For many transgender folks, the holidays can have unique challenges and stressors. Transgender people often worry about being misgendered, judged, or treated as a hindrance at family events.
If you have a loved one that is transgender, you may be at a loss for what the easiest and best steps you can take are.
To help with that, we’ve compiled a couple of easy ways you can make your trans loved one feel comfortable and included. If you want to do a little extra homework, take a look at our handy glossary too.
First, be sure to check with your trans loved one before you use any of our handy tips. Transitioning is a deeply personal event that people take at their own pace.
Prep your guests in advance.
While this year most of us are attending virtual events, it’s simpler than ever to prep all invitees beforehand if your trans loved one has changed their name or their pronouns.
This will give them the opportunity to correctly address any cards or gift and a chance to practice with the correct name and pronouns.
Additionally, if you find out that someone who will be present is not willing to accommodate your loved one, you can address how you expect them to act regardless of their personal feelings.
Normalize the exchange of names and pronouns.
Consider providing name tags that guests can use to write their name and pronouns on. For a virtual event, guests can create their own name tags or add it to their profiles.
This will help normalize the exchange of pronouns and help other guests remember if your transgender loved one goes by a new name.
If you choose to use name tags, make sure that everyone attending participates.
Create a plan to address potential misgendering.
Confirm with your transgender loved one in advance how they would like you to respond if other guests use the wrong name or pronouns.
This is called misgendering and happens when another person refers to someone using a word, pronouns, or form of address that does not reflect how they identify. This is something that can cause significant distress for a transgender person and should be taken seriously.
Some transgender people will want you to correct others for them, while others may not want you to get involved.
Some easy strategies:
- If your transgender loved one is present, give them an opportunity first to address misgendering. Take their lead and back them up all the way.
- If they do not speak up, calmly correct the speaking party.
- If your transgender loved one is not present, calmly correct the speaking party or find the next opportunity to use the correct name and pronouns in the same conversation.
Create new traditions or update old ones.
The holidays are a deeply personal time for many families. Some may have long standing traditions and others may be creating them as they go.
This year, consider ditching traditions that perpetuate rigid gender roles. Gender roles are social expectations for how people of specific genders should act, speak, dress, or conduct themselves.
Transgender people worry enough day to day about how and where they fit in the world. From bathrooms to social events - it can be a challenge to express their gender safely. These worries shouldn’t have to follow them home for the holidays.
If cutting out a tradition is a no-go, you could encourage your transgender loved one to participate in events that align with their gender. For the best results, have an open conversation with them about their comfort and what would make them feel the most welcome.
To wrap it all up…
At the end of the day, transgender people just want to be treated with the same compassion and respect as everyone else.
Sometimes this means that you have to put forth a little extra effort. And sometimes it means having conversations that are out of your element.
The most important part is that you don’t have to do everything perfectly. For many transgender people, the fact that you are taking active steps to include them will already mean the world.
Emory Arbor Writer
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