In the Out Magazine April 2008 Transgender Issue, hidden at the bottom of page 25 is a really strong list of five ways to be a trans ally, by Dean Spade. Dean is a Harvard Law teaching fellow and founder of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project. Below is his list of ways to be a trans ally.
1. Work with transpeople to push your city's homeless shelter system to place residents according to their gender identity and safety, rather than birth gender.
An important component of this point is that it emphasizes working with transpeople. Oftentimes, as lesbian or gay folks try to work on transgender-related issues, they forget to include transgender people in the conversations and actions. This ends up being damaging, and reflects a paternalistic approach to being an ally that I experienced a lot while working with Indiana's lesbian and gay communities.
The other four ways and my thoughts are after the jump.
2. Establish gender-neutral bathrooms at the places where you work, go to school, shop, eat, or get essential services. Trans and gender-nonconforming people face harassment--sometimes even arrest--when using gendered bathrooms.
3. Fight for inclusion of trans health coverage in the employee benefits package at your job, school, or in your state's Medicare program.
4. Support a prisoner. Transpeople in U.S. prisons face violence and isolation, and something as simple as a pen pal can help enormously with making post-release plans, locating helpful resources, and coping with the stress of incarceration.
5. Donate to Trans organizations, which struggle to keep their doors open.
I had the privilege of seeing Dean Spade speak about how the non-profit industrial complex has changed the way that we think of activism for the worse, and have read much of his writing. What I value about this list is that it is about action, and not just basic politeness. Too often, allies are framed in terms of just being respectful of transpeople, whereas this list asks us to put our actions where our words are.