I’m sick of being my own ally

Visibility for gender diverse folks is also the responsibility of cis people

We can’t expect trans and non-binary people to educate and correct everyone. PHOTO: Stavrialena Gontzou / Unsplash

By: Dev Petrovic, Opinions Editor

Pride Month is once again around the corner and as much as I’d like to celebrate and forget about the atrocities of our not-so-queer-friendly reality, there’s still too much that weighs on me daily. Non-binary and gender-diverse folks still face consistent exclusion in public and private spaces. Other than the introduction of the gender “X” option on government-provided identification in 2019, very little progress has been made in Canada towards equity for non-binary, trans, Two-Spirit, and gender-diverse folks. How can I feel pride this International Pride Month when I’m still responsible for fighting for my acceptance and visibility?

Recently, I went out to dinner at a nice restaurant. I’d forgotten about the sinking feeling of having to go to the bathroom and realizing there were only stalls labelled according to the gender binary. Situations like this one are large blows. They are reminders that my identity doesn’t exist to most and is still far from being recognized. But if at the very least, I felt like cis allies had my back in social situations where I am misgendered, excluded, or invalidated, it wouldn’t be as difficult to digest. 

Don’t get me wrong, I have cis people in my life who do put in a conscious effort. I notice these things and appreciate them, but sometimes it’s just not enough. I can’t emotionally handle feeling like if I don’t speak out on transphobic language, no one else will. As found in a report conducted by Western University, 68% of non-racialized trans and non-binary folks have experienced some form of verbal assault or harassment over a five-year period — these numbers are at 72% for people of colour. 

With these staggering numbers and the unwavering amount of systemic discrimination, my main concern is always on ensuring my safety. With the terrifying reality of these statistics, it doesn’t seem fair that I should even have to worry about putting myself in potentially vulnerable situations just to call out a cisgender person’s microaggression. These exclusionary situations and microaggressions, some of which even come from other (cis) queer people, add up quickly. A lot of the time there’s only so much for which I have the energy. 

So often I find myself internally screaming, “what about non-binary people? Are you really forgetting the experiences of trans folks? Do we not exist?” But the fact of the matter is that we always have existed and we are very much here. We see and notice these things even when cis people probably don’t, and we remember them all too well.

I may not be immediately perceived as gender diverse, but that doesn’t mean that I, and other folks, don’t deserve to be included and considered. As much as I’d like to be able to keep in mind that not everyone is as educated on the topic of various gender identities, and while I do understand that it’s okay to mess up sometimes and that not everyone understands the extent of their words or actions, I’m also so exhausted. How many times do non-binary people have to make themselves vulnerable when speaking for our words to be finally heard? It’s about time cis people put in a greater effort towards allyship so that trans, non-binary, Two-Spirit, gender-diverse and otherwise gender non-conforming (GNC) people don’t have to.

I strongly encourage cis-identifying individuals to practice speaking up for trans, non-binary, and GNC communities. Everyone deserves to feel safe and accepted, and we need strong cis allies to do some of the work for us to achieve this.