1. I don’t care about your feelings of confusion around my gender.
I assure you I’m just as confused as you are, if not more so. Sure, my experience may run counter to what you have heard about or interacted with before, but you know what? That’s fine! New information, it’s a wonderful thing. It’s not a matter of taking the blue pill or the red pill folks; enlightenment does not come in neat little packages. It comes through embracing new things as new and not just some tired iteration of the old. Break apart, open up, let understanding seep in slowly.
2. I don’t care about your armchair gender theory, where you tell me how we should “do away with gender” without proposing any solutions to existing oppressive structures.
Just because gender is a “social construct” does not make it any less real. Phrasing it in such a way is often a means for privileged white cis dudes with hipster beards to shut down conversation and not deal with their own position. Let’s get this right, something being a social construct does not make it any less real. So yes, gender is a social construct, so is race, but it also has real material consequences. You just sound like an asshole when you try and shut down conversations where you have to face your privilege.
3. I don’t care that your gay friend, or even your white trans man friend, used the term “tranny,” you don’t know the effect of that word and have no right to “reclaim” it, no matter how many episodes of RuPaul’s drag race you watched.
Yes, reclaiming language is pretty en vogue right now and can be pretty damn great if you ask me. Like, reclaiming fat as not antithetical to beauty can be a radically affirming act. However, think of reclamation like a game of dodge-ball, imagine that kid pelted with hard rubber balls. Imagine those are slurs, because they may as well been in middle school. Now imagine that scrawny little kid with coke bottle thick glasses is about to catch that ball, showing, just for a moment, that they won’t be hurt anymore. Protecting them is one thing, when they are battered and bruised, it is another to snatch away their ability to show strength.
4. I don’t care when you tell me about how you saw this really fucked up transphobic/transmisogynist thing.
Don’t tell me, I know it exists and it’s pervasive. This applies to any intersection of oppression I may inhabit. What I want to hear is what you DID about it in that moment, not just that you can observe and name oppression, but show that you can participate in dismantling it. Otherwise, see my previous lack of caring. If you can’t have been bothered to act don’t expect me to gleefully listen and nod long to your tired “analysis.” The exception to this is if you actually want to workshop out ways in which you could respond. However, you need to be respectful of my time and not assume I have all the answers, just because I may have experienced what you observed.
5. I don’t care about being your go-to “call out” person on all things trans*.
If you are my ally, my friend, our relationship has to be more than me calling you out. Otherwise, I’ll end up feeling exploited and drained and less inclined to see you as either a friend or an ally. Putting the onus on me to identify when I need to call you out is exactly the kind of pressure allies are supposed to relieve. Friends get angry with each other, and that is how friendship is tested and understanding is built.
6. I care about a lot of things, and that list is far longer.
This list itself is in fact an expression of care, a care for myself. It is also a means for me to express my boundaries so that I can focus on what I do care about. Be my ally, wholly and truly in that struggle.
A shorter version of this originally written for and presented at the Philadelphia Trans Health Conference as part of a workshop with Robin Markle on allyship. The original text is available here.