When it comes to gender, I fall into the category that sometimes raises eyebrows: non-binary or enby. This means I think of gender as fluid, rather than strictly existing in the binary of either a man or a woman.
My personal pronouns are she/her and they/them, so I am comfortable with both, but usually encourage people to either do what feels best for them or to use me as practice for non-gendered pronouns. I find that many people squirm nervously at the thought of using a singular "they" to refer to one person, but I like to remind them what they would do in a situation where they notice a set of keys forgotten in a restaurant booth. Likely, they'd let an employee know that “someone left their keys behind.” However, when the object is a purse, gender bias kicks in and the line becomes “someone forgot her purse.”
Most times, you are probably correct with the assumption that a person's appearance matches their gender identity, but what about the times that you’re not correct? If you've never spent much time questioning your gender, then it’s difficult to imagine that not everyone has the privilege of feeling comfortable, safe, and validated by their gender and sexual identity. As someone familiar with being excluded from the “norm,” sometimes it takes the smallest acts of consideration that offer hope in believing there is a spot made for me to exist unapologetically.
There are many steps we can take to take care of one another, which should include supporting trans and gender non-conforming people to build a safer and better community. St. Albert’s announcement of its first gender-neutral washroom opening in St. Albert Place is a significant step toward fostering inclusivity. This new development will make a world of a difference for someone who would otherwise be exposed to a potentially traumatizing experience.
Changing your language to more gender-neutral terms is another way to be an ally to trans people. “Ladies and gentlemen” can be “esteemed guests.” “Dear Sir or Madam” can be “Dear Mx.” when you are unsure of someone's gender identity. Our “boys and girls” should be allowed to just be “kids” and “children” rather than having outside factors decide for them.
I think sometimes cisgender people feel an unnecessary weight to know things about the 2SLGBTQ+ community, or feel defeated before trying. Nobody is walking around with a “gay knowledge quiz" expecting you to ace it. The expectation is to see everyone's identity as being worthy of your respect and basic compassion.
Learning about cisgender privilege and unfamiliar progressive language can be daunting at times, especially when we are all working tirelessly on other forms of oppression. However, the reality is, we are no further ahead if we are not being inclusive of everyone, and that includes trans people.
Chelsea Gouchey spent much of her childhood in St. Albert and is now a TESOL teacher, hospitality manager, speaker, writer, activist, and avid globetrotter.