Trans 101: How to be a better ally

TransTHumbOn Jan. 28 the LGBTQ Resource Center sponsored the second “Trans 101: How to be a Better Ally” lecture and Q-and-A in C120 from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. With more than 20 Bellevue College students in attendance three speakers came up and presented, focusing their discussion on transgender issues and the things students and faculty can do to become better allies. There were three speakers present on the floor: Petri Muhlhauser, Emily Merrill and Katie Baker.

They began their presentation with a Venn diagram of five “things that are related but are not the same,” as speaker Petri Muhlhauser explained. These five things were gender identity, gender expression, gender role, assigned sex and sexual orientation. The speakers clarified what each category meant and how it relates to society and transgender men and women.

With each passing slide and topic, the floor was open for questions and discussions. The lecture provided a safe space for questions where people could be taught  the best way to phrase things in conversation when talking to a trans man or trans woman. The lecture went into detail about what is considered okay to say and what is not okay to say when talking to or referring to a trans person.

As they moved along the presentation, the speakers began to talk about the best way to address a transgender person. Most trans men or trans women have preferred pronouns. To be a better ally, it is important to be aware that each time an incorrect pronoun is used to describe a trangender person. “It’s like a little kick in the shin,” says Muhlhauser.

With each incorrect pronoun the spot where you’ve been kicked gets very sore. It’s best to ask what the preferred pronoun is in order to avoid misgendering, or use gender-neutral pronouns.

The topic soon drifted into the safety and accessibility that is presented to transgendered men and women on the Bellevue College campus. It appears that there are only three gender-neutral bathrooms on campus which are out of the way and are not as accessible as they should be. According to the speakers, there have never been instances of physical safety being threatened on campus; however, in such a passive society it is common to hear people talk behind your back. As Katie Baker pointed out, “it’s harder to defend yourself that way.”

The lecture and Q-and-A session was a learning experience, and, in such an open environment, the audience was very engaged in topics and discussions. The friendliness of the speakers made the atmosphere more comfortable, allowing people to ask questions about things they were curious about.