By Dr. Terez Yonan, adolescent medicine specialist at CHOC Children’s
In observance of Transgender Awareness Week, we as medical providers celebrate and support the transgender and gender non-conforming (for short, trans*) community. Trans* youth and adults deserve respect and support, and have the right to a happy and healthy life. Trans* youth are often socially isolated and at increased risk for depression, substance abuse and suicide. When people are respected, supported and cared for, these risks decrease significantly. There are many ways we can all show our support of our trans* family members, friends, classmates, teammates and neighbors. Here are five ways to support the trans* people in our lives:
- Don’t assume. Don’t guess. Ask a person what their gender is and what pronouns they use (she/her, he/him, they/them, etc.). They will appreciate that you’ve asked. Use their preferred name and pronouns. Allowing someone to disclose their gender is non-judgmental, empowering for them, and can strengthen your shared bond.
- Gender does not equal sexual orientation. Just as we shouldn’t assume someone’s gender, we can’t assume who they’re attracted to. Like cis-gender people (those who are not transgender, those whose bodies match their gender identities), trans* people can be straight, gay, bisexual, and so on. There’s no need to discuss someone’s sexuality though. We may be curious about others, but it can be very intrusive to ask about someone’s attraction or even relationship status.
- Respect is key. Trans* people deserve respect at home, at school, at work, at their doctor’s office, on the street, everywhere. Respect their names, pronouns and privacy. Don’t ask intrusive questions about their bodies, their transition, or their sexuality. The “golden rule” is a good guideline: treat trans* people how you would want to be treated.
- Stand up for them. As a minority, trans* and gender non-conforming people are frequently targeted and even murdered for being different; this is the reason why we observe Transgender Day of Remembrance on November 20th. Don’t let others harass trans* people in any way. Make it clear that abusive comments or actions will not be tolerated. Help trans* people find a safe place if needed.
- Advocate. Help trans* people feel supported at school and at work. We have seen some restrictive legislation in the last few years that try to limit the freedoms of trans* people, such as bathroom policies or military service regulations. Be an ally for the trans* people in your life and advocate for your trans* family members and friends so that they continue to have the same freedoms that you have. Support policies that protect their rights. Call your legislators to voice your concern about unjust policies.