It can be surprising when a friend comes out as transgender, and maybe you’re not sure exactly how to be helpful and supportive. Here are some pointers for how to stand by your trans friend(s).
1. If your friend is misgendered, correct the person who messed up. It can be scary to stand up for yourself after being misgendered, so it’s very helpful to have a supportive friend to stand up for you.
2. If you misgender your friend, notice, apologize and move on. Making a big deal out of your mistake is more uncomfortable for everyone involved. As long as you’re learning, it’s okay to mess up!
3. Make sure your friend is comfortable talking about their trans experience before asking about it. Not every trans person is as open about their experience as trans people you may see online. If you ask questions that make them feel different without their permission, it may make them feel othered, abnormal or like you are questioning their gender identity.
4. Don’t expect them to “prove” their gender identity. It’s not fair to impose gender roles onto transgender people that you wouldn’t onto a cisgender person. For example, trans women shouldn’t be expected to be hyperfeminine because not all cisgender women are hyperfeminine.
5. Don’t shame them for talking about being trans. If your friend opens up to you about their experiences as a trans person, try to be open to it. If it makes you uncomfortable to talk about it, express that instead of harboring secret annoyance or resentment.
6. Never out them, even if you think people already know. Outing your friend as trans to their family, or to anyone at all, can put them in a dangerous or potentially life-threatening situation. Even if you think a person already knows your friend is trans, better safe than sorry.
Please remember, no two people are alike– this list doesn’t apply to all transgender people. The best way to make sure you’re respecting your friend’s wishes is to ask them what those wishes are.