Question Twenty: Should cis people let trans people do the talking on trans issues?

April 22, 2013 § 2 Comments

The penultimate question! I might do a post on coffee after this series, just to lighten the mood. Panel bios here.



Question Twenty

This is such a helpful thing to be doing…I’ve been an lgbtq* officer and I still worry that what I say is going to offend!
 When cis people engage in debate on Trans issues, eg. on Burchill or on the Gender Recognition Act, do most Trans people feel that we’re supporting or would they rather we shut up and promote Trans people themselves doing the talking? I often feel, when speaking up, some people may be irritated a cis-person is doing the talking.



Natacha: IMO trans people need allies. Sometimes cisgender allies get it wrong but in general most of us are happy to correct you privately and gently and respectfully. We can’t expect everyone to know everything. For example, a trans friend was about to use the phrase “gender-Variant” in a speech, I corrected her by email ( it should be “gender non-conforming”) and she took that on board and used it in her speech. If trans people react in a shouty way to mistakes then it is they who are doing us a disservice. Listen and learn, most of us want to get our message out there and are very appreciative of cisgender people’s support. It is a fact of life that some do not always get it right, but please do not let that stop you. If you support us we will support you.



Roz: As with so many of these questions, play it by ear. You are aware of the problem with making it about you being Big Ally – again, do the non-verbal ‘should I take this?’



Naith: For the most part I think things like this should be lead by trans people – there are plenty of cis allies with great things to say, but in the case of the trans equality fight, cis ally’s main job should be promoting trans speakers.



CN: I genuinely feel that it depends on the situation. It’s certainly never appropriate for a cis person to come wading in with a ‘I can be objective here when you can’t – here’s what’s REALLY going on’. But one of the most touching articles on the Burchill mess came from a cis person explaining why everyone should care about trans issues. Personally, I believe that we need a multiplicity of voices raised on this issue (as on many others) – so long as cis people aren’t talking over trans people, or denying them a time/opportunity to talk, then I’d like to hear what they have to say. 



§ 2 Responses to Question Twenty: Should cis people let trans people do the talking on trans issues?

  • Natacha Kennedy says:

    Thank you for organising this CN, and thank you for asking me to contribute, it has been very interesting and challenging to think about and to read the contributions of yourself and other trans people. Some really interesting comments and contributions. Maybe the best bits could be collated and published together somewhere as a sort of ‘trans 101 for cis people’. I think it is a very good idea to get our message out there for people who are new to trans issues.

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