Trans Ally: Do’s and Don’ts


  • As often as possible, ask politely what pronouns and name a person prefers you use when referring to them. “What would you prefer to be called?” “What pronouns do you prefer?”
  • Respect the rights of transgender people to define themselves.
  • When in doubt:
    • Use “crossdresser” instead of “transvestite”
    • Use “intersex” instead of “hermaphrodite”
    • Use “two-spirit” instead of “berdache”
  • Educate yourself on issues that are of importance to transgender individuals and communities.
  • Educate other potential allies about transgender issues and allyship.
  • Ask questions respectfully; recognize that it may take a lot of energy and courage for transgender people to hear and answer your questions and they are justified in not answering any questions that make them uncomfortable.
  • Be open to discussions about gender and how it affects situations in your life and in the loves of those around you.
  • Be supportive and a good listener.
  • If you don’t know the answer, try to find someone who does (you can always start in the LGBT Resource Center).
  • Take transgender people and their concerns seriously, even if you do not understand their concern or why it is so important to them.
  • Challenge gender assumptions and transphobia whenever possible.
  • Accord transgender people the same credibility, privacy, respect and courtesy that you would desire.
  • Incorporate transgender issues and individuals into your conversations and work.
    Be a visible ally by using trans-friendly language, such as “he, she or they,” or “men, women and trans people.”
  • Be prepared ahead of time to address the concerns of transgender individuals, including questions about resources, facilities, policies, etc.
  • Focus on accommodating the situation to the person, rather than the person to the situation (for example, not “what should we do with you on this hall” but “what kind of hall situation would give you the same quality of life and positive atmosphere that all students should have?”).
  • View transgender as a positive identity rather than a tragic or confused situation.


  • “Out” a transgender person without their express permission.
  • Assume an individual’s sex or gender identity based upon their appearance.
  • Refer to a transgender person as “it” or as a “he-she” or “she-he,” unless the individual has specifically asked you to refer to them in such a manner.
  • Put the chosen name, chosen pronouns, or self-identification of a transgender person in quotation marks; this conveys a belief that the individuals chosen name, pronoun or identity is ultimately invalid or false.
  • Ask transgender people about their body, genitalia or sex lives in any situation where you would not ask a bio boy or genetic girl about their body, genitalia or sex life.
  • Assume that, because you cannot visually identify anyone in a room as transgender, there are no transgender people present.
  • Question a transgender person’s assessment of their identity or experience, or question a transgender person’s assessment of whether an incident was transphobic: it is highly likely that they are much more practiced than you are in recognizing transphobia and its impact on their life.
  • Place labels on individuals; mirror their language and self-identification instead.