Today is International Transgender Day of Visibility, a day dedicated to celebrating transgender individuals and raising awareness about the discrimination and challenges they face. Unfortunately, despite growing awareness and acceptance, transgender individuals still face significant barriers to acceptance and safety, particularly when it comes to language and attitudes.
Transphobic or ignorant language can have a devastating impact on transgender individuals, leaving them feeling invalidated, hurt, and unloved. Experiences of shame, harassment, exclusion, bullying, and rejection are all too common.
These experiences can be particularly traumatic when they come from family members or loved ones.
What makes language so impactful is how it can invalidate a person’s identity. For example, using statements like “You were born a [insert gender assigned at birth]” or “You’re not a real man/woman/‘boy/girl” reinforces the idea that gender is solely determined by biological sex and invalidates transgender individuals’ identities. Similarly, asking questions like “Have you had ‘the surgery’ yet?” or saying “I would never date a trans person” can be invasive, transphobic, and perpetuate negative stereotypes.
It’s important to be aware of the impact our words can have and to actively work to avoid language that is hurtful or invalidating. Being an ally means actively listening to and learning from the experiences of transgender individuals, seeking out information, and educating ourselves. We can follow trans advocates, read widely, listen to podcasts, and engage in conversations with members of the transgender community to deepen our understanding and empathy.
This International Transgender Day of Visibility, let’s commit to being better allies and creating a more inclusive society. Let’s celebrate the beauty and diversity of all gender identities and work towards a world where transgender individuals can live freely and safely.
If you are reading this and realise that you have used hurtful or invalidating language in the past, it’s never too late to make amends.
Firstly, take responsibility for your actions and acknowledge the harm that was caused. Second, commit to educating yourself and making changes to avoid using harmful language in the future. Lastly, offer a sincere apology and ask for forgiveness. They may not forgive you and that’s ok, you can still try. A sincere apology can go a long way in repairing relationships and demonstrating your commitment to being an ally and a good friend.
It’s important to note that apologising does not absolve us of responsibility or automatically repair the harm that has been caused.
However, a genuine apology can be a powerful first step towards reconciliation and building stronger, more respectful relationships with transgender individuals.
Ultimately, the most important thing is to commit to doing better and being an ally to the transgender community. We can all make mistakes, but it’s how we respond to them that matters. Let’s work together to create a more inclusive and accepting world for all.