Connecting with Personal Power After Abuse, Trauma, or Marginalization

Why do some people abuse power while others don’t? That question is at the core of POWER: A USER’S GUIDE, the latest book by coach, facilitator, educator, and author Julie Diamond, Ph.D.

As its title suggests, Power: A User’s Guide is a how-to manual for anybody—parent, boss, teacher, politician, social activist—for whom wielding authority justly and effectively is a daily necessity and a daily challenge.

In this video, together with LifeWorks’ Cindy Trawinski, Julie discusses the nature of personal power and how therapy can help those who have struggled with trauma, abuse, and marginalization connect with their deepest selves. According to Julie, personal power is an inner source of strength that can never be taken away, although it sometimes manifests in surprising ways.

The conversation was recorded at LifeWorks’ offices in Chicago, during Julie’s visit in 2016, when she spoke before KPACT: a networking & dialogue group for Kink and Poly Aware Chicago Therapists, established by LifeWorks.

More information about Julie, the book, and KPACT can be found here.  

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Meet Meryl Morris, LCSW

Preferred pronouns: she, her, hers

Meryl Morris, LCSW is one of four therapists to join LifeWorks this year through the Green House, our postgraduate psychotherapy training and mentoring program.

What first drew you to the Greenhouse?

I first became aware of LifeWorks after meeting Rami Henrich and Cindy Trawinski at the 2015 Alternative Sexualities Conference. They invited me to a KPACT seminar and I remember my surprise.  I had found a practice that specialized in helping groups of people who for many reasons may have had to keep parts of their lives secret from family, friends, society and even from their therapists.  The people and lifestyles that LifeWorks embraces – LGBTQIA, polyamory and non-monogamy, kink and BDSM, trans and genderqueer– included my colleagues, my friends, friends of friends, partners of friends and many acquaintances. I have heard their struggles, I knew my own. Marginalization was not new to me, it had always been a part of my life. I felt a kinship with the population they served.

I am a licensed clinical social worker and have for many years wanted to find my way back to doing therapy and to create a safe space for people to talk about those secret lives and struggles. I knew that I needed a way to hone my therapeutic skills and combine them with all I had learned through my work as a mediator with families for many years. So, I was delighted to find out that LifeWorks had a new program that offered what I had been searching for. I loved the idea of getting the training I needed and collaborating with brave and wonderful therapists who were embracing the idea of creating a sex-positive and life-affirming space for their clients.

Tell us about your goals, challenges and aspirations —-what are you hoping for in 2017 and beyond?

My goals are to integrate all that I can from my training at the Green House with the knowledge I already have to become a therapist that can help make a difference in others’ lives and to use who I am and my own experiences to form  my identity as a therapist. I also want to challenge myself to use not only my strengths, but my weaknesses and my life experiences to collaborate with my clients on their journey to self discovery and healing. I am hoping to build a foundation for a private practice serving people who at times feel marginalized for how they relate to society or for who and how they love. I want to participate in creating a safe, inclusive, sex-positive space for people to explore themselves free from judgment and rejection.

What are you most looking forward to in the Green House?

I am looking forward to embracing and being an integral part of LifeWorks’ mission. I am hoping to collaborate and learn with my three colleagues in the Green House and with the therapists at LifeWorks. Expanding my knowledge base and getting to know all of these talented clinicians is very important to me and represents a very important part of my future and growth not only as a therapist, but as a person.

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Refueling: A Guide for Self-Care

by Elizabeth Duke, PsyD

As a therapist, I focus on self-care a lot because I think it’s a vital life skill that no one really teaches us to do for ourselves.  

Self-care allows us to have emotional energy to respond thoughtfully to life’s bumps and obstacles instead of reacting without awareness. That reservoir of emotional energy gives us space to make lasting changes within ourselves. In my experience, self-care often needs to ebb and flow with stressors in your life.  So if your daily self-care practice is exercise, and your stressors increase, you probably need to up your self-care game.

In my humble opinion self-care is a seriously big deal.  As far as I know it’s not consistently or intentionally taught in pre-school, grade school, high school or at the university level.  It’s rare that our care-givers show us how they care for themselves, much less talk to us about it.

For some, engaging in self-care feels self-indulgent, or like a waste of time. For others, it’s all too easy to label ten hours on the couch as self-care, when it might be called avoidance, if we were honest with ourselves.  It’s complicated though, because sometimes a measure of avoidance is necessary and sometimes a dollop of distraction is what gets us through. Self-care is not an all-or-nothing process. It seems to requires insight, awareness and balance to thread this needle.

