What Does Transgender Mean And How Can I Be A Trans Ally?

Whether you're questioning your gender identity or want to support trans friends

Whether you know someone who is trans, think you might be trans, or have heard of a lot of people in the public eye speak about their journey with transitioning.

In recent times, YouTuber Nikkie Tutorials shared that she was transgender, revealing that she transitioned when she was around 14 with the support and help of her mother. Since then, Nikkie has received so much praise from her fans and followers for being so transparent in her identity.

Nikkie Tutorials/Insta

There are lots of other trans celebs including Caitlyn Jenner, Laverne Cox, Gigi Gorgeous and Ian Alexander from Netflix’s The OA.

So if you’re a little confused about what the term means, or want to be a supportive friend to your loved-one who is trans, look no further.

What Does Trans Mean?

Generally speaking, a transgender person is someone with a gender identity different to the sex they were assigned at birth. For example, someone who was assigned male at birth, but identifies as a woman, or someone who is assigned female at birth, but identifies as a man. But it’s a broad term, which means it may be used to describe many identities that are outside of a cisgender identity. Cisgender means a person whose gender is the same as their birth sex. So if you were born a female and identify as a girl, you are cis.

How Do I Know If I’m Trans?

There is no single ‘right’ way for a person to figure out that they are Trans. LGBT youth organisation BelongTo explains that certain things may indicate a Trans identity:

-When you don’t feel comfortable when being referred to as a boy/girl, or man/woman.
-When a wrong pronoun is used to describe you, it may also trigger discomfort.
-Some people may feel that their body is not in line with their deeply felt sense of self. The way their body looks on the outside may not match with who they feel they are on the inside.
-The development of sex characteristics (such as breasts, facial hair, etc) during puberty can be a particularly traumatic experience for some Trans young people. This may result in a heightened level of body image issues. Gender dysphoria is a term to describe this discomfort.

What If I’m Not Sure?

If you’re not sure yet whether you are trans, there are lots of things you can do.

Firstly, BelongTo recommends that you write down how you are feeling in a journal. They also recommend that you talk to someone you can trust, ideally someone who understands Trans issues.

The organisation also has counsellors, recommended support groups, and contact lines if you wish to get in touch.

You could also talk to your GP or other medical professional about how you are feeling.

I Think I Am Trans, What Now?

If you think you are transgender, there are small steps that can make a big difference, so express your gender identity in a way that feels right for you.

BelongTo recommends the following steps:

-Try out a different name and/or different pronoun (he, she, or gender-neutral pronouns like ze/they) when you refer to yourself in a diary, journal or on social media and see how you feel. It’s important to remember that you are entitled to use whatever name and pronoun you feel comfortable with.

-It is perfectly okay to have whatever gender identity that you feel comfortable with, and only you can decide what that is.

-Your gender identity is one part of who you are, and regardless of how you identify, it is not the only thing that defines you.

-Talking to others that have been through the same or similar situation can be really helpful.

TENI also has a list of support groups around the country that you can join.

I’m Not Trans But I Want To Be Supportive

Being an ally simply means supporting people in the LGBT community.

There are lots of ways you can support someone who is transgender, TENI, BelongTo and GLAAD have lots of information on this topic.

The best thing you can do for a transgender friend or family member is to respect them and their identity.

This means using the language that they use to describe themselves – their pronouns and names.

Don’t ask inconsiderate or personal questions about their transition, birth name, etc and if you’re curious, ask yourself “Do I need to know this information to treat them with respect?” and “Would I be comfortable if this question was turned around and asked of me?”

Be aware of confidentiality. Just because someone has told you that they are transgender, does not give you permission to tell others, this is their personal information and up to them to share.

Be patient even if you’re a little confused. Trans people may want to explore different names, dress sense, etc. The best thing you can do is be understanding and supportive.

Speak up if you hear negative comments or witness bullying, and tell a teacher or adult.

Educate others about what Trans means to help create a safer environment for trans people.

Ask the person how you can support them. They will tell you what works best for them.