Be an Ally - Support Trans Equality

Produced by the HRC Foundation

Now more than ever, our transgender and non-binary community members need to feel seen, supported, and safe as they go through their daily lives. It may not always be easy to know how to best show up as an ally, and you may often wonder if or wish that there was more you could do. Being open to learning and having a desire to create change are two of the most important components of your allyship. If you’re here, you’re already on the right track.

Here is a checklist of things to do, from beginner steps to some that are more involved:

Talk to your children/family members

Trans and non-binary people exist at all stages of life. Because of this, it’s acceptable (and should be encouraged) to talk to others of all ages about gender identity and trans people. From an early age, children begin learning societal norms around how girls and boys are supposed to present in the world. These norms are often reinforced in their play: toys, books, role playing, dress-up and clothing styles, and more. Talking to a child can be as simple as reminding them that people are all unique and encouraging them to be curious and kind towards others even if they like different things or look a different way. It’s never too early to talk about and demonstrate showing kindness, respect,and compassion towards people—those we know and people we don’t, as well as those who are like us and those who are different.

Understanding and talking with older children and adults about the differences between sex and gender is also a great way to heighten folks’ understanding of trans and non-binary identities. Each of us has a gender identity—an innate sense of who we are that isn’t influenced by our body parts or who others think we are. That feeling is unique for every person–even for individuals who don’t identify as trans or non-binary. The bottom line is that each of us knows ourself better than anyone else does, and we all deserve the right to show up as our authentic selves.

You don’t have to be or feel like an expert to navigate conversations around allyship. The most important component of every discussion is respect—showing respect to individuals even when they show up in the world differently than we do, and giving them to express and advocate for themselves and their needs. There are a variety of resources available to help you learn more about allyship and about trans and non-binary experiences and identities.. The Human Rights Campaign has a YouTube channel full of videos that can be your starting point or help you learn about more complicated ideas directly from trans people themselves as well as a complete list of titles that support LGBTQ+ youth. We also have a comprehensive set of Coming Out guides to support allies and LGBTQ+ community members in understanding their journeys and living into their authenticity. Reading sites and books together, watching videos, even watching tv shows with trans characters can all be easy entry points into bringing the subject of trans identities and trans rights into your home.

Everyday conversations

When it comes to showing allyship, small adjustments and acknowledgements can go a long way. Here are a few ways to shift your daily conversations to feel more inclusive and affirming.


A great place to start is asking others for their correct pronouns, and including your own pronouns when you introduce yourself to others. Using a person’s correct pronouns shows respect for their identity and personhood.

It is not always possible to tell—nor is it safe to assume—how someone identifies based on how they appear. A person’s gender identity is independent of their status as a cisgender or transgender person, and also not directly tied to their sexual orientation. In addition to frequently used pronouns like “he” and “she,” many nonbinary people prefer using the pronoun “they,” and YES, it is grammatically correct to use “they” when referring to one person. If you are unaware or uncertain, ASK! The ask in itself is an acknowledgement of your openness and willingness to learn about and respect people’s unique identities. Mistakes are bound to happen as you practice using different or neo-pronouns, especially if you knew a person by a different name and pronouns in the past. It’s best to quickly correct yourself and move on. Lengthy apologies aren’t necessary and shift the focus to your experience rather than to the person who was misgendered. The best apology acknowledges the error without making the other person feel the need to comfort or reassure you that they are ok.

Using inclusive and gender-neutral terms and titles

Practice using inclusive language that acknowledges and supports various gender identities, including those who are nonbinary. Instead of addressing a group of people as “ladies and gentlemen” or as “guys” refer to them as “guests,” “colleagues,” or “friends,” etc. so that no gender is assumed, and everyone feels included. Update language around gender roles and stereotypes so that, for example, a fireman is a firefighter, a mailman is a postal worker, and a waitress is a server or one of the waitstaff.

Avoid microaggressions

Be mindful of microaggressions and backhanded compliments. These statements can cause emotional damage to a trans person even when they are intended to sound supportive. Microaggressions are harmful because they can dehumanize a trans person, reduce their identity to a few body parts, give them a perceived value based on how well they conform to cisgender (non-transgender) beauty standards, or tokenize them.