Sometimes self-care is hard because it’s just hard, and other times its’ hard because the thing you’re trying to do isn’t feeding you. For example, some people find volunteer work extremely rewarding, while others find it draining, and still others find it taxing but feel accomplished and happy about it at the end of the day.  So, determining what self-care looks like for you can involve some trial and error.

As our good friend (I wish) Brene Brown would say, our culture often holds out exhaustion as a status symbol.  We view busyness, packed schedules, and barely enough time to sleep as a sign of our achievement, effortfulness and hard work. Which, unfortunately means that many of us are socialized to fundamentally misunderstand the impact of, and need for self-care.

See how nuanced it is? It is different for everyone, so it’s tricky to prescribe and even harder to try to mimic self-care if you do have a rare sighting. Finding what works for you is not easy, and it requires trial and error along with introspection.

To get started, you can try journaling about the questions below:

What are you trying to get from self-care?
A more authentic you? Energy to field the stressors of tomorrow? Increased insight? Breathing room? A calmer sense of self? Your self-care should be in line with what you need.

What has worked for you in the past?
Even though self-care is fluid and dynamic, it might help to have a starting
place. What things did you enjoy as a child? Did you play sports? Enjoy
science, art or nature? What did those things give you, and what might they
look like now?  What was helpful in the past when you encountered difficult
times?

**If the first thing that comes to mind here has been self-destructive for you, take it a little further… for example, what did you get from excessive spending? A chance to create a new persona every day? Connection with strangers? Release from day to day worries? Unfettered engagement with passion? Look for the meaning of what’s worked for you, rather than the thing itself.

What drains you?
Do you enjoy time around people, or does it drain you? Do you feel invigorated by creating a meal or is it overwhelming?

**Sometimes self-care requires intentionality and that should not be mistaken for “draining” activity. It’s often difficult to motivate yourself to clean, but afterwards you feel much better. Think about this in terms of how you feel after you do something versus the energy it might take to get yourself to do it.

What makes you feel most alive?
This is my favorite question. It’s not always possible to do the thing that makes you feel most alive, but this is a helpful place to start. For some this might be the closing night of a show. Every day can’t be the closing night of a show – the excitement, the feeling of accomplishment, the camaraderie, and the closeness to those who helped make it happen. But you might be able to create or find elements of it – cultivating friendship by making a standing friends night each week, taking a moment to appreciate the small things you achieve and do each day, learning a new skill (knitting, guitar, woodworking), or going to more artistic events around the city. Try to take something that makes you feel alive and break it down, identify what it is you get from that experience and see if you can access that in some way on an ongoing basis.

When do you need self-care?
This is a tough one. Predicting what things are likely to suck your emotional energy is an ongoing process because stress is moving target.  However, it’s worth noting the times of day you feel most energized and most tired. If you struggle with feelings of self-deprication/anxiety/loneliness/fill-in-the-blank, when does that feeling occur most often? Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Do you spend a day surrounded by people and then need alone or quiet time to recover? If you work on your own all day, do you crave contact and interaction to re-charge your battery after work? Answers to these questions can provide hints about the self-care you may need or want.

Does your self-care fit into your day?
Make your self-care work for you. If you love dancing but you can’t find classes that fit your schedule, consider employing your headphones and an empty living room. If you compose music as your self-care, make sure you carve out time in your day for this priority.

What if my self-care becomes unhelpful?
Shout out to all my fellow perfectionists. Self-care becomes unhelpful when it begins taking on a life of its own.  So, if you’re gardening as self-care and you start getting discouraged that your community plot isn’t as robust as the one next to yours. Be on the look out for self-care becoming something you have to tick off your to-do list, or creating comparison-itis. You’ll also want to be on the look out for self-care becoming isolating or the only thing you want to do.

Finally, what would you do if you were completely free to truly care for yourself in this moment? Do a little of that now and notice how you feel.

Remember, no one knows what feeds you better than you do. Creating and tending to the process of self-care is an ongoing process that requires you to check in honestly and see how things are going occasionally. If you find yourself overwhelmed, snapping at loved ones, engaging in black and white thinking, over-striving or whatever your personal red flag is… you probably want to do a self-care tune up.

Best of luck on the journey my friends.

