Trans people need more and better Allies

Today is Trans Remembrance Day. At least 81 Trans people have been killed around the world in the past year for their gender identity or expression.

Trans people are regularly subjected to hate violence, and as such they are particularly deserving of civil rights protections. Last year 50 percent of the victims of LGBT hate-driven homicides were Trans women of color.

The unrelenting tide of violence Trans people face makes it all the more infuriating that, just a few weeks ago, the people of Houston rejected an ordinance that would have extended basic civil rights protections to LGBT people. Voters there were undoubtedly swayed by a cynical, hateful campaign that claimed the ordinance would allow men in women’s bathrooms.

There is no evidence that allowing Trans people to use the bathroom they feel most comfortable in causes systemic issues. Texas law enforcement officials have categorically debunked the “bathroom predator” argument.

Businesses embrace the rationale for nondiscrimination laws that include Trans people. Business organizations and Fortune 500 companies like Apple and General Electric supported the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance. In fact, three-fourths of Fortune 500 companies explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity.

Opponents of equality have been able to trade on the general public’s lack of understanding of the reality of Trans experience. People can easily be convinced to fear what they do not understand.

To combat this lack of understanding, LGB and Straight Allies of Trans people must first acknowledge the limits of our own understanding. In order to properly support Trans people and work to achieve their equality within our society, and within our companies, we have to recognize that we have much to learn about the Trans experience. And we have to commit to learning more.

Just last week, I met with a senior leader – an enormously committed Ally who has stuck her neck out for LGBT equality on many occasions – who came to me privately to express her doubts about engaging personally on Trans issues. “I just don’t understand some of this.”

I must own that I didn’t understand the Trans experience in a personal way until I met Roberta Galarza, an American Airlines pilot, who sat with me and explained her story. These sorts of personal interactions are incredibly valuable. A recent Williams Institute study demonstrated that people who know Trans individuals are significantly more likely to be both informed of issues facing the Trans community, and more supportive of Trans rights.

And that’s why, everywhere I travel, I seek to meet with amazing Trans leaders like Geena Rocero, who is doing important advocacy work in Asia and the world through the Gender Proud organization. Emma Cusdin of Thomson Reuters and Antonia Belcher, a business leader and advocate, have both shared their insights at Out Leadership Summits in London. Our OutNEXT Summit for LGBT emerging leaders included the insights of TED Fellow and Trans slam poet Lerato “Lee” Mokobe. (The vast majority of Millennials, well over 70 percent, think Trans people should be protected from discrimination.)

It is abundantly clear that Trans people need Allies who do the hard work involved in understanding their experiences and who stand in solidarity with them against a world that often greets them with ignorance and violence.

If you want to be an Ally for Trans people, I encourage you join me in the daily work of learning more about Trans experiences. Importantly, I also encourage you to find ways to support and engage with Trans people on a personal basis, in the workplace or in life. I’m also pleased to be able to recommend that you consult the Credit Suisse Trans* Guide, which first shared at our Summit in Europe in September, and which is now available for your reference.