How to be a better ally to trans and non-binary people

As a social worker, you are going to encounter people with a wealth of lived experiences and different stories. That’s why it’s crucial you know how to be an ally to trans and non-binary individuals – and what a better time to educate yourself than during LGBTQ+ month?!

What do we mean by ‘trans’? 

‘Trans’ is the adjective people might choose to describe themselves if they do not identify with the gender assigned at birth. It is important to note that the terms ‘transgendered’, ‘transman’ and ‘transwoman’ should not be used. This is because: A) some trans people would rather leave out the word ‘trans’ all together and B) because merging the adjective and the noun gives the connotation that the individual is a man or a woman + something else, rather than just a man or a woman. 

What do we mean by ‘non-binary’?

Those who describe themselves as ‘non-binary’ are people who don’t identify as either a man or a woman – unlike trans individuals, who would usually ‘fit’ into the category of man or woman. For instance, some people may have a gender that has both male and female elements, while others may not identify as having any gender at all or have a gender that changes over time. 

What’s the difference between ‘sex’ and ‘gender’? 

‘Sex’ is strictly biological (e.g. what does this person’s anatomy tell us about their gender identity). ‘Gender’, on the other hand, is more concerned with the societal expectations to do with that sex. For example, how you would represent your gender through your appearance, behaviour and clothes etc. This is otherwise known as ‘gender expression’. 

How can I be an ally to trans and non-binary people? 

  • Get your pronouns right – if you’re not sure, it’s OK to ask!
  • Listen and learn – there’s no better way to educate yourself than to listen to people’s lived experiences. 
  • Do your research – if someone is happy to share their experiences as a trans or non-binary person then that’s great but it’s also important to do your own research so you’re not relying on other people.
  • Share your own pronouns – whether this is in your email signature or something you do when introducing yourself, sharing your pronouns normalises it and shows that you are an ally. 
  • Use inclusive language – e.g. ‘everyone’ or ‘folks’ rather than ‘ladies and gentlemen’. 
  • Use ‘they/them’ when the person’s identity is unknown – never assume!
  • Ensure your workplace policies use inclusive language throughout, rather than just ‘he’ and ‘she’. 

We hope you can put this knowledge into practice and help make everyone, from colleagues to service users, feel welcome and validated as individuals. 

Social Personnel champions inclusivity and appreciates that there is still a lot of work to do when it comes to supporting our LGBTQ+ community – that’s why we need to continue shouting about it! Share this article to keep the conversation going. 

Looking for a new social care role? Our friendly team is here to chat on 0203 8929 340 or via email at [email protected].

carlette Isaac

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