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May 18, 2015

Quick Chat: How to Be a Trans Ally

Our monthly “Quick Chats” with SAGE participants, volunteers and staff offers a first-person perspective on our community. This month, we spoke with Monica Pedone, a facilitator of our successful "How to Be a Trans Ally" workshop. The monthly gatherings are led by transgender facilitators who guide discussions, field questions, and build understanding among trans and cisgender (non-trans) participants.

Monica_PedoneAt age 62, Monica is a Cross Sector Technology Leader at IBM, a martial arts enthusiast and mother of two adult children. She transitioned at age 30, and says that before that “I was so deep in the closet I was finding Christmas presents! My divorce allowed me the freedom to find myself, and I began finding my people in the community.”

One of the topics discussed in the “Trans Ally” workshops is surgery and the idea that  questions about gender-affirming procedures (sometimes referred to as “sex change” operations) are usually inappropriate to ask  strangers about, especially since surgical and medical decisions are kept private by many trans people. At the same time, “Trans Ally” workshops are not intended to shame participants or discourage them from asking questions. In fact, Pedone says she’s enjoyed the lively conversations she’s experienced as a facilitator. “There were a lot of people there who were curious and inquisitive and have interesting points of view,” she remarks. “It was fun to interact and hear their perspective. I didn’t want to just be a talking head up there—it’s nice to have a dialogue.”

So how does one become a trans ally, exactly? Pedone has some wisdom to share. “I think that part of it certainly is learning the ‘ten things you don’t say to a transgender person’, but I’m not worried about people saying something as long as it’s coming from a place of learning rather than resentment or anger. You have to be a good person and say what’s in your heart. And if you make a mistake and call someone the wrong pronoun it’s OK, don’t make a big deal of it but next time try to do it right. Treat transgender people the same as everyone else, and also understand that there might be some gender cues that are slightly different.”

Pedone finds the approach of SAGE’s “Trans Ally” workshops to be especially impactful because “it allows trans people themselves to lead the conversation, and to meet and interact with people. Participants learn that trans people are just like them—they have mothers and pets and homes, they have trouble paying their bills. These workshops open the community up to new conversations, and new friendships. We shouldn’t box ourselves up into little groups.”

--Posted by Kira Garcia

 

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