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Caring in Uncertain Times

Photo Credit: Génesis Gabriella CCO Public Domain

We are pleased to share this post by Jacqueline Boyd from The Care Plan.  Jacqueline is a tireless advocate for healthcare needs of the elderly and LGBTQ+ community providing guidance and planning for her clients. 

by Jacqueline Boyd

“How will changes to the Affordable Care Act affect my insurance coverage?”

“Will my 85-year-old parent be able to get coverage with so many preexisting conditions?”

“Should I push to get my gender affirming surgery now?”

“How can I access HIV care if funding is cut and my medical services are no longer covered?”

These are a sampling of questions posed by members of The Care Plan network over the last few months.  The Care Plan serves individuals from all walks of life and advocates on their behalf. We keep a measured eye on the political landscape for our family caregivers and LGBTQ+ clientele. It is our goal to provide our clients resources to move forward with a greater degree of comfort and clarity.

For the estimated 9 million Americans who identify as LGBTQ+—who are at higher risk of chronic illness, HIV, substance abuse, suicide and many other disorders—access to affirming health care is critical.  Likewise, approximately 44 million Americans are providing unpaid caregiver support to another person.

Across the country, people are searching for answers about how to navigate care in a time of uncertainty.  For those who coordinate care for themselves or a loved one, here are some basic tips for navigating the waters ahead:

1. Stay Informed
Seek out objective news sources to stay abreast of changes that could affect you or your family. The reality is many people are overwhelmed by the amount of news available. We recommend choosing a credible outlet that provides information on both local and national levels. You can also identify your favorite health writer and follow them on social media. Some of our favorites are The New York Times, Huffington Post and Medicare.gov.

2.  Advocate
Prepare to defend your resources and speak up for those of others. Raise your voice to create sustainable solutions on a national or local scale. Many of the proposed changes are likely to fall to state governments to sort out, particularly Medicaid expansion coverage. If you have the energy, take time to reach out to representatives or join an advocacy group on the issues you feel passionately about. AARP is well versed on state-level legislation and can provide resources and direction on advocacy.

3.  Connect
Gain strength by finding informal sources of support. Whether it is prioritizing time with family and friends, showing up for community events, or getting creative about caring for a loved one, take the time to connect. If appropriate, take the opportunity to gather the people closest to you to take the next step: to become family-of-choice, and verbalize what that means. Connection with people who care about you will provide a support system in the face of any number of challenges.

4.  Plan Ahead
There is no time like the present to address long-term care plans. If you don’t have a Power of Attorney, a will, or an estate plan, now is your opportunity to put financial and legal protections in place. Find out how the loved ones in your life feel about accessing health providers, what role they want you to play in their care, and what critical decisions you should be aware of.

The Care Plan is available to partner with you in addressing current and future challenges. At a time with more questions than answers, the power of human connection can heal and move us all forward.  For expert guidance or questions on the road ahead, contact Jacqueline at 630-479-0083, or write to [email protected].

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How Therapists Can Keep from Misusing their Power

Why do we sometimes misuse power even when we know better?  That question is at the core of POWER: A USER’S GUIDE, the latest book by coach, facilitator, educator, and author Julie Diamond, Ph.D.

In this video, Julie speaks with LifeWorks’ Cindy Trawinski about power dynamics in therapeutic relationships, as well as how therapists can keep from misusing their power. The conversation was recorded at LifeWorks’ offices in Chicago, during Julie’s visit in 2016, when she spoke before KPACT: a new group for Kink and Poly Aware Chicago Therapists, established by LifeWorks.

More information about Julie, the book, and KPACT can be found here.  

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Meet Sarah Hemphill, MSW, LSW

Preferred pronouns: she, her, hers

Sarah Hemphill, MSW, LSW, is one of four therapists to join LifeWorks this year through the Green House, our postgraduate psychotherapy training and mentoring program.

What first drew you to the Green House?

Coming from a background in medical social work, I was drawn to the Green House as a space where I could gain experience providing long-term psychotherapy.  While I love the intensity of working with medical patients, I was looking for the space and tools to go deeper with my clients than the brief interventions possible in a hospital setting. Speaking with last year’s Green House therapists, I realized that this is the very space I had been looking for where I can grow into new experiences while staying true to my values as a therapist.

From the beginning of my education and career I have been drawn to work with sexuality and marginalized groups, especially those in the non-monogamy and sex-worker communities. This has dovetailed with my work in reproductive health and creating space for LGBT and sexual minority patients, but I have had limited opportunities to collaborate with professionals intentionally serving these populations. For the past several years I had been impressed by the intentionality with which LifeWorks was focusing on LGBT, kink, and non monogamy, and pleasantly surprised to hear that they were also, of late, reaching out to the sex worker community.  Stepping away from work with those in acute physical trauma, I am looking forward to holding the same trauma-informed skills for people who may have faced potentially subtler social and inter-personal traumas.

