As we embark on a new year, Jamie Windust explains how straight and cis people can be better at supporting gender non-conforming folks online
For many trans and gender non-conforming (GNC) people, social media and online communities are a safe space. We have our online family essentially at our fingertips, and for many queer, trans, and GNC people, this ability to have allyship and support so close to us is important, as many of us live physically in spaces that may not be as protective or as queer as we would want.
This is why allyship and social responsibility in the digital age needs to be as prevalent online, as it is in person. Here’s five simple ways you can be a better ally for non-binary and trans people online in 2019.
KNOW YOUR PRIVILEGE
Being online, for a lot of people, offers them a new level of digital privilege, where they can use this power to decide whether or not certain groups of people are worth their help. For example, some people only use their social accounts to discuss issues that directly affect them, and don’t think about the intersectional problems that people within their own community face. Yes, I’m talking to the white cis gays.
Groups like this need to be using their platforms to speak up and share marginalised voices, and to engage and continue conversation that, although it might not directly affect them, will affect so many other people within their community.
STOP SCROLLING AND ENGAGE
So many people scroll past insightful, engaging, and emotional activism that trans and non-binary people are sharing, but because it doesn’t necessarily impact them specifically, their attention is distracted by the next topless white guy they see on their page. Stop scrolling. Listen, read, learn, and engage.
Being an ally is all about listening to the perspectives of trans and non-binary people. Our voices are so often overshadowed and spoken for that it’s imperative that we allow ourselves to speak, and more importantly, be heard.
DON’T SPEAK FOR PEOPLE
One of the most important aspects of allyship is knowing when to speak, and when to allow others to speak for themselves. Allowing marginalised groups to tell their own story and use their own words to share what they need to say is of paramount importance, as often these groups do not get the opportunity to share their views.
Having a more privileged person/group speak for you, even if it’s meant in the best way, can be patronising, and remind us who has the societal power to be heard, and who doesn’t. Speak with, and amplify voices instead of speaking over them, because there will be things you won’t know or be able to grasp unless you’ve lived the experiences.
KNOW THAT YOUR KNOWLEDGE ISN’T TOTAL
We are all constantly learning, growing and evolving, and this means that knowledge and information we have acquired 12 months ago may have changed, or there may be new perspectives that we need to enlighten ourselves on that we weren’t aware of when we first educated ourselves. Always be open to learning about new lived experiences of people from within the non-binary community, as there are so many intersections that alter the way we exist. Whether that be race, ability, class, religion, ensure you’re always looking at things from an intersectional perspective.
TAKE IT IRL
Digital allyship is important for us queer folk, however it should never just stop there. Take what you’ve learned online, and use it to speak up and take action in your physical life. Allow your online ‘social justice awakening’ to continue into your everyday life, because so many GNC people like me are out here – and we don’t have a choice whether or not we bring our truth to the streets, because that’s just who we are, in all of our excellence.
We are heading into 2019 with trans and GNC people creating true art online. Supporting us in our work online is only step one – back us up when you see us making strides in the real world, too.