Saturday, May 20th, 2023
By Eli Sachse, BSN, RN
If you are a cisgender (not transgender) person in America right now, you may feel overwhelmed with daily news about attacks against the rights of transgender people, including states that are making it illegal for trans teens to play sports, get medical treatment, or use the restroom. Like a lot of people, you may feel powerless to do anything about it. You may live in a state that has good protections for LGBTQ+ people, and feel like there is no way that you, personally, can make a difference in the national struggle.
But there are countless ways to make a difference, everyday. And while some may seem trivial or even pointless, this article explains why each of these 5 simple acts can have wide-ranging effects.
The number one thing that everyone and every organization can do right now is to share resources and information about accessing transgender medical and mental health services. Even if you live in a state with good protections for LGBTQ+ people, and good transgender healthcare, making sure that your local resources are well-publicized and available to all is crucial at this time. That’s because more than ever, people are looking to cross state lines for care: either to move permanently, or to access care from a state that does not allow it. Making it easier for folks to research their options is a life saver.
As an RN, I’ve worked with transgender people at a clinic in California that people from all over the country came to for treatment. Some of them had hormone treatment in the past, but that had been cut off, usually for insurance reasons. The resulting, abrupt absence of hormones made them some of the most sick-appearing young patients I have ever cared for.
If you are a teacher, social worker, nurse, doctor, medical receptionist, librarian, LGBTQ+ group, arts center, organizer, politician, therapist, acupuncturist, electrolysis artist, cafe owner, or anyone who has contact with people, posting links to care for transgender people at your place of work or on your website is a powerful message and tool. See our resource list as an example, and create your own for your community.
List affirming therapists in your area. Post flyers for support groups. Social groups. Queer craft groups. Clinics offering trans care. Nearby LGBTQ+ orgs, even if they are in a neighboring county. Be part of creating a nation-wide safety net.
Volunteer For Local Organizations
Humbly seek out volunteer positions and work at LGBTQ+ organizations in your area. Some organizations may be more friendly to straight, cisgender volunteers than others — don’t give up if your services aren’t needed at the first organization you contact. Definitely do NOT force your way into positions of power at the expense of LGBTQ+ voices, even if you have skills that you feel the group is lacking. Offer your services, and if they take you up on it, great! But graciously accept mundane tasks like folding brochures if offered to you, as well.
Then, share about your work on your social media. In this way, you spread the word about the work the org is doing, and also may encourage and inspire your friends to stand up and work for LGBTQ+ justice with you. In short, you can create big ripples.
Put Queer and Transgender People in Positions of Power
If you work or volunteer for any organization, ask yourself and your peers: “Are queer and transgender voices not only represented, but in real positions of power at our organization?”
Looking to queer and transgender voices for guidance can be a powerful and transformative act for any company. The insights that marginalized voices can bring to an organization can be naturally outside-the-box. That kind of energy can be galvanizing for an organization looking for fresh and innovative ideas.
Perhaps you know queer or trans voices that have great insights, but need some mentoring in order to learn how to effectively work as part of a professional board. Coach them! Take them to meetings so that they can get a feel for the culture, and encourage them to speak their minds at the best times. Give constructive feedback. Let them know about positions that become available, and write them a strong recommendation.
Make Sure Your Workplace is LGBTQ+ Welcoming
Recruiting and retaining LGBTQ+ talent requires thoughtful inclusion practices at multiple levels, but is the best way to ensure your company is not only welcoming of LGBTQ+ recruits, but has a representative workforce that serves and welcomes all people.
This has the potential to affect our country broadly, as transgender people still face a significant wage gap in America, and are disproportionately affected by unemployment. Making your company a welcoming one for LGBTQ+ folks is a powerful step in changing the cultural landscape of America for the better.
Learn about the many ways to shift the culture of your company, including making sure language advertising events are inclusive of same-sex partners, ensuring health benefits include transgender care, and more.
People young and old have questions about the transgender experience. It is never too early or too late to have conversations about how to be respectful of transgender people, to talk about gender, or to cultivate warmth and kindness of speech in your family. When queer and transgender themes come up on TV or in the news, use the opportunity to start a conversation with your family. Learn more at HRC.
Most importantly, interrupt transphobic and homophobic speech when you hear it, in any venue. This can be intimidating to consider. But with practice, modeling inclusive and loving language becomes natural. It will also naturally spread to those around you, and those around them, and so on. Learn more at The National Center for Transgender Equality
Eli Sachse, BSN, RN is the author of the popular booklet Next-Level Ally: How To Support Your Queer and Transgender friends, available from Microcosm Publishing and retailers across North America.