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Coming out as trans, and transitioning, can be a joyful and liberating experience for many. Unfortunately, depending on culture, family, and society, coming out can also be extremely difficult and anxiety-inducing. During this time, you can make a huge, positive impact on your friend’s life by simply being supportive and accepting of them. Here are some ways to show your friends love and support during this time:
- Don’t make assumptions: When talking to or about someone who is trans, it’s important not to make any assumptions about their sexuality, preferred pronouns, or anything else for that matter. If you are unsure about which pronouns to use, the best thing to do is ask in a polite or respectful way. If you use the wrong pronouns, simply apologize sincerely, while being careful to not make the same mistake in the future. Mistakes happen, and while you should definitely apologize, it doesn’t do any good to make a big deal out of it.
- Be patient, and respectful: While exploring their identity, your friend may change their preferred pronouns several times, or change the terms they use to describe their identity. Be aware that exploring gender is a process, and it can take time for someone to figure out the best way to express their identity. Be respectful of the terms, and pronouns your friend asks you to use, no matter how many times they change.
- Be careful about asking questions: You may be curious about things like your friend’s sexuality, genitals, or surgical status. Even if you are tempted to ask questions about these things, don’t. This information is highly personal, and if your friend chooses to disclose it to you they will.
- Avoid gossip: Your friend may choose to tell you they are trans before they tell other friends or family. Unfortunately there is still a lot of intolerance toward trans people in society, and you disclosing their status to others may have negative consequences. If your friend asks you to keep their status to yourself, respect that. Even if they don’t, someone’s gender should never be gossiped about.
- Be inclusive: Show your friend that you support them by showing support for other issues surrounding trans rights. Stand up against anti-trans remarks or other prejudice.
- Know your limitations: As a cisgender person, don’t be afraid to admit that there are many things about being trans that you don’t know, including things that you will never understand due to not having experienced them. Understand these limits and accept them.
The best thing you can do to be a good ally to your friend is to show them unconditional love and support, while respecting the journey they are on. They will appreciate it!