Tell us about your goals and aspirations—what are you hoping for in the rest of 2017 and beyond?

I think that if I were able to tell myself one year ago that at this point in my career I would be sitting across from my current clients and learning alongside intelligent and intriguing colleagues, I would have thought it was too good to be true!  So, I am hesitant. I don’t want to sell myself short for where I may be by the end of the Green House.

That said, I want to use my time in the Green House to do the internal work to make sure I am moving forward in my role as a therapist with intentionality. I aim to use this time to try on some new approaches in order to feel out a path that feels right for me, and to be purposeful about serving my clients and impacting communities in ways that are most beneficial for those who need it.  Hopefully, this will mean not only gaining tools and practice to better serve my clients but also learning how to better collaborate with others in the world beyond. I’m not sure where this journey will take me, but growing, stretching, and improving in these areas feels right and necessary right now.

What are you most looking forward to in the Green House?

I already love getting to know other LifeWorks therapists and seeing glimpses of how they think about interacting with clients and each other.  I find people to be the most fascinating, complex, and wonderful thing about the world—surprise, surprise, probably why I became a therapist!  I admire the dedication to cultural humility, open-minded views, and overall joy that I have seen at LifeWorks, and I am thrilled to learn from and grow with such a talented group of other clinicians.

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The Distinction between Personal and Positional Power

Why is learning about “personal” versus “positional” power so important? That question is at the core of POWER: A USER’S GUIDE, the latest book by coach, facilitator, educator, and author Julie Diamond, Ph.D.

As its title suggests, Power: A User’s Guide is a how-to manual for anybody—parent, boss, teacher, politician, social activist—for whom wielding authority justly and effectively is a daily necessity and a daily challenge.

In this video, LifeWorks’ Cindy Trawinski asks Julie about the distinction the book makes between “personal” and “positional” power and how to develop personal power.   This interview was recorded in 2016, when Julie was in Chicago to address KPACT: a professional organization for Kink and Poly Aware Chicago Therapists, established by LifeWorks.

More information about Julie, the book, and KPACT can be found here

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The Saint Aside

by Brandon Haydon, LCSW


And if I say
it’s alright
to love
another one
I will smile with
calm dignity shift
wince to wisdom grin
feign peace in your pleasure
reach back to pat
for a mind as open
as the wound in my chest
and I’m grasping
your fingers for blades
your swell and gaze
but I was pierced from within
caught dancing at the duel
between human and fancy
sang swords like mirrors
and every stroke gleams
with that dread reflection
as either victor would mean my murder

“I know you burn without malice, but burn as you must”
is the martyr’s regard of the fire
that even if it could pity
could not cease to be fire
I see devotion
is a creature
we can conjure but not keep
if its whim is in distance
And no hand red or black
can guide your desire

Passion as pilgrim
fervent and wanting
who must indulge each relic that passes
or risk some missing blessing
to pass up a sacred presence
on account of comfort
and in any case
not all sacraments taste the same
and I hear every saint
gets a temple
to see the worship return…
content will I be
that you whisper a prayer
at my shrine
aside the road

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Why Do Sex Workers Need Our Support?

Photo Credit: Holding hands by Valerie Everett via Flickr CC ShareAlike 2.0

by Cindy Trawinski, Psy.D. and Cassandra Damm, MSW

In a previous article, we introduced the topic of sex work, considered its history and politics, and explored some identifying attributes of the diverse population of individuals sometimes referred to as sex workers. In this article, we would like to offer a few guidelines about the many challenges sex workers may face, why sex workers need your support and what allies can do to offer support.

Many of the issues sex workers contend with today are intrinsically related to the overwhelming stigma surrounding sex work. Not all sex workers grapple with the same level of stigma.  Stigma is impacted to some extent by how “out” sex workers are.  An individual’s choice to remain “in the closet” about their work depends on many factors including their unique family situation, role in their community, and amount of experience.

While some sex workers have found allies and partners with whom they can be open, many sex workers feel the need to partially or completely hide the facts about their work. Perceiving biased attitudes in their neighborhoods, circles of friends, families and even therapists—as well as overall cultural intolerance of the work—many sex workers operate in secrecy and disclose information about their work life cautiously to select confidants over time, if they choose to disclose it all.  It is also important to remember that most sex work is illegal in most states. Criminalization of sex work constitutes a real and potentially devastating risk that prohibits many from being out.

