Unlocking Effective Allyship: How Cis Women Can Support the Trans Community During Suicide Prevention Month
September 14, 2023
By COO & Sisterhood, Not Cisterhood Coordinator Heather Knoxville
This month, Trans Empowerment Project (TEP) is holding space to talk about Suicide and Self-Harm Prevention, specifically about the alarmingly high suicide rates in the Trans community and what can be done to reduce them. I’m Heather Knoxville, COO of TEP and the creator/manager of our Sisterhood, Not Cisterhood program.
As cis women, it’s essential to recognize our role in providing support and allyship for our Trans sisters. True allies go beyond token gestures and demand consistent effort to create a safe and inclusive environment for everyone.
As an ally myself, it’s important to me that we make it very clear that we are a sisterhood, and we will not allow for continued harm of our Trans sisters, or any of our siblings in the Trans community. Keep reading to discover a roadmap of actionable measures that we can undertake to help the Trans community during Suicide Prevention Month and beyond.
Suicide and Self-Harm in the Trans Community
Personally, one of the things that upset me the most is hearing how alone and isolated my sisters feel. I know that feeling all too well – I spent 15 years with my abuser, who kept me as isolated as possible. (Because we’re easier to control that way, you know.)
Studies have shown that around 77% of Trans women have attempted suicide or had suicidal thoughts at some point in their lives. The situations that lead to these mental health struggles include discrimination, lack of acceptance, violence, and sexual assault/harassment. As cis women, acknowledging and addressing these issues in our spheres of influence can make a significant difference in helping our Trans sisters.
How You Can Help
Here are some practical steps that cis women can take to show support for Trans women:
- Use correct pronouns and names: Be mindful of using the correct pronouns and names chosen by your Trans siblings. This simple act validates and shows respect for their identity.
- Challenge Transphobia: Speak out against Transphobic comments and behaviors in daily life, social settings, and online spaces. You don’t have to say the “perfect” thing, just say something!
- Advocate for Trans-inclusive policies: Promote and support policies in the workplace and community that accommodate the needs, rights, and well-being of Trans folks.
- Amplify Trans voices: Raise awareness about the experiences and perspectives of the Trans community through social media, activism, and engaging in conversations with others.
- Don’t use language that isn’t inclusive! (e.g., saying that women should be able to “create life” or that men can’t.)
- Use the buddy system: If you have Trans friends or loved ones, do things together! Not only will that give you both the joy of strengthening your relationship, but it can also lessen the odds that our Trans sisters will end up victims of harassment or violence.
It’s Called “Sisterhood”, Not “Cisterhood”
Womanhood has nothing to do with physical characteristics or the clothes someone wears, it’s just who we are. No one should get to gatekeep your access to it, and we shouldn’t get to gatekeep others.
The Sisterhood, Not Cisterhood program aims to bridge the gap between cis women and Trans women by fostering education and community, building a network of femme-led support across the country. Participating in and promoting programs like this empowers Trans women and helps create a safe space for them.
Sisterhood, Not Cisterhood offers workshops, monthly virtual meet-ups, and friendship-building opportunities, ultimately helping to reduce instances of suicide and self-harm in the Trans community, especially among Trans women.
Ally Is a Verb
Allyship is not a pin or sticker you wear to indicate that you’re a “safe” person to be around, being an ally is a lifelong journey that involves continual education and personal growth. It’s important to acknowledge mistakes and learn from them, to be open to change, and to actively seek resources to better understand the Trans community.
Listen, I know it can be hard to hear that you’ve made a mistake or said the wrong thing, especially when you had good intentions. But how will we ever learn how to be better allies if we can’t handle being corrected?
Instead, thank the person for their labor, be grateful they felt safe enough around you to correct your mistakes, tuck that new bit of knowledge away where you can find it next time, and move on.
Maintain a growth mindset and consistently strive to create a better world for everyone, because we all deserve to thrive!
You Can Make a Difference
Collective efforts and intentional practices are vital in addressing the mental health crisis in the Trans community. As cis women and allies, it’s our responsibility to show solidarity with our Trans sisters and foster an environment of inclusivity. This Suicide Prevention Month, let’s commit to unlocking effective allyship and making a tangible difference in the lives of Trans folks.
Every conscious effort we make, no matter how small you think it is, creates an impact in our quest for a world where everyone thrives as their authentic self.