— Benjamin Cohen (@benjamincohen) March 31, 2021
I’ve been wanting to write this blog for a while, and I feel like this is something that needs to have attention brought to it.
Because while allies might be well-meaning and thinking they’re helping, sometimes it can have the complete opposite effect.
Everything I’m going to say, obviously, is my opinion and is built from personal experience. Do with it what you want but please, for the love of all that is holy, at least contemplate what I’m saying. Because if you’re not trans, you don’t really know what these things can do to a person’s state of mind.
The first rule of being a trans ally is to never, never, never try to relate an experience you have as a cisgender person to an experience I have as a transgender person. It’s such a toxic thing to do. While you may just be trying to figure out how to be able to relate to my experience, it feels invalidating for me. There’s no way on God’s green earth you could ever begin to feel what I feel every day of my life. So please, just don’t.
Secondly, if you think that everything’s as simple as cutting people out of my life because they don’t accept me, that’s not always the case. I know a lot of trans people who have cut out everyone from their former lives, and I know a lot of trans people who haven’t cut out anyone. It’s different for everyone.
However…if you’ve cut people out of your life because they’re toxic and abusive, that’s not the same as cutting people out of my life because they can’t wrap their minds around calling me by my preferred name and pronouns. Cutting people out of your life who are abusive is not the same, so please don’t try to equate the two.
Don’t get it twisted—I’ve cut plenty of people out of my life for being straight-up assholes about wanting to argue that I’m a girl. Plenty of those people I share DNA and blood with. But I also think that I should allow those, especially those who are close to me, the time to wrap their minds around it and really change how they view me. I’m specifically talking about parental figures; they have a lifetime of knowing me as she and Heather. It took me 30 years to figure out who I am, so I can’t expect them to change everything in a year or two.
They had 36 years of hopes and dreams for my life as a woman. Well, now all that has to change. As long as there’s progress and discussion, I don’t have any plans at all of cutting them out. They’re not abusive, they’re not toxic, they’re just old and religious. Laugh if you want, but it’s the truth.
Thirdly—and tying into secondly—don’t just assume that you knowing someone or having family members who are members of the trans community gives you entitlement to tell me what to do about my situation. You’re an ally, not a trans person. Refer to rule number one.
Every person is different and every person has a different experience. Please stop assuming you think you know what is best for me. For the love of God, just stop.
The best thing to do as an ally? Love me where I am. Accept me where I am. Listen to me when I want to have a conversation about what I’m going through, but don’t tell me a solution or offer opinions unless I ask for them. More often than not, I just need a sounding board to vent to.
When I first came out as trans, it was scary as hell. I had a lot of conversations with a lot of people and, for the most part, it was met with love and comfort for what I was going through. I’ve been fortunate in that not a lot of people have tried to relate to me or “fix” whatever problem I was having at the time. The toxic ones don’t last long anymore, either. I don’t have time or energy to take all that in and process it and dismiss it.
Words matter. Be careful what you choose to let escape your lips because what you say can be damaging even if you have the best intentions.