create More Inclusive Environments:

  • Allow access to restrooms that align with a person’s gender identity.
  • Changing an employees name badge, email or other identifying documents to reflect chosen, not legal, name. (Employees should be informed that payroll will have to reflect a person’s legal name).
  • Support LGBTQ Resource Groups within a company.
  • Review insurance policies to see if transition-related care is part of the included coverage. (Establishments that have added transition-related care to their policies have not seen an increase in expenses for the company or employees.)
  • Organize gender diversity training for coworkers, managers and supervisors.

When You Want to Learn More:

  • Search for transgender conferences or workshops at conferences that address transgender identities. (Some conferences include: PTHC, Gender Spectrum, Gender Odyssey, PFLAG)
  • Read memoirs and other books by transgender authors.
  • Watch documentaries or YouTube videos created by transgender people.
  • If you have a close relationship to someone who is transgender, ask if you can speak with them/ask questions. (Recognize that each person’s experience is different.)

I Support You . . . In Health Care

When You Have a Transgender Patient or Client:

  • Listen to how the patient or client describes their identity and what they are seeking from you as a provider.
  • Seek consultation or supervision if you feel you are in need of assistance to best serve your patient or client. TransLine is a free one-on-one medical consultative hotline sponsored through Project Health.
  • Search for other providers in your area, both medical and mental health that work with transgender patients to create a broader circle of care and connection.
  • Become of member of the World Professional Association for Transgender Healthcare (WPATH).

Lessons from a Transgender Patient for Healthcare Professionals, (Article Ryan wrote for the AMA Journal of Ethics, November 2016)

Transgender Health: Eliminating Inequalities and Strengthening Clinician-Patient Relationships, (Co-authored article for the Journal of Ethics in Mental Health, 2015)

I Support You . . . And Family Members

When You Work with Family Members:

  • Encourage family members to seek their own support systems and therapy. There are many places and organizations that provide family and youth support, such as PFLAG, Gender Spectrum, and Gender Diversity.
  • Listen to family members concerns and fears while validating and supporting the transgender individual.
  • Provide family members with resource lists that include books, documentaries, providers and conferences.

I Support You . . . In Education

When You Work with Students:

  • Support, or advocate for, a GSA Student Organization in your school. (Research shows schools with GSAs see decreased levels of LGBTQ youth victimization.)
  • Display symbols such as the I Support You card or Ally card to show you are a safe person, safe place.
  • Have a zero-tolerance policy for bullying and harassment that includes sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.
  • Speak up when you hear a student or faculty member make a homophobic or transphobic comment.
  • Review your curriculums and assess if there are places where lessons on gender identity/expression can be added.
  • Remove gendered language from your materials and when working with students. (For example: Instead of saying “boys and girls” say “students” “everyone” “folks”.)
Trans Inclusion
Stepping Toward a Trans-Inclusive Campus Guide
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