Wednesday, February 12, 2014

But I Support You

My blog feed has been buzzing with commentary on Piers Morgan's insulting interview with trans author and advocate Janet Mock. Trans*forming Family posted a great roundup of the interviews and reactions, along with links to blog posts about how to be a true ally (not just say you're one): "On being a cisgender ally to the transgender community".

I've witnessed during Jake/Jasmine's transition that those who proclaim the most that they're supportive are actually the least supportive. If you're a genuine ally, you don't say it, you show it. If you find yourself repeatedly saying you're supportive, then perhaps your actions don't reflect your good intentions and you should ask:

  • What have I done to show my support, beyond just stating it?

  • Have I been declaring my support as a defense for behavior that my trans connection has labeled offensive or hurtful?

  • Do I know what my trans connection wants for support? Have I asked? If so, have I followed through on what they requested?

  • Have I been thinking about my trans connection's feelings and putting myself in their shoes, or have I been focusing on how I feel about their transition?

  • If I stop saying that I'm supportive, how will my trans connection know that I'm an ally?

Jasmine's supportive family members declared their support only once- when Jasmine first came out. Since then, they have demonstrated their support in simple ways such as asking for updates on name and pronoun preferences, engaging her respectfully in discussion about transition, forwarding her links to news and resources about trans issues, and generally treating her like a normal and accepted part of the family.

The family members who keep repeating "I support you" or worse- "But I support you," have refused to educate themselves in any way, make passive aggressive comments to negate Jasmine's progress, alternate between completely avoiding discussing transition and inquiring about genital surgery, and generally keep her at an awkward distance as they wallow in obvious denial and self-pity.

I asked Jasmine the last time I declared my support for her transition, and neither of us could remember. Sure, I say things like "Ohmygod your cooking is so orgasmically good; reason #250 why I'm never going to leave you!!" but I no longer make any overarching statements about how I'll stand by her side through transition. I don't need to. She knows because I bought her a necklace with "Jasmine" engraved for our wedding anniversary. She knows because I tell her she's beautiful, and I mean it. She knows because I'm proud to take her out and show her off when she's presenting as a woman. She knows because she can talk to me about everything she's feeling, and I listen and care. She knows because I read trans books and blogs and share what I've learned. She knows because I'm still here, treating her like the same precious spouse she's always been.

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