I'd like to start by saying thank you.
We see you, we appreciate you, and now more than ever we need you. However, there are some things that we need to discuss. Things that, to you, seem innocent. Things that, for us, are a painful reminder that society still places us in the category of "other."
See, as much as you mean well, you can always do better. Acknowledging where you're falling short and correcting it is one of the best ways you can help.
All that in mind, here are some things the transgender community really needs from you:
1. When someone comes out, don't make it about you.
Your feelings when someone opens up about such a big part of their life, while relevant, should not be a priority. If you have emotions that you feel you need to express, please, wait for a more appropriate time. Don't make your feelings a burden on the person coming out to you. Tell them that you love them, give them a hug, tell them that you support them, but remember that this is not about you.
2. Use the correct pronouns, even when we aren't around.
I get that maybe you have an asshole friend, so in conversation, you find it easier to say "she" instead of "they." Please don't do this. You are further perpetuating the idea that we are men in dresses, overly butch women, or can't pick a side. Instead, use our pronouns, and when necessary, confront your asshole friend. Educate them.
With that being said, also talk to us about who we aren't out to, if anyone. Don't out us, accidentally or otherwise. This is non-negotiable, and is literally life or death for some people.
We also need you to understand that we know you're human. Humans make mistakes sometimes. If the time comes that you use the wrong pronoun for us, it's okay. Please just correct yourself and move on. There's no reason to make a big deal about it. We get it, you're human.
3. Get politically involved.
"Be there for your trans siblings, vote, protest, stay aware. So many cis people are like 'This awful thing doesn't apply to me so I'm not gonna keep myself updated and educated on the matter.' When they're the ones who have a louder voice and can help immensely. We need that voice because we're ignored and shut down. We need their help in a political sense." —Taylor Tillman, gender fluid, Trans Rights Activist
Trans people are literally being beaten, even killed, for protesting and standing up for their rights. Stand with us. Call your senators, show up to protests, do the work.
I'm talking to you here, Texas.
4. Stop pushing the "born in the wrong body" narrative.
"The wrong body narrative essentially pushes cissexist body standards that say that there's a wrong way to have a body and that the goal of trans people should be to conform to cisgender body norms through hormones and surgery. That narrative fits for some people but it's absolutely false for others, like those who do not "fully" transition or those who do not transition chemically or surgically at all."—John Goodnow, nonbinary, Trans Rights Activist
Some people want to transition physically, some people want to transition chemically, and some people want to do both or neither. No one owes you transition. Transition does not make us any more or less of our gender. We were not born in the wrong body, we were born in our bodies and forcefully assigned a gender based on societies idea of what our genitals mean.
While we're on this subject, stop asking if we've had the surgery. If we aren't having sex with you, our genitals are none of your business.
5. Google is your friend.
As a society, we are extremely blessed in the fact that everything we could ever want to know is at our fingertips. If there is something you don't understand, google it. If, after doing so, you need further clarification, you are more than welcome to ask us, respectfully. Don't come to us with your biases and mask your want to argue with "I'm just trying to learn!" If you're respectful of us in your inquiries, most of the time, you'll get respect back.
This brings me to my next point:
6. Stop tone policing.
If you do happen to ask a question that is met with hostility, take a minute to consider why. How was your question worded? Could anything you said be taken offensively? How many assholes has this person dealt with today?
Understand that every day we take abuse from people who think they know us better than we know ourselves. Be it the President, Texas, or someone on the internet, we deal with a lot of insulting words and actions. If someone is rude to you after asking a question, consider all of these things, and don't tone police them.
One of the most important things I've ever been told is, "if your support is based on whether or not someone was nice to you, your support was never there to begin with."
7. Cis is not a slur, "trannies" is.
"Stop calling us 'trannies.' That is slang for a car's transmission, not a person who is either transgender or transsexual."—Jaimie, Trans Rights Activist
Don't use slurs to describe us. You might not find it offensive or rude, but it is, so don't do it. It's really that simple.
Now let's talk a little bit about the history of the word "cis."
Cis is a Latin term that means "on this side of." Trans is its opposite, meaning "on the other side of." When someone says you are cisgender, they mean that you identify with the gender you were assigned at birth.
Have some people taken this and started using it in a demeaning way? Yes, absolutely. However, that doesn't make it a slur. On a day to day basis, most people who refer to someone as cisgender are not being demeaning.
As a society, we have come a very long way, but we still have a long road ahead of us. We cannot afford for cis people to return to normalizing themselves over us. We are all human. Some of us are cisgender, some of us are transgender, all of us are normal.
8. This list is not exhaustive.
While this list is a great start, by no means is this all you can do. Listen to trans folks who come to you with advice or criticism. Consider what they're saying instead of getting defensive, understand why they are telling you this, and never stop learning.
Your activism is needed and appreciated, so I ask you, please don't become complacent. We are an ever changing society. There is always something to learn.