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Trans Ally

Earlier this year, my sibling shared publicly that they were enby. I admit, I never heard the term before, so I did what most writers do. I researched it. As the days progressed, my sibling posted photos of themselves with tags like #enby, #mensdepartment, and #womensdepartment. The waters were muddied, and I did not know how to tackle this subject.

I believed myself to be a trans-ally, but I was confused. What was enby?

I stayed quiet for two weeks as I tried to grapple with the meaning of it all. Ultimately, it took my sibling reaching out to talk to me. I sheepishly told them I was exploring the internet to understand what it meant. They explained not to search the internet for answers. There’s nothing wrong with asking them directly what it means for them, because as I would later realize…

It means different things for different people.

A quick Google search will tell you enby means non-binary (it comes from the letters NB). Non-binary equates to identifying as neither male nor female. Here’s a list of nonbinary identities, which isn’t definitive, but handy for helping define the genders. Enbies may not know what their exact identification is, early on. There is still so much to learn about the spectrum that is gender identity.

Many people will say that there is no such thing as non-binary. You either have male or female parts and that defines your gender, and some heteros and LGB persons may vehemently attest that transgender people are an abomination. From a physical standpoint, there are intersex people with both reproductive parts, and while it isn’t the norm, it does occur. So why should it be any different for the metaphysical?

Many indigenous peoples believed in more than two genders.

My family is from the Choctaw Nation, a tribe which defined up to seven genders. The idea of two genders comes from Western sensibilities, and over time, the acceptance of multi-genders diminished in the name of “progress”.
It’s time to accept that there are certain things we may not understand but should be willing to embrace. As a cisgendered white-appearing female in a heterosexual relationship, I will never completely understand, but I can be an ally for fair treatment and equal rights for transgender persons.

The enby journey is tough, and society is a large part of that.

They are often mistreated, misjudged, or simply ignored. In the state of Texas where my sibling lives, they do not accept more than the binary genders, so when they changed their name to reflect their gender, they could not change their gender.

But more than that, you can’t walk into a mall without seeing genders in stores, departments, and bathrooms. There are assigned pronouns (like with cars, for crying out loud), and the list goes on. Babies are gendered before they are even born. He and she is embedded in us before we know how to talk, and people are angered if another person misclassifies their child. So…

It’s natural that one of the biggest ways to show yourself as an ally is to reprogram the way you talk about people.

You may have noticed that since the start of this piece, I have not used binary pronouns, especially to describe my sibling. Until this point, you have had to accept that I have a sibling and that they are non-binary. In writing, it’s easy to correct the occasional foible, but when I’m talking about my sibling in a casual setting, old habits really do die hard. It has been my biggest learning curve thus far, and I continue to work on it.

It’s okay to make mistakes, though, and to own them, but for trans persons, you do not have to make a big deal about it when you do. They accept that this will happen. It’s hard to reprogram something you didn’t even realize was programmed in you.

So if you take anything away from my piece today, please let it be this: if you have a transgender person in your life, embrace the newfound freedom that comes from accepting something they have probably known for years. Support them and show it through the power of your words. But most of all. Don’t research the internet to find answers only they can provide. Simply ask them what it means for them.
Trust me, they want you to know.

This piece has been written with input from my sibling and faer permission to publish.

This piece has also been edited from its original form to remove words which have been deemed problematic. This list from GLAAD was sent to me by another trans ally following this publication. Thanks for bringing it to my attention and giving me a valuable resource!

(image source)

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8 thoughts on “Trans Ally

  1. This was a great piece. I have a friend undergoing a transition. First, they came out as enby, and I had no issues with they/them. Now they have come out as F-to-M and I am having such a hard time with he/his/him and it makes me feel like such a dick when I mess it up.
    One thing I will say is that its super important to check with people about what they are willing to talk about. Some people are very open and will be happy to talk to you while another may be very upset that you are putting the onus of your education on them.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. This is a fantastic piece Melony! It’s funny how we grow up with categorising genders and believing it to be the norm, It heartens me nowadays when I fill out certain forms and it asks male, female, other, prefer not to say – basically more than one option! I see a few teens and young people who are either confused about their gender identity or else going through the transition process and I have learnt that I don’t need to know everything and they would rather prefer I ask them as opposed to either assume or do my own research. At the end of the day, being compassionate, kind and open to learning and understanding is the key to being an ally.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. The care and attention to detail, pro-nouns, words and concepts in this piece are wonderful. Thank you for writing and posting it. I always like to learn new things and I learned so much reading this. I loved how the ending emphasizes freedom.

    Like

  4. The thing with aggressively gendering babies is SO WEIRD TO ME. Like… is this person saying that they are attracted to the baby? If they’re not, why does the gender matter? Why does what’s in a baby’s diaper matter AT ALL TO ANYONE WHO ISNT CHANGING THE DIAPER? Augh.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Melony, this is another truly generous and intimate piece from you (and your sibling — please pass on my thanks to them for their generosity in sharing their story). I’m so pleased you made the point about making mistakes and learning from them. I’m working on being a supportive ally too, and I sometimes forget that mistakes and working to be better are a natural part of the learning process.

    Gendering clothes and toys confuses me endlessly. I went to some pains to make sure my children (both of whom identify as men) wore all colours (I got into so much trouble with the Aunties for dressing my kids in bright colours!), and played with all toys. All the toys that are considered traditionally “girl” toys (dolls, cooking sets, cleaning sets, etc) were developed to train people how to do those tasks, and it seemed bizarre to me that you would only train one group of children to cook and clean and care for babies. But I suppose it’s not so surprising that I think this way given that both my brothers were always expected to (and do) cook, clean and care for kids just as my sister and I were — and my parents had a much more binary vision of the world than I do.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you for sharing this. As a cishet I’m trying to be a good ally, but sometimes I mess up. I read once that your initial reaction is conditioning, your secondary one is who you are. You make an excellent point about not flipping out when you make a mistake. Acknowledge you made an error and move on to do better next time.

    I have a handful of trans and nonbinary friends, and even in that very small sample there are differences in what individuals are willing to talk about. Some are very open. Others will simply share their pronouns and leave it at that, because they feel they shouldn’t have to shoulder the emotional burden of educating every Tom, Dick, & Harry that comes along. In my experience, it is always best to ask upfront what a person is willing to talk about, and then respect their boundaries.

    Please thank your sibling for sharing their story with us. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Great piece. It’s so true what you said, “It’s hard to reprogram something you didn’t even realize was programmed in you.” One of my coworkers recently transitioned from female to male. I screw up the pronouns constantly, still. I admit that a while back I was weirded out by the concept of being transgender. I simply did not understand it. Turns out, my workplace offers an online course in transgender issues, specifically focused on coworkers who transition. I felt so much better after I took that. I feel like I “get it” now, sort of, but I still have things to learn. Thanks for sharing this story!

    Liked by 1 person

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