Life can be tough for transgender and non-binary people.
Having supportive families, friends, employers or teachers can make the difference between wanting to die and wanting to stay alive.
But all too often, potential allies keep quiet because they’re afraid of saying the wrong thing and causing offence. So here’s Reconnecting Rainbows’ handy four-step guide to being a better ally to trans or non-binary people who are struggling with their mental health, using the acronym ‘LIFE’ as a reminder:
L = Look at us as people. A trans or non-binary person’s gender isn’t the most interesting thing about them. We’re complex people with our own individual talents, skills, hobbies and passions—just like anyone else. You might be curious about our transition, but we don’t necessarily want to spend all our time talking about it!
I = Identify us by our chosen names and pronouns. Check whether we want to be referred to as `he’, `she’, `they’, or a new pronoun like ‘ze’ or ‘fae’, and then respect that—even if it feels awkward at first. It might seem like a trivial thing if you’re not trans, but these blogs by Kasandra Brabaw and Sam Dylan Finch explain how hurtful it can be to a trans or non-binary person when people deliberately ignore their chosen name and pronouns. If you mess up, don’t make a big deal of it, but just apologise and carry on with the conversation: what matters most to us is that you’re trying.
F = Find out how to support us on a day-to-day basis, e.g. if someone starts harassing us or making transphobic jokes or comments in front of us. Sometimes we might be ready to take on transphobia ourselves, and other days we might feel too exhausted, or not be emotionally capable of going there. You could invent a `code’ for your trans or non-binary friends to use—one gesture to mean ‘I’ll handle this’, another to say ‘let’s just ignore it’, and a third to say ‘I’m struggling, please help me out here!’ There might also be practical ways you can help, like coming to the shops with us or accompanying us to the loo if we’re too nervous to go by ourselves. But if you don’t ask, you’ll never know…
E = Empower yourself to help end transphobia. Education is power! But we might not have the energy to explain everything, and some questions are just too personal – people often assume it’s OK to ask trans and non-binary people about their medication, or what surgeries they’re having, when they wouldn’t dream of asking a cisgender friend those questions. When you go online to find information, please use unbiased sites like Healthline’s excellent `How To Be Human: Talking to People Who Are Transgender Or Non-Binary’ or blogs written by trans and non-binary people themselves.
We’re asking people to take these four pledges to become #LIFEsavingAllies, and raise awareness by sharing the message on social media for:
- International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT), 17th May (note this is also in Mental Health Awareness Week!)
- International Non-Binary People’s Day, 14 July
- World Suicide Prevention Day, 10 September
- World Mental Health Day, 10 October
- Transgender Day of Remembrance, 20 November
Please copy and paste these short messages and Tweet them out to your network, or share them on Facebook with a personal note about why this campaign matters to you:
Support #transgender & #nonbinary #mentalhealth, join @ReconnectLGBT campaign to create #LIFEsavingAllies! “Look at us as people, Identify us by our chosen names and pronouns, Find out how to support us, Empower yourself to #EndTransphobia.” https://bit.ly/2wGE7zk #WMHD2018
#ReconnectingRainbows campaign for #Transgender and #Nonbinary #MentalHealth, “Look at us as people, Identify us by our chosen names and pronouns, Find out how to support us, Empower yourself to help #EndTransphobia.” https://bit.ly/2wGE7zk #WMHD2018 @ReconnectLGBT
#LIFEsavingAllies to #transgender and #nonbinary people. “L= Look at us as people, I = Identify us by our chosen names and pronouns, F = Find out how to support us, E = Empower yourself to help #EndTransphobia.” https://bit.ly/2wGE7zk Please RT #WMHD2018
Today is #WorldMentalHealthDay… Could your words save a life? Support #ReconnectingRainbows #LIFEsavingAllies campaign for #transgender and #nonbinary #mentalhealth! https://bit.ly/2wGE7zk #WMHD2018 @ReconnectLGBT