Be An Ally 101

In our “Be an Ally 101” we discuss how common trans people are, what their lives are like, how to support a trans person you know, how to support trans rights, and where to find out more.

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Some supportive allies ask questions like…

How common is being trans in Aotearoa?
What are the issues for trans people?
How can I support a trans person who I know?
How can I be a good ally more generally?

How Common is Being Trans?

Trans people make up at least 1% of the population. The population of NZ is around 4.917 million, so at 1% the number of trans people in NZ is around 50,000. That means at least one trans person for every 100 patients, students, workers, or people in a community.

The Youth12 study (NZ) showed that 1.2% of school students identified as transgender.
The Youth19 study (of 7,721 adolescents) showed 1% identified as trans. 73% of these said they identified as transgender before age 14.
A recent GLAAD (USA) study also showed 1% of people identified as transgender.
The GLAAD study also showed that 16% of non-trans (cis) people knew a trans person in real life.

Issues for Trans people

Public Life
Trans people experience extremely high levels of stigma and discrimination across all areas of public life including in education, employment, housing, accessing healthcare, goods and services, justice, sports and recreation, policy and legislative input, and other areas. This results in high levels of material hardship.

Examples include
13% asked inappropriate questions during a health visit in the last year.
1 in 5 are homeless at some point. This figure is 1 in 4 for non-Europeans.
46% of homeless trans people were discriminated against by landlords.
Only 14% participate in sports, vs 26% of the general population.
20% were disrespected or mistreated by a doctor in the last year.
Sex education does not include trans people’s existence.
55% of students are unable to access health care when they need it, vs 19% of cisgender students.
17% have experienced “conversion therapy” in a health setting.
1 in 3 avoid seeing a doctor when they need one, to avoid being disrespected.
23% of trans students are bullied at least weekly, vs 5% of cis students.
The median income is half the median income for the general population.
71% of homeless trans people moved at least once every 6 months on average in the last 5 years.
67% experience discrimination. 44% experienced this in the last year, vs 17% for the general population.

Private Life
Trans people experience very high levels of stigma, exclusion, social isolation, and violence in their personal lives.

Examples include
59% of homeless trans people don’t contact their family to help find housing.
Two thirds of trans students “come out” while at school, but of those who do, only a third feel safe to come out to parents.
64% of trans students say at least one parent cares about them “a lot”, vs 94% cis students.
72% of homeless trans people first experienced homelessness as a teenager.
36% of trans people have been forced to have sex against their will – this is 3x the rate of women in the general population (11%). This is more common for non-binary people and adults. For disabled trans people, this figure is 7x the rate of the general population*
82% of homeless trans people say transphobia from housemates was a factor.
Only 32% of trans students feel safe in their neighbourhood vs 58% cis students

* Sexual violence figures are estimated to be severely under-reported for all groups

Mental Health and Wellbeing
The pervasive stigma, discrimination, and violence which trans populations experience not only impacts on their physical and material well being, but also on their psychological, emotional, and spiritual well being.
Trans people experience high levels of distress, anxiety, depression, self harm, substance use, and suicidal ideation.

Examples include
57% of trans students people report significant depressive symptoms, vs 22% of cis students.
71% live with high levels of psychological distress, vs 8% of the general population.
Trans people use cannabis at 3x the rate of the general population.
26% of trans students attempted suicide in the past year, vs 6% of cis students.
57% of trans students have self harmed in the past year, vs 22% of cis students.
For trans people, substance abuse is linked to mental health and neurodiversity more often than disability or chronic pain.
79% of homeless trans people have a mental health condition, and 66% are neurodiverse.

Resilience and Protective Factors
Trans people are highly motivated, hard working, and care a lot about community and family. They are very likely to be involved in supporting others, volunteering, and community work. “Chosen family” are the main source of support for many trans people. Family, whānau, and friends are also important.

Examples include
62% agree they are proud to be trans, while only 14% disagree.
Connection to culture is a strong protective factor against suicide.
85% of disabled trans people socialise with other trans people online. Overall 74% of trans people do this..
Feeling connected to trans community is linked to better health outcomes.
Māori are more likely than most trans people to feel connected to their culture, to receive support from whānau after having experienced sexual violence, and to want to have a child or more children.
58% provide a lot of support for other trans people, and 56% feel connected to other trans people.
90% of trans people with housing instability contact friends to help them find housing.
62% of trans students are involved in volunteering, vs 54% of cis students.
Disabled trans people are more likely to be involved in political activism.
Strength of informal networks is a critical protective factor.
Safety is paramount to trans people, including when it comes to housing.
Those who are supported by their family/whānau have better mental health.

How to Ally 101 – Supporting a trans person you know

How to give the right support depends on your relationship to the trans person. You can find in depth resources at genderminorities.com

Everyone: don’t “out them” as trans without their permission, don’t ask invasive questions. Do respect their pronouns and name, do listen to them.

Friends: be there for them, listen to them about what they need and how you can support them.

Health teams: provide accurate information, follow the National Guidelines for Gender Affirming Healthcare, use Informed Consent, and let the patient decide what they need.

Landlords: rent to them.

Partners: respect and care for them.

Families: let them know you love and support them no matter what. Fight for them when they need you.

School and work: provide a safe learning/work environment, deal with bullying appropriately.

How to Ally 101 – Supporting the trans rights movement

Supporting trans rights means taking whatever space you have influence in and making it safe for trans people. You can find in depth resources at genderminorities.com [see links below, the main menu, and our blog page].

Amplify trans voices: read/listen to trans people and share their perspectives, link to their content.

At school or work: ask if your school or employer meets the minimum legal requirements for a safe school/work environment.

Political advocacy: being a good ally means walking beside; not over or in front of. Take your lead from trans-led orgs, which are experts on trans issues.

In your community: talk to others about trans rights, share why you think it’s important. Consider trans people in everyday life.

Feminists and women’s rights groups: include trans women in making decisions, and discuss the facts – eg. talk about the trans pay gap, and bodily autonomy for trans people.

Scrap biological essentialism..

Examine your biases.

Talk to friends and family about trans rights.

Stand up against transphobia when you see it.

Remember intent =/= impact.

Find out more

Learn about recognising transphobia, being a supportive family, healthy relationships, and more, at genderminorities.com

Main sources:
GMA (3,000 contacts a year across NZ), statistics from Counting Ourselves (2019), Youth19 (2021), and Where Do You Sleep at Night? Transgender Experiences of Housing Instability and Homelessness (2020).