As a part of World Pride in Sydney, we attended a Pride Amplified event hosted by ACON: Trans Allyship: What Does Trans Allyship Look Like? ACON have so many of these learning opportunities that are perfect for individuals, researchers, and teams at work, as well as inclusion programs and resources for the trans community and allies. You can register for their Pride Training courses online. Read about what we learnt on the day.
A morning at ACON for Pride Training
On the agenda for the day as a part of ACON’s Trans Allyship training was: The Basics of Sexuality and Gender, Meet the Trans Community, Why Inclusion is Important, and Celebrating Trans Allyship. The intimate, roundtable-style discussion was more interactive than anticipated, and the mood was welcoming and open. This really was a great way to kick-start World Pride and a reminder that it’s not all glitz ‘n’ glitter, but that we are accountable as allies to learn, grow, and speak up for the rights of gender-diverse people in our communities. The acceptance felt on the day extended to those not in the genderdiverse and queer communities, as questions were encouraged, and it was a space without judgement so long as everyone was respectful. The charismatic and knowledgeable Hannah ran the course, and she was patient, encouraging, and entertained as well as informed us with her great sense of humour. She went back to basics with, going over what LGBTQ* (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer) stands for and which of these apply to gender and which apply to sexuality. It was great that Hannah began here, there were no assumptions of anyone’s knowledge and own experiences. We learnt why it’s so important to recognise the difference between sexuality and gender, and to consider that these two things are very different and in no way interchangeable.
Learning as allies
There are some key takeaways that were eyeopening “aha!” moments that also revealed we may not know as much as we thought we did as trans allies, and what being an ally really means beyond World Pride and in your day-to-day. We learnt that, historically, diverse genders have been documented – and even celebrated – long before we began marching for Mardi Gras. While discrimination has always existed for marginalised communities, the modern-day preoccupation with heteronormative and cisnormative ways of thinking has reinforced this discrimination, inequality, and labelling of people who don’t fit with what society classifies as “normal”. Looking at it from this historical perspective is interesting, but a bit confronting too, as we see systemic issues stemming from governments, organisation, and people in power. But we can all make a difference. The real question now is, how can we make a different on an individual level?
One way to make a difference is to not make assumptions, and always be willing to learn – or even better, actively look for more ways you can learn instead of waiting for these opportunities to come to you. One thing said on the day hit home, as many people who are not part of the trans community may be guilty of this: categorising or defining gender -diverse people without knowing the individual. For example, people who are non -binary can identify as trans – a transgender person does not have to be someone assigned female or male at birth who identifies as the opposite gender. This might also stem from the common misconception that “trans” means “transition”, but in reality, many trans people will never medically transition from one sex to another.
Another key factor in society painting all trans people with the same brush is due to how they’re represented (or, rather, ways in which they fail to be represented) in the media. There is no “right” way to be transgender, and one transgender person should not get less respect than another just because you may not understand the ways they chose to express themselves. This also ties into the inequality trans people face in healthcare. From unaffordable surgeries, to just finding it difficult (or even impossible) to find a GP who is informed about the health, wellbeing, and unique issues trans people may face. Members of the trans community who were a part of the session echoed that this is extremely difficult for them – even in major Australian cities.
A beautiful, positive takeaway from the day was learning the term gender euphoria – feeling a strong sense of happiness and excitement around yourself, your body, and your gender – and how it exists in the transgender community. Hannah explained that trans people are often tied with the phrase gender dysphoria, that their stories of being trans are rooted in misery. She explained that gender euphoria – feeling a strong sense of happiness and excitement around yourself, your body, and your gender – is a wonderful thing some trans people get to experience. The trans journey may be a difficult one, but she described how it’s a beautiful journey where people can become their true selves. Unfortunately, not all trans people are able to experience gender euphoria, but we can all do our bit to push trans issues into the minds of councils and governments, to learn more, to offer support, to just be there.
The best advice we could give from attending the seminar would be to show up. Be determined to not only say “I am an ally” but to actively be one. Hannah gave a great example of this, explaining that when cis people wear pronoun badges and ask people what their pronouns are when meeting them it normalises this experience, making it less intimidating for trans people when they want to do the same. No one should have to feel uncomfortable about who they truly are. The trans community should not have to do all the work: wearing pronoun badges, speaking out when someone is purposefully misgendered (or correctly accidental misgendering), calling for more inclusive amenities in public spaces, attending rallies or peaceful protest to push for equality, becoming an ally who others can learn from, making an effort to align with businesses or brands who support trans rights... these are just a few examples of ways we want to show up every day.
The session has taught us that you should never be too scared to ask questions, and that is it okay to be constantly learning and growing as an active ally. But, if you have the resources to, it can be a great idea to do your own research (even via sites like ACON) or reach out to friends who may be well-informed, active allies as they may be able to assist you. Of course, everyone is different, but it’s important to not expect or rely on people within the community to give you the answers. Allies need to be proactive. Let’s stand by trans people, actively and passionately, so that their stories – the good and the bad – can be heard loud and clear by the world.
*“I+” isn’t included here as ACON currently only have the resources to offer effective support to the LGBTQ community, but they stated they hope to expand these resources in the future. For resources for the Intersex community, ACON recommends visiting IHRA and IPSA.