Resources for Families, Partners, and Allies
If you have no knowledge about transgender identities, that’s okay. The fact that you are reading this is a wonderful start. If someone you know has just told you that they are trans, they have probably thought long and hard about how to tell you and really feared how you would respond. We welcome you to have an open mind.
Gender is a person’s inner sense of being male, female, or something else. We know that gender is programmed from birth. It is not a choice and is biologically determined like any other human trait, such as eye colour. For transgender individuals, their inner sense of gender (gender identity) is different to their birth-assigned sex. Many trans individuals have always known since their first memories of childhood that their gender identity is different. Others know something is different, but may not be able to express their gender identity until puberty or later in life, after years of searching and experimentation.
For a broad overview, and basic definitions, see this page:
The Word "Trans"
How To Use This Term
The most important thing to remember about the term “transgender” is that it is an adjective, not a noun or a verb. Here are some examples of correct, and incorrect, uses of the term.
CORRECT: He is a transgender man.
INCORRECT: He is transgendered.
CORRECT: He is a trans man.
INCORRECT: He is a transman.
CORRECT: Those people are transgender.
INCORRECT: They are transgenders.
Transgender people are not some other species that would necessitate phraseology like “transgenders”, and being transgender is not an event that happens to a person, as implied by “transgendered”. Trans men are men, first and foremost, with “trans” just functioning as an extra descriptor; it is preferred by many modern transgender people that a space be kept between “trans” and “man” (or “person” or “woman”). Much in the same way that a cis man is still a man, a trans man is still a man too.
There are variations in preference the world over, and some older communities don’t really care about terms like “transgendered” or “transgenders”. Language evolves. However, from a modern Western point of view, these words are linguistically incorrect, and should not be used unless a person indicates that they speak this way.
It may sound pedantic, but these are just some basic guidelines. If you have the best of intentions, and you’re still trying to adjust to this new world, there’s no pressure! The occasional mistake is totally fine.
What Does "Gender Transition" Mean?
When someone realises that they need to live as their true self rather than their birth-assigned gender, they will undergo a change of genders, or “gender transition”. This is very much individualised and different for each person.
Some individuals will only want to change the way they present without any medical or surgical therapies (known as social transitioning), others may want to socially transition and take medical steps to align physical appearance with their gender identity. Some people transition hormonally (by undergoing masculinising or feminising hormone therapy), and do not have surgery. Some people have surgery, but do not hormonally transition. Everybody transitions differently.
Jamie Raines is an open and public transgender man. He has shared his transition journey on Youtube, and is a wonderful example of how transitioning can literally save a person’s life. For a visual representation of this man’s transition, see the videos below. The first documents his hormonal, social, and surgical transition. The second shows his emotional response to finally being legally recognised as a man.
What Are Some Challenges That Trans People Face?
Discrimination from society is one of the biggest issues that trans people face. Most individuals already struggle with body and gender dysphoria, and added to this is discrimination at many levels which is the major contributor to poor mental health.
Lack of family support and peer rejection are also major issues. Trans people have alarming rates of poor mental health, with over 50% being diagnosed with depression and over 40% having previously attempted suicide (see our Published Research page).
Acceptance, speaking out when you hear bullying, and having an open mind can make an enormous difference to a trans person... and can save lives.
In addition to high levels of abuse reported by trans individuals (verbal, sexual, physical), discrimination and stigma results in difficulty finding medical care, employment, and housing. The Trans Pathways Survey reports severe mental distress, familial rejection, and societal isolation experienced by transgender Australian youth.
Why don't trans people get counselling to accept the gender they were assigned at birth? Well, the short answer is, it doesn’t work. Many decades ago, ‘conversion or reparative therapy’ was used to try to get people to change their sexual orientation or their gender identity. There is no reliable scientific evidence that gender can be controlled or changed, and international medical bodies warn that such conversion therapy is not only ineffective, but potentially seriously harmful, leading to suicide, depression and substance-abuse. Research shows that lifetime and childhood exposure to gender identity conversion efforts are associated with higher odds of suicide attempts. Today, advocates of conversion therapy tend to be people linked to fundamentalist religious groups.
There is considerable scientific evidence that gender is biological, innate, and different from sex chromosomes or external genitalia. This scientific investigation, titled "Transgender brains are more like their desired gender from an early age", offers evidence that transgender brains are unique in ways cisgender brains are not. While there is more research to be done, anecdotal and scientific evidence is plentiful.
This video, while it features a cisgender lesbian woman, is worth watching. It is quite distressing, because it captures the realities of child abuse due to bigotry. The idea that being LGBT+ is inherently wrong, or bad, is the hateful foundation of conversion therapy.
Why Do Trans People Need Equity?
Because all people deserve to live a life without barriers; to be true to themselves without fear of discrimination or violence, and be able to be active, ordinary citizens who can contribute to the community.
