In fact, they really need us to show up all the other days and months of the year — especially as lawmakers across the country attempt to criminalize their very existence.
If you’ve already explored our guide on how to be a supportive and intersectional LGBTQ+ ally, you’re probably also working hard to especially be a safe and supportive person for your trans and non-binary community members, too.
We know it can all be overwhelming, especially when so much is at stake, but your role as an affirming (and probably outraged) figure in a trans person’s life can truly make a world of difference.
It is equally important to show up for trans people in our communities with care and love as it is to show up at our city halls and capitol buildings with protest signs and prepared testimony.
Whether you’re offering assistance to your trans neighbors with everyday tasks, displaying a trans flag, providing financial support, or just getting to know them better — or you’re doing your part to dismantle systems that cause harm to trans folks — the work is necessary and important.
(And hopefully, you’re either doing a little bit of everything, or finding the type of activism that’s perfect for you!)
But when so much work needs to be done, we know it can be intimidating to find your niche. If you’re sorting through the heartbreak and rage, trying to find ways to make a meaningful impact on the lives of trans folks, you’ve come to the right place.
We’ve created this guide to help you — and most importantly, the trans and non-binary folks in your life — inch closer to a better, safer, more liberated future, one action at a time.
How To Support Trans People
Learn about what’s at stake.
According to a 2022 study from the Williams Institute, transgender people make up just about 2% of the total U.S. population. However, just in 2023, at least 45 states have introduced anti-trans bills in their state legislatures. Like we mentioned earlier, the ACLU clocked in over 460 anti-LGBTQ+ bills nationwide this year.
Aside from the very real, very dangerous threats these bills pose for access to life-saving, gender-affirming healthcare, education, athletics, and general equality under the law — they also indicate a larger symptom of hatred across the country.
“These lawmakers want to homogenize the lives that people are living, and they have this very small-minded idea of who people are and how people should look, live their lives, and should think,” Tori Cooper, the director of community engagement for the Human Rights Campaign’s Trans Justice Initiative, told Vox.
“There is an intentional effort to use misinformation and disinformation to deceive folks who don’t know any trans, nonbinary, or queer people personally to perpetuate harm and dissuade folks from living honest and true and accurate lives.”
Protecting trans folks starts by learning about what they face. For example, trans Americans are four times more likely to be victims of violent crime than their cisgender peers. And 86% of trans and nonbinary youth reported negative effects on their mental health because of political debate — nearly half of them seriously considering suicide in the past year.
Trans people are under attack. As difficult as it is to explore and learn about this wave of anti-trans hatred, we all owe it to our trans neighbors and loved ones to stay informed and alert about the attempts to criminalize trans folks.
Advocate against anti-trans legislation.
Supporting trans folks means showing up for them in the voting booth, on hold as you repeatedly call your elected officials, joining in protests, or hosting events to raise awareness and support in your community.
Here are a few specific actions you can take to fight anti-trans legislation in your state or region:
- Call your representatives. Call elected officials who don’t represent you, but deserve to hear from you as a concerned citizen. Call and leave a voicemail after hours if you’re busy during the workday. Call again and again and again.
- Write to your elected officials. Automate an email to send every day, or write a stack of postcards to their office, outlining your concerns.
- Donate to the Don’t Legislate Hate PAC, which helps fund campaigns for candidates who support LGBTQ+ equality.
- Run for office. If you’re outraged right now, or you don’t like the trajectory of where your government is headed, put your hat in the ring.
Not sure about what’s going on in your area? Keep an eye on the Track Trans Legislation map to learn more about the efforts to harm trans folks in your state. (PS, there’s also a script generator on the website, so you can figure out what to say when you contact your representatives!)
Advocate for legislation that expands gender-affirming care.
As awful as the wave of anti-trans legislation is, leaders across the country have introduced bills and enacted laws that protect trans folks and expand gender-affirming care.
Not sure what’s going on in your area? Check out Erin Reed’s anti-trans legislative risk map. It provides insights to help folks understand what’s going on in their states, while also providing an easy-to-read update on legislation across the country.
To help fight these laws, seek out lawmakers and bills in your state that aim to extend these protections — or vote for candidates who care about elevating LGBTQ+ equality.
