Facing transphobia – how to be my ally

After my last post about transphobia I got a lot of feedback and questions from my readers. Who was the bastard? Someone I may run into? Or you?” And “What would you like me to do as an ally, in a situation like that?” In this post, I’ll try to answer your questions. I’ve even made a short plan for you to follow, a handy list on how to face transphobia.

The working order when facing transphobia

  1. Someone is a bastard, with or without intention.
  2. I tell them off and give them the means to behave.
  3. You back me up and set an example, following the rules I stated and without outing me as transgender.
  4. If the transphobic bastard continues – I tell them off again and clarify the rules for how to behave.
  5. If the transphobic bastard continues – help me to verbally shame the offender and call other peoples attention to what is happening.
  6. Is it not working? Do whatever seems safest at the moment: Tell the offender to fuck off or walk away yourself, taking me with you.
  7. Afterwards: Let me talk about it without questioning or victim-shaming me. Ask me if I want to do anything about what happened or if its okay with me that you speak to others about it.

Please remember that this plan of action is only valid for me, not other transgenderd people. Read more about generally being a good ally here. Now on to your questions.

“Who was the transphobic bastard? Someone I may run into? Or you?”

I don’t know who he was. I was blinded by adrenaline, so mad I cannot remember his face. I sort of remember the colour of his clothes, his hair and his hateful eyes. But I couldn’t pick him out in a crowd or be sure to recognize him if we ever meet again. And guess what, it doesn’t matter. There are thousands like him and I’ll meet them anywhere, all the time, every day. I cannot know when something will happen again and yes, it affects me. I’m not scared, but I’m soon to defence and instantly on my guard. The next time, it may not end so well.

“What would you like me to do as an ally, in a situation like that?”

Don’t worry about white-knighting me. It is important to act against the stereotype image that says “real men fight their own battles”. I need my friends, sometimes more than others. That does not make me any less of a man.

When someone questions my gender identity, I usually go easy on them at first. It could be a very understandable mistake. I just laugh before I correct them like “Oh, you thought I was a girl? Well, I’m not. You say ‘he’ or ‘him’ when you speak of me”.

The first correction is your cue! This is when I need you as an ally to step forward and back me up. How? That depends on the situation, but always avoid to literally out me as a transgender. Usually it will be enough to simply set an example of proper behaviour. You can preferably start to talk about something else to avoid going in to conflict, but be sure to make a point of addressing me the way I just asked. Put some weight behind the masculine pronoun: “You cant believe what Emil just told me HE did last weekend…”

It does not matter much what you say, it is all about how you say it. The point is to show the offender how to behave and that I’m not alone, that you are with me. (Which is nice for me to know, as well!)

Optional hardcore defence-strategy

Some of my queer activist friends like to take this opportunity to play up what ever masculinity I’ve got by telling a facilitating story about me, carefully mentioning things I’ve done that are coded as traditionally super-masculine. Like how awesome it was that one time when we went to a gay club together or an anecdote about how I’m so much stronger and bad ass than I look. It’s supposed to be funny and it is okay if it is building on stereotype masculinity. What this sort of story actually does when told in relation to me, is that it opens up the definition of masculinity, making it inclusive rather than exclusive.

Call other peoples attention to what is happening

No matter how you go about, if setting an example is not enough and the offender interrupts or keep addressing me in a scornful or diminishing way, it’s time to definitely put an end to it. I’ll probably try to clarify the rules for addressing me again and eventually tell the bastard to fuck off, but it might not matter what I say.

One thing you always can do is to call other peoples attention to what is happening. Shame the offender and look for support among others present by saying things like

  • “Did you hear that?”
  • “Hey stop it, I notice that you X has a really bad tone towards Emil”.
  • “There seems to be some sort of misunderstanding here, didn’t you hear what HE said?”
  • “You keep insisting that Emil is lying about who HE is, why is that? I thought he was rather clear on that point.”

If this is not helping either, it might be a good time for us to leave before things end up badly.

I do not ask of my friends to stand up for me and literally pick up a fight with all the transphobic misogynist bastards in the world. If the offender is persistent in being threatening, the situation might be more dangerous than you can imagine. That is why you have to decide for yourself, the most proper thing to do or say.

/ Emil

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