Mental health equity is the crucial goal; to decrease the alarming rates of depression, social disadvantage and suicidality. Acceptance of diversity and promotion of health equity are important steps. We live in a world characterised by diversity; there are different planets, different stars, different animal species, different plants, difference religions, languages, races, and genders. Imagine a world without diversity; it would be dull, colourless and lifeless. Biological diversity is what makes our environment vibrant and flourish.
We need to promote equity for trans individuals, not just equality.
Resources to Support and Educate Yourself
If you are are a family member or partner of a trans person, we encourage you to seek professional support from a counsellor, psychologist and doctor. There are also support groups available including:
Transcend – Transcend provides parent/carer support, community connection, information, advocacy & fundraising.
Transfamily – A group offers a warm and supportive environment for the parents, siblings, friends and family of transgender people.
Gender Help for Parents Australia – created by Australian parents who have struggled to find information about services and support for issues around their children’s gender identity.
Transgender and Partners Support Facebook Group:
Plus, check out this wonderful article, and video! What To Do If You Think Your Child Might Be LGBTQIA+
Being an Ally
How to Support Trans People
There are a number of mistakes that cisgender people often make, which can make transgender people’s lives very difficult, even dangerous. Here is a non-exhaustive list of tips which will help you to treat your trans friends, partners, or coworkers with respect.
Never Out a Person Without Their Consent
If somebody comes out to you as transgender, it is crucially important that you do not gossip about their gender identity, or tell anybody without the person’s explicit permission. Transgender youth are at risk of homelessness if outed to unaccepting parents, and even if the person is an adult, it may not be safe for them to come out for a number of other reasons. That aside, it is the individual’s choice and right to decide when they come out, and you should not take that freedom away from them.
Don't Make Assumptions About a Person's Body
Surgery techniques are highly advanced all over the world, and plenty of trans people undergo surgery to align their bodies with their brains. There is no way of knowing what’s in a trans person’s pants, unless they consent to sleep with you. And, unless you are pursuing a romantic relationship with someone, there is no reason for you to be thinking about such things anyway.
Understand How Hard Transitioning Is
When a trans person comes out, it is usually after years of self-exploration, internal conflict, and (often) deep depression. Upon coming out, trans people are met with invasive questions, opposition from almost every source, and sometimes even violence. While adjustment may be hard for you, try to keep in mind that trans people are carrying very heavy loads. If you make a mistake and accidentally misgender them, genuinely apologise and move on. Try not to lament how “difficult” the adjustment is for you, and don’t put the trans person in a position where they feel guilty for being born trans, and needing to transition. Don’t labor the point, or make the person’s transition all about you.
Don't Assume a Person's Sexual Orientation
Just because you know somebody is transgender, does not mean they are automatically attracted to a specific group of people. Gender and sexual orientation are separate. A trans man (who was assigned female at birth) might be attracted to other men, or perhaps to women, or perhaps to non-binary individuals as well. Just like any other man, he could identify with any sexual label. He might be straight, gay, bisexual, asexual, or queer.
Never Ask Somebody About Their "Real" Name
For many trans people, their birth name is a source of distress and gender dysphoria, and they do not disclose it to anybody. The name that a trans person chooses, to better reflect their gender identity, is their real name. Don’t let your curiosity about a person’s past erode your respect for them as a human being.
Go to Therapy and Seek Out Support Groups
Seeking psychological or emotional support during a time of huge change (such as a gender transition) will allow you to express any feelings of loss, frustration, or worry that you may be experiencing. You will be able to work through this without leaning too heavily on somebody who is struggling to transition in a very transphobic world.
Don't Treat Trans People Like Google
Trans individuals are under no obligation to answer questions about their sex lives, their transition, their surgeries, their family life, or their childhood. Even if you are curious about trans people, try to stay polite. Imagine how exhausting it is to be treated like a science project, every time you come out to somebody new. If you have questions about trans bodies or medical procedures, take it to Google.
Treat Trans Men as Men, and Trans Women as Women
If you are a straight woman (for example), and you are attracted to a transgender man, that does not make him exception, or make you bisexual. You do not have to identify with a different label just because you happen to develop feelings for a member of the transgender community. If you are exclusively attracted to men, and you fall in love with a trans man, then you remain an exclusively male-attracted individual.
Do Not Make Children Ashamed
If a child is beginning to explore their gender, and is displaying an organic preference for a certain style of clothing, this must be allowed to occur without feelings of shame or disgust being connected to gender non-conforming impulses. Children exploring gender roles is normal and natural, and not always indicative of a child being transgender; regardless of what label they come to identify with later in life, allow children to be themselves. Even disregarding transgender experiences for a moment, tomboy girls should be allowed to be masculine in presentation, and boys should be allowed to wear dresses or makeup if they choose to. You can’t suppress a child’s instincts.
Videos About Having a Trans Partner
Videos About Having a Trans Family Member
Videos About Medically Transitioning