How to Deal With Transphobia

Transphobia (negative attitudes and feelings towards transgender, transsexual, genderqueer, gender neutral people, and other people of gender-variant identities) is a pervasive force in the lives of most trans people and allies today. It is impossible to eradicate transphobia completely, but there are some things you can do to make it easier to cope with others' opposing opinions.


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    Look for support to help increase understanding. Before anything else, it is important to find supportive friends, allies, family members, coworkers, and/or teachers. Many cis people[1] will assume that it is a trans person's job to educate others about trans issues. Allies can help you to normalize trans people in your community and should be willing to help educate those who make transphobic remarks.
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    Look for support for yourself. It's also crucial to have supportive people in your life to whom you can turn when things get tough. Whether it's a formal support group or just a monthly dinner with a group of friends, finding these people can be a lifesaver when you need a trans friendly space that you can trust. Self-care is crucial to your mental health and emotional well-being.
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    Turn transphobic comments around. Often, an insult can be reversed to make a cis person question their worldview and transphobic stance. It's easy to be transphobic because trans identities are not normalized in most segments of our society yet. Many people assume that cis is normal, and trans is strange, so flipping these assumptions on their head can be a powerful tool. If you're an outgoing person or enjoy using humor, you can make someone who is insulting you feel pretty silly – for example, if someone questions your gender identity, you might say "so when did you realize that you were a man/woman/boy/girl?" If someone makes a comment about "checking" your genitalia, you might reply dryly, "can I check yours?" It's not your responsibility to have the confidence to make jokes like this, but if you do, they can be a helpful way to combat insults and making fun of trans people at others' expense.
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    Question day-to-day assumptions. If someone makes you feel odd, unusual, or marginal, considering questioning the assumptions they are making. If someone refers to your childhood "as a boy," for example, and you have always identified as a girl, correct them. If someone says that you are a boy "with girl parts," inform them that your genitalia are male, like the rest of you. Ask them why a particular body part is "female," exactly. Again, it is not your responsibility to make people think, but when you feel comfortable doing so, planting that seed may lead people to change their views down the line.
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    Look for supportive professionals. You don't have to deal with harassment, prejudice, and intolerance from professionals. Seek out doctors who have worked with trans patients before and who understand what's involved. Find a supportive therapist who can help you sort through the emotions transphobia brings up. If you believe you may have a legal claim against an employer, school, or government official, find a lawyer who is experienced working with trans rights or who at least shows an understanding of the issues in the initial consultation.
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    Stand up for your rights where you have a legal claim. You don't necessarily have to file a lawsuit to keep transphobia from interfering with school, work, housing, or other parts of your life. Check to see if your city, school, or workplace has a policy against gender identity discrimination and a reporting system in place. Mediation may also be a less expensive and less troubling way to resolve your claim than going to court.
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    Find trans positive resources to heal. Transphobia is a destructive force in anyone's life, and it's important to recognize that you will have to engage in a continuous process of healing to cope with its power. The methods vary from person to person: you may want to find a therapist, talk with friends, spend time with other trans people, make art, do yoga, read trans positive books, listen to music by transgender artists, start a blog, look at trans friendly websites, confide in a partner, or any number of other things. Figure out what works for you and insist on taking the time to do that thing, even if it's just being alone and quiet for a little while each day. Your needs are always valid.


  • Seek support online, especially if you live in an area without any legal protection or social support. If you don't find a transgender group for your area, create one with Yahoo Groups or another free service. Its existence may draw some of your neighbors out of the closet. Create another group for supporters and friends if you want to keep the transgender group strictly for trans people.
  • Seek out a liberal church like Unitarian Universalist. Churches are good sources of social support. Query them for whether they're trans-friendly.
  • When going to a new-patient appointment with a new doctor, bring a healthy cisgender friend to help explain to the doctor. Many doctors literally don't listen to what the patient says because they're more focused on body language, voice tone and physical indicators of various health problems. They will listen to a healthy caretaker, family member or friend.
  • Don't assume that transphobia is always blatantly there - individuals have a mosaic of social and political attitudes. Someone who's a self admitted transphobe may understand transgender issues better than someone who's otherwise extremely liberal but makes an exception for "transgenders". However, understand that, by that nature of transphobia in society, most if not all people (even some trans people) will have some sort of internalized transphobia that can be resolved through education.
  • Keep a personal journal. Not only will it help you stand back to look at what's happening and calm down about it, your journal may become an important historical document for future generations to understand how trans people lived in the early 21st century. Society is changing and there's greater trans awareness now than ever.


  • Occasionally there are good people that blunder. Even friends and loved ones that are accepting may slip on a pronoun. Forgive. Mistakes happen. Even with a few slip up and oops, if they are candid and sincere in apology, just remember that they love you unconditionally.
  • Whenever possible, avoid medical care from a doctor or other health care professional who has trouble accepting transgender people. The issue is so disturbing to some cisgender people that it may distract them from other health concerns and cause serious medical errors. This is particularly true when it's the first time they meet someone transgender, so another alternative is to educate them but set another appointment later so the medic has time to deal with his or her emotions about the condition and isn't distracted. Seek out medical information about transgender to educate your health care professionals.
  • When you encounter a thoughtful person who believes it is wrong to artificially alter your sexual identity, the tolerant thing to do is accept that as valid. When possible, walk away from this irreconcilable conflict. If that's a family member, try to achieve "agree to disagree" peace with that person if the relationship's otherwise worth saving. However, it's important to remember that your mental health takes priority, and if their opinion is making it difficult to deal with them, it may be time to reduce the time you spend with them.
  • Remember that dealing with anyone who doesn't accept a transgender person's gender identity will have lots of honest miscommunication on unrelated issues. The unaccepting person tends to have unrealistic expectations about every aspect of life. Often the trans person can't even guess what reaction is expected. Put special effort into communication and filter all disagreements through a friend of the gender they think the trans person is. Try to do this before blowing up in their face over apparently unrelated issues.

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