A secretive attitude, frequently adopted as a defense against the very real threats of violence, persecution and prosecution, can have the effect of isolating these individuals from their closest friends, family members, and communities at large. Sex workers may feel the need to lie, withhold important information (for instance, about health problems or finances), and adopt pseudonyms in order to conceal the truth and protect themselves. A sex worker may find themselves compartmentalizing their experience or living a dual life, in conflict with their own values related to honesty and freedom, and further and further alienated from an all-inclusive picture of their identity.

The Challenge of Finding Affirming Spaces for Sex Workers

Both outside and within the environments in which they perform their labor, those who identify as sex workers lack reliable opportunities to discuss their experiences and questions. As a result, sex workers coping with the symptoms of trauma, anxiety, and depression may have even fewer resources than members of other marginalized populations. Current legislation criminalizing sex work exacerbates isolation, leaving sex workers unsure about where and whom to turn to for support.

At the same time, sex workers may find that people who consider themselves allies lack the general understanding that grows from firsthand sex work experience. Sex workers inhabit a world of unique challenges, demands, advantages, and dangers.  Allies—however well-meaning—may exaggerate or downplay the realities of sex work. Sex Workers need a space to process the issues they face with other people who share their experiences and struggles.

Sex workers increasingly seek spaces on the internet for support. While online groups are critical for many sex workers, many feel that the internet cannot provide the same warmth and camaraderie a physical space does. Furthermore, affirming spaces are difficult to find on the internet due to of their vulnerability to trolls and, in some cases, law enforcement.

What Can You Do to Support Sex Workers?

Many general guidelines about ally-ship apply to sex workers as well. We encourage those who are interested in becoming an ally to sex workers to listen, prioritize your own learning about issues facing those in the sex trades, emphasize respect, and be courageous in establishing safe spaces.

Stay open-minded and avoid stereotyping.  Language and storytelling present another critical way to support sex workers. A common narrative about sex work charts an unavoidable and alarming path between sex work and trafficking. This narrative minimizes the agency of sex workers—especially women—and overestimates the number of people who are held against their will and forced to engage in sex work. Those who study sex work believe forced sex work is a relatively rare phenomenon. Instead, sex workers are more frequently coerced into the exchange of sexual services due to the economic and environmental pressures that influence all labor in a capitalist system.

Avoid pejorative labels. As we suggested in our previous article, word choices matter. Being an ally means disrupting assumptions by using the term “sex work” more broadly to describe any work that involves an exchange of sexual services or erotic content for money or other valuables. This may include adult cam models, porn actors and actresses, phone sex operators, escorts, strippers, and professional dominatrixes—to name a few.

Educate yourself about the issues facing sex workers by seeking out training opportunities, and reading blogs posted by organizations serving sex workers including:

Support self-care.  Every month, Lifeworks Psychotherapy Center hosts a support group for individuals who identify as sex workers. Co-sponsored by SWOP Chicago (Sex Worker Outreach Project), the group is open to anyone who has previously or is currently working in the sex trade. (For the safety and protection of participants, this group is not open to consumers of sex industry services.)

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Becoming a Trans Ally

by Cindy Trawinski, Psy.D.

My world and life, like many people’s, is a mix of privilege and struggle. As a cisgender woman, I have some privileges that trans women and men do not. For example, I can assume that others will use my preferred pronouns (she, her, and hers) when referencing me. As a person in a non-monogamous relationship, I have also faced issues that people in non-traditional relationships may face—for example: not having my relationship recognized as legitimate or as committed as monogamous relationships are. As a sex-positive therapist working with a variety of marginalized experiences, I am in an ongoing process of learning about my own biases and assumptions as well as endeavoring to expand my awareness, understanding, and acceptance of experiences that are not mine. And as process-oriented therapist, I challenge myself to work with my edges and try to see the deeper humanity and transcendent states in all experiences.

This is the third in a series of blog posts exploring what it means to be an ally and offers some basic suggestions or those who want to become a personal support to friends, neighbors, co-workers, or family members facing discrimination, stigma, and bias from the general culture because of their identity. 

