This Is How To Be An Ally On Trans Day Of Visibility, According To A Trans Person

by James Hale
Spencer Platt/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Mar. 31 is International Transgender Day of Visibility, a day for trans folks to come together, speak out, celebrate one another and the activists fighting for our equal rights, and, of course, to post some sizzlin' selfies. As a trans person, I know sometimes people aren't sure how to be an ally on Trans Day of Visibility and other days like it — whether it's OK to make posts on social media, whether it's OK to comment on your trans friends' posts. And the good news is, if you're worried about those things, you've got a leg up on plenty of other people.

One of the most important things to remember is that you'll see trans people marking Trans Day of Visibility in various ways. Some post selfies, and some spend the day mourning those we've lost. Some choose to retweet others instead of writing posts, and some reject the idea of the day at all. These reactions from trans folks are all valid. For us, visibility is a complicated concept.

For me, visibility is about reminding the people who actively dislike us, who want to "fix" or "correct" us, who belittle and demean and abuse us, that we're still here, we love and support ourselves and one another, and that's not going to change anytime soon.



If you only remember one thing, make sure it's this. Trans Day of Visibility is a day for trans people to speak up — to celebrate, but also to air our griefs and discuss the daily challenges we face. And while it may sound a little harsh, we honestly don't need allies to speak up for us. We can speak for ourselves. What we do need is for allies to boost our voices, and to listen and absorb what we're saying.


Realize That Not Everyone Is Visible

Not every trans person is comfortable making a post on Trans Day of Visibility. Not everyone is comfortable coming out as trans at all, much less in a viral hashtag. So remember if you know someone's trans and you don't see them on social media today, don't ask them why. Don't cheerfully remind them that today's "their day." Maybe they feel like it's not their day. Also, please remember even if someone is making posts, they may not be comfortable posting selfies. Please don't try to push them into doing so — and please, please, please do not say, "But you look good enough to pass!" or any variation thereof.


Ask Before You Tag Someone

Similarly, make sure that if you are making a post on, say, Facebook, and you want to mention a trans family member or friend, you ask them first. I was out as trans to various Facebook friends well before I was out as trans to family members I had friended on Facebook. If you post something on their wall without asking first, you run a very good chance of outing them before they're ready.


Ask In General

All of these points apply beyond Trans Day of Visibility, but this one especially. Now, I'm not saying you should ask the dreaded questions. I am, however, saying that it's A-OK (and a good practice) to ask someone's pronouns if you're not sure. If you want to share someone's post and write a little bit about it, or want to write about someone you know, asking their pronouns is perfectly fine. To that end, if a trans person volunteers to answer questions, you can feel free to ask. Just remember to avoid these.


Don't Make It About You

You're going to see some unhappy people today. Lots of folks are out celebrating Trans Day of Visibility, but there are plenty who are in too much pain to do so, or who simply have encountered other badly behaving allies today and are miffed. If a trans person tweets something negative about allies or cis people, don't respond to them explaining why you're different. They're not asking for your input, and though it stings, that's their prerogative. Similarly, don't write posts about how you learned to be accepting of a trans friend or family member. Don't give yourself a pat on the back for using someone's correct pronouns. Today is about trans folks.


If Someone Educates You, Thank Them

If a trans person offers to educate you — say, for example, you want to know the difference between bigender and genderfluid — then it's totally fine to ask, but be sure you thank them. Educating people is part of being an activist, but it's also emotional labor, and when we have lots of different people asking us to teach them, it can be seriously draining. Saying "thank you" (or, even better, saying "thank you" and donating to their Patreon, GoFundMe, or other fundraising efforts, if you're able) is the absolute base common courtesy you can offer.


Reach Out To Your Representatives

OK, this one doesn't work so well for today because it's a Saturday, but you should be contacting your representatives on a regular basis to voice your opinion about trans equality. Research laws in your area to see if any of them are discriminatory, and also keep tabs on what's going on generally, such as with bathroom bills or the trans military ban. You can engage with your local representatives about all of these things. And believe me, I know if you have a representative who doesn't support trans people, it can feel like shouting into the void. But trans people do that every. Single. Day.


Donate To Organizations That Support Trans People

There are lots of excellent trans-run and trans-supporting organizations out there that desperately need funding, volunteers, and materials to keep going. If you can spare some money, time, or skills to help out an organization like Trans Lifeline, the Trans Women of Color Collective, and The Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund, please do.


If You're Not Committed, Just Don't

Now it's time for the harsh truth. If the only day you post about supporting trans folks is Trans Day of Visibility, just... don't. I'm not asking you to make advocating for trans folks your 24-hour-a-day job, but it's more than a little obvious when someone is a one-day ally.

Allyship isn't a fair-weather venture. It's a long, hard road. Being an ally means being prepared to defend trans folks, to support us, to educate your fellow cis folks, and to, most importantly of all, know when to step back and listen.