Some examples of microaggressions and backhanded compliments are:

● “Did you have the surgery yet?”
● “I never would have guessed you are trans. You look so good!”
● “You’re too pretty to have ever been a man.”
● “I could tell you are trans because of your voice (or size of your hands, or jawline…)”
● “If you were going to look like a tomboy, why didn’t you just stay a boy?”
● “Are you going to get some work done to look more real?”
● “Be thankful you don’t have periods. They are so annoying.”
● “How do you have sex?”
● “It’s so cool to have a trans friend.”

As you grow in your allyship and learn more about using inclusive language, you will probably start to notice transphobic language happening around you. It’s important to use your voice to interrupt that kind of casual or intentional transphobia. Whether it was a “just a joke,” a dismissive or hurtful comment, intentional misgendering of another person (refusing to use their correct pronouns), or derision about the transgender community, call it out. Remind those around you that it costs nothing to show respect for others. Your speaking up can become the catalyst that causes others to speak up as well.

Learn more about the transgender experience

Even if you are fortunate to personally know a trans person, relying on them to inform you about the entire trans community could place undue emotional burden on them. Instead of asking questions that may feel uncomfortable or intrusive, start by doing your own research. There are thousands of resources available to help you understand trans experiences and identities—content created by trans people and trans educators. Educational books and autobiographies, videos and podcasts, and articles written by trans individuals for major media outlets allow you to hear directly from a trans perspective without putting the emotional burden on one person in your life to speak for a community.

Understand how intersectional issues can disproportionately affect members of the transgender community. Racism and xenophobia are persistent in the United States and wreak havoc on the ways in which people of color can access healthcare, employment, housing and so many other resources many take for granted. These same systems also regularly fail transgender people, and for transgender people of color these challenges are compounded. You can show your allyship by recognizing your privilege and using it to advocate for those who are experiencing greater struggles than your own.

Bring this topic to your workplace

As more transgender people come out and seek to live openly rather than hide their identity, we can all do our part in ensuring the spaces they exist in are welcoming, affirming, and safe.

Here are some components of inclusive businesses and community spaces:

● Transgender-inclusive training teaches educators and staff how to treat trans people will courtesy, respect, and professionalism.
● Workplace policies that account for and support different gender identities and expressions, including dress codes that do not reinforce gender stereotypes.
● Forms and documents that only collect information about sex and gender when it is necessary, and that ask for that information in thoughtful ways.
● Healthcare offerings and policies that include transgender healthcare and mental health services.
● Nondiscrimination policies that offer explicit, enumerated protections for transgender people and that specify punitive policies for those who are disrespectful.
● Private or gender-neutral restrooms to provide privacy and help ensure safety.

For more information and to see how some corporations foster inclusive workplaces, visit HRC’s Corporate Equality Index.

Help us change the world

The world has become a more tolerant place over the last few years for LGBTQ+ people,but true respect is about much more than tolerance. It’s important that we continue to move forward to acceptance, inclusion, and celebration. You can help make that happen!

Support organizations that support the trans community. Because of a history of discrimination and systemic oppression of trans populations, many services that we use and take for granted every day still seem inaccessible or unsafe for our trans loved ones. From mental health facilities, suicide prevention, low-income housing or homeless shelters, social services, public transportation, and public safety…show support for the organizations that are doing the work to become more educated on and inclusive around trans issues and needs. Encourage those who haven’t to update their policies and receive training.

Reach out to your policymakers to pass nondiscrimination laws at the local, state, and federal level. In 2023, HRC declared a State of Emergency for LGTBQ+ people following an unprecedented and dangerous spike in anti-LGBTQ+ legislative assaults. Over 550 anti-equality bills were introduced in 2023—220 of which were specifically anti-trans. Sadly, we are seeing this trend continue in 2024, and many families have or are considering moving from their home states to protect their children and families from discrimination and criminalization simply for living authentically and receiving essential care. Get involved! Look into your elected officials’ and upcoming candidates’ voting records. Call your local, state, and federal officials, , write Op Eds, testify at hearings, collect signatures for petitions or ballot initiatives, and most importantly of all, vote for pro-equality candidates!

The Human Rights Campaign reports on news, events and resources of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation that are of interest to the general public and further our common mission to support the LGBTQ+ community.