Similarly to when you’re advocating against a certain policy, you can call or write your elected officials to urge them to vote in favor of these bills, donate to campaigns or groups dedicated to trans liberation and safety — or even write a thank-you note to elected officials who are doing their part to truly represent their LGBTQ+ constituents.
Help fight dangerous misconceptions and disinformation.
Lots of anti-trans talking points include dangerously incorrect beliefs about transgender people (see: the gross misuse of the word “grooming”).
A necessary muscle to strengthen in your advocacy? Having the facts ready, and being able to share them calmly. It’s important to defend trans folks (especially in online spaces) so they don’t have to carry the added burden of justifying their existence all the time.
Be able to explain gender identity, break down the terminology behind some hot-topic gender-affirming healthcare words, and overall, rely on the truths of your relationships with trans folks: That they’re just human beings who deserve respect and autonomy.
This also extends to media coverage of trans folks. If you see a media outlet or reporter make a mistake or use the wrong phrase or pronoun, your right (and responsibility) as a citizen is to (kindly) reach out and request an edit or clarification. Write letters to the editor or share corrections yourself on social media — it takes diligent news consumption to stay informed and inform others.
Have uncomfortable conversations.
That being said, fighting misconceptions also means having conversations that aren’t exactly comfortable. If you are a cisgender person, your privilege and responsibility is taking on those moments of discomfort, so trans folks don’t have to.
If someone you know keeps saying a slur, or seems to conveniently “forget” a classmate’s pronouns, take them aside and talk about why those things cause harm, and why they need to stop. These conversations must include accountability. Lay out your boundaries and your expectations.
Will you no longer spend time with this person if they continue acting in a way that’s harmful to trans folks? Will you have to talk to a superior in your work or school environment? How will you convey that these values are important to you — and to others?
Maybe, you’ll have a great response and can move towards progressive accountability, engaging this person with additional resources or information about how they, too, can be a better ally.
Whether this person is a close family member, or an acquaintance who you just always seem to run into, standing up and simply saying, “it isn’t right to say that” can make an enormous difference.
Take a bystander or conflict intervention course.
Of course, if you’re feeling nervous about conflict (who isn’t?!), a great place to start would be a free bystander intervention training. Right To Be is an organization that offers a number of free online courses that help make those tough interactions a little easier.
From trainings on intervening in street harassment, to showing up as an ally in digital spaces, Right To Be helps equip people with the tools to safely de-escalate hostility in a number of situations.
You can also access specific private training experiences with the organization for a fee.
Donating really does make a big impact for organizations leading the charge to protect trans folks.
Your dollars can provide access to gender-affirming care, educational resources, political outreach, and more, having a direct impact on the futures and well-being of trans people right in your community.
Whether you want to help crowd-fund someone’s gender-affirming care, or help provide rent assistance to Black trans folks, there are truly so many places you can donate (Them created a list of organizations in every state that support trans and non-binary folks!).
To get you thinking about where you want to send your donation, here are a few more options we encourage you to consider:
- Point of Pride
- Trans Lifeline
- Transgender Law Center
- National Center for Transgender Equality
- The Trans Latin@ Coalition
- Princess Janae Place
- The Marsha P. Johnson Institute
- Black Trans Travel Fund
- Trans Women of Color Collective
- LGBTQ+ Victory Institute
- OutCare Health
If donating isn’t super accessible to you, or you want to make your donation even more impactful, volunteer right in your community! Check out a crowd-sourced directory of LGBTQ+ organizations, or search for LGBTQ+ community centers in your area to get started.
Here are a few other great national organizations to volunteer with:
Enable and foster trans joy.
Part of the beauty of activism is embracing the future you’re creating. While there is plenty to be rightfully outraged by, maintaining a healthy level of optimism is key to making progress. As poet Toi Derricotte said: “Joy is an act of resistance.”
Allow trans and non-binary folks the space and freedom to experience the expansive, joyful parts of life, even in a wildly difficult political landscape. Radical change-makers still need dessert, you know?
Where can you be a shepherd of trans joy?
Are you a photographer who can provide free gender-affirming photo sessions? Are you a stylist who can gift some gender-affirming haircuts or shopping excursions? Can you throw a silly “late-in-life-gender-reveal-party” in honor of a loved one’s transition? Perhaps you’re a teacher of a trans child who can slip in an extra 15 minutes of recess or reading time.
Little acts of delight, pleasure, and fun for fun’s sake are truly vital and affirming — and we need more of them.