Allyship 101

Should cis people wear trans symbols? Trans folks weighed in.

What does the best form of allyship look like? There’s no one correct answer — but when in doubt, turn to the community you’re aiming to help.

That’s what one cisgender man did when he wasn’t sure how best to show his support for trans folks.

“I’m graduating from university soon and I’ve been considering whether I should wear a pin on my suit jacket. One of my possible options is a trans flag pin,” he shared on Reddit. “My concern is that, as a straight cisgender man, this might be ‘appropriating’ something that does not belong to me. I’ve wondered if an ‘ally‘ pin might be more appropriate?” 

“I also don’t care if cis people see the flag and assume I’m trans,” he added. “The only opinions that matter in this scenario are trans ones.”

If he was in the market for trans opinions, he got them in spades. Most folks agreed: wearing trans symbols like the flag isn’t appropriative, but it will likely make other people question your gender.

“I don’t think it’s ‘appropriation,’ but people will probably assume you’re trans,” one commenter wrote. “But whenever I see those colors I light up and know I’m in a friendly place.”

“You can wear a trans flag all you want, friend, but you might be mistaken for a trans man. If you’re fine with that, wear it all you want,” agreed another.

The poster didn’t mind at all: “I’m definitely fine with that — it’s a compliment, not an insult — especially if it helps to confuse bigots as to what a trans person is ‘meant’ to look like,” he replied.

Others pointed out that the more normalized solidarity with trans folks becomes, the safer the world will be for them.

“Anyone can wear a trans flag,” one wrote. “There’s no harm in that toward trans people, and if it comes up it could help to normalize cis people wearing trans pride colors.”

“I think it’s admirable to show solidarity with the trans community,” shared another. “I think it’s important for those with privileges to fight for us. I try to fight but damn do I get tired. I would love to know that I have true cis allies to carry a banner for me when I need a breather.”

But the poster also expressed concern that trans people might be upset to learn he’s cis after assuming he’s trans — “that a trans person feels I’m appropriating or hijacking their symbol as a cis man,” as he put it.

Those concerns, though, were also quickly assuaged: “It’s not really appropriating. It’s just likely confusing. But more trans visibility is always good. It allows others to be more visible. It paves the road,” a commenter replied. “There are probably some aspects of trans culture that would be really weird to see with a cis person, but the flag isn’t one of them unless you misrepresent yourself.”

Some folks also suggested wearing an ally flag, either in addition to the trans flag or instead of it, just to avoid confusion and make the poster’s message clear. They also warned that cis folks assuming he’s trans could put him in danger of harassment — but if that’s a risk he’s willing to take, there’s no real reason not to wear the pin.

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