Cisgender People Need To Be Better Trans+ Allies - Here's How
I know it's difficult for me, a cisgender-presenting man, to tell other cisgender people what they should and should not be doing. So I'll begin this by justifying this with some of my experiences.
I've been an active member of the LGBTQ+ community for many years now and have been close with all types of people from across the 'queer' spectrum. It's this experience that has given me an insight into the negative constraints that gender norms and stereotypes place onto our community. I see the patriarchy of the 'gheys' (white gay men), I see the standards set on social media for 'attractiveness', I see the palatability of the most popular cisgender male drag queens and how other drag artists of other genders are often second-bested to these for not fitting the mould. I understand the difference between sex and gender, and believe these need to be defined as seperate things if we want to have any hope of ending misogyny and the patriarchy.
I also, like many queer men, have the experience of growing up with many female friends and feeling my most comfortable around women - but then being forced to separate from these friends by gender-oriented school grouping, changing rooms, toilets, dressing rooms, clothes shops etc etc etc. This is why, nowadays, I see myself as more nonbinary in terms of gender, especially when I'm in drag. Putting myself in a 'man' or 'woman' box makes me feel constrained and uncomfortable.
I do not, however, claim to know what it is like to be a woman. I've never had a period or given birth, and I've never experienced institutionalised sexism. Nor do I claim to know what it is like to be a trans person, feeling body dysmorphia and dealing with the bureaucracy of 'gender re-assignment'. There are many struggles both these minorities experience that I will never truly understand, and so I tentatively write this fully aware of that.
These are the sum of my parts.
With all this in mind, my experiences and understanding has led me to believe all cisgender people should be standing up for trans people.
Let's start with the initial fear of trans women entering woman-only spaces.
This is simple. The most basic principle of trans-phobia. A fear of trans people, in its purest form. The idea that a man posing as a 'trans woman' is going to enter a all-'female' space and the cisgender women will be subject to sexual assault/abuse. In itself, this idea is steeped in the patrichy. Women don't need 'protecting', instead cisgender people - specifically men - need educating. Cisgender women need to stand up for trans women in order to show they are welcome in their spaces, and they are not afraid. What they are afraid of, arguably, is predatory men. And rightly so. But if this is their issue with trans women entering their spaces, perhaps they need to question what type of man is going to do that, and why. Channel that energy into stopping the upholding of the patriarchy and gender norms, and educating men not to behave in that way towards women, might go some way to preventing that. Making sure men who sexually assault women are held accountable and justice is served will help with that too.
Stopping trans women from entering women's spaces, however, is not going to prevent a man from being predatory. All that does is take more human rights away from what is already a severely segregated and discriminated minority.
The government has spent the past two years on a consultation into sex and gender that they call the Gender Recognition Act, in which people can self-define their gender no matter their anatomy. This has been dismissed and cancelled, with the government claiming the results were 'skewed' by a huge wave of responses from the LGBTQ+ community. They think that only the queers believe in trans+ rights, and we can't prove them wrong ourselves. Cisgender, and more specifically heterosexual cisgender, people have to prove that by speaking up themselves.
Here's a few ways to be an active trans+ ally:
Read this article from London Bi Pandas: https://www.londonbipandas.com/leaveyourterf. They outline, clearly, what you can do socially to prevent transphobia.
Write to your local MP. Use writetothem.com to find out your local MP's email address, and write them your own personal message explaining how you feel about the government's decision not to back trans+ rights by blocking the Gender Recognition Act.
Write to the Minister for Women and Equalities, Elizabeth Truss. Here's the email address for her: email@example.com. Again, explain you are cisgender but you disagree with the government's decision and think trans women are women, trans men are men and non-binary identities are valid.
Show up to protests. Trans rights protests are not just for trans people. It is important that you show up at these protests and show you support equal human rights for trans people. Maybe even take a photo of yourself there and post it online. Posting on social media about this might come across as virtue-signalling, but I believe this is the most effective way for cisgender people to publicly confirm their support of trans people.
Sign and share petitions you see that come up about gender equality and trans rights. Here are links to two mains ones I've seen: 'Add gender identity to the characteristics protected under the Equality Act 2010' https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/301138 and 'Reverse the Decision to Scrap the Gender Recognition Act Consultation Results' https://www.change.org/p/parliament-reverse-the-decision-to-scrap-the-gender-recognition-act-consultationresults
Aside from protesting, these are all things cisgender people can do right now. They don't take long, but they will help a huge amount. A step forward, no matter how small, is still a step forward. Do your bit.