Are You The Ally I’m Looking For?

The background story of this post has been included in My Life Most Memoirable. Memoirable tells of Paige Krystal Wilcox’s emergence from a socially anxious girl trapped in a male body, into a strong, self-assured, successful woman and social butterfly… and beyond.

Hi, I’m Paige, the chick in the below photos!

Are you the ally I’ve been looking for? Please read on, because I really need you. In fact, my whole community needs you!

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If you’ve been following my public story recently, you probably know about the open letter I wrote in 2015 or the one from 2016, and the dramatic tell-all trilogy about my emergence from a socially anxious girl trapped in a male body, into a strong, self-assured, successful woman and social butterfly. You might also know of my Paige Uncensored campaign from 2012, or current work with Out for Australia. If you’ve been following my public story, maybe you’ve noticed the steady escalation that has led to this article.

The original goal, point, whatever, was set way back in 2011, following someone broadcasting my gender history on social media.

Me, in 2011: “I need to reduce trans stigma to a level where I can feel as confident disclosing my past gender transition in a room, as I would if I were disclosing the fact that I have had my four wisdom teeth out.”

Not exactly a SMART goal, but it has been reasonably effective for keeping me on track these last six years, with the exception of 2013-2014, when I felt it necessary to hide myself away.

Me, right now: “It took thousands of individual conversations to get me here.”

That is, to a place where I now feel comfortable enough to start this article with information I once—for the purpose of damage control—