T is for transgender. Along with lesbian, gay, bisexual, questioning, and queer, transgender is one identity encompassed in the acronym LGBTQ. The term “transgender,” commonly shortened to “trans”—and sometimes followed by an asterisk (*) to denote inclusion of identities such as transsexual, gender non-conforming (GNC), gender fluid, non-binary, and genderqueer—is itself a broad label that comprises many diverse understandings and expressions of gender. That being said, even within the LGBTQ umbrella, people who identify as transgender have also been marginalized or excluded at times from specific LGBTQ groups and/or the larger LGBTQ community.

Whether someone identifies as transgender or not, a person’s gender identity is often a deeply personal, nuanced, meaningful, and emotional topic. Beyond being a subject of recent political debate, gender expectations, expression and identities emerge in virtually every area of society: from the workplace to interactions with neighbors, friends and family members. And, at times, our awareness and lack of awareness of the diversity of underlying experiences can lead us to conversations about gender that can erupt in anger, conflict, or misunderstanding.

Learning that someone you love identifies as trans can elicit a wide range of feelings and reactions. You may feel surprised, confused, supportive, hurt, fearful, skeptical, or any number or combination of emotions. You may be confronted with thoughts or ideas that you have never examined or considered. You may want to explore your own feelings and learn about what being trans means for you and for your loved one. Take time with this and be kind to yourself and your loved one. The coming out and transition processes take time. Seek professional support if this is appropriate for you.

Becoming a trans ally means carrying the responsibility of accepting and welcoming your trans loved one unconditionally. Your feelings may vary on a moment-to-moment basis and you should expect some inner conflict.  Being an ally means working on your own stereotypes and fears. This is an often difficult task that requires self-education, exploration of biases and discomforts, identification of assumptions, and a process of self-discovery, as well learning about something about which you may have little information.

Allies may or may not identify as trans themselves. If you do not identify as trans, you may use the term “cisgender” (usually shortened to “cis”) which refers to anyone whose gender identity corresponds to the sex they were assigned at birth. Like your trans friends or loved ones, allies can follow any religious belief or spiritual path, and experience any kind of orientation and relationship to their sexuality and gender. A person’s gender identity is not equivalent to their sexuality and does not imply anything about their choice of partners.

Here are some suggestions for starting down the path to becoming a trans ally:

  1. Listening. One of the simplest ways to support your trans friend, coworker, family member, or partner is to listen to them. Many transgender people feel invisible or excluded. When they do have an opportunity to speak about their identity, a trans person often spends a great deal of that time countering misinformation and educating a primarily cis audience. Show your trans loved one that you are interested in what they have to say and that you value their knowledge, experience, stories and points of view.
  1. Make learning a priority. Assumptions harm everyone. Learn what name your trans loved one prefers to be called and the pronouns (e.g. “her,” “him,” “they”) by which they like to be referred. When in doubt, ask—but ask thoughtfully. Follow your curiosity, but instead of saddling your trans loved one with the responsibility to speak for all trans people, educate yourself. Google your questions and remember to consider the source. Learn what questions are considered invasive and which terms are considered offensive.
  1. Reflect before offering your opinions. Practice empathy and compassion. Think about how you can use your language to welcome rather than hurt members of the trans community. This may take extra effort on your part. You may feel confused or frustrated by the process of shifting your awareness and learning new ways of relating. If you are, it may be helpful to view your confusion or frustration as necessary steps on a path toward change and greater understanding. Recognize that the journey may be long, difficult, and painful—not only for trans people, but for their supporters as well.
  1. Respect others’ boundaries. Learning about a person’s gender is an intimate experience. Respect your trans loved one’s courage as well as their privacy. Do not push them to a point where they might feel uncomfortable or unsafe. Never discuss a person’s transgender identity with anyone else. Transgender people continue to face daily threats of violence. Understand that by outing a trans loved one, you may be jeopardizing their life, career, and relationships.
  1. Embrace love and diversity. Can you let go of expectations and embrace the world in all of its complexity? This is a challenge for many of us. It is important to recognize that there is no right or wrong way to exist as a human body. The trans-identifying people in your life may change how they describe themselves, try on different personalities, change their appearance, discover new parts of themselves, and challenge their prior decisions in life just as cis people do. Just like you, they may have doubts and make mistakes along the way. Take note of your own internal questions and contradictions. Being an ally, means growing into the responsibility to accept your trans loved ones, empathize with them, and advocate for them where and whenever possible.

This blog post was inspired by the Human Rights Campaign’s (HRC) article “How to Be an LGBT Ally.” I am grateful to HRC for their groundbreaking leadership in the fight for the rights of LGBTQ people in US and around the world.  To read the original HRC blog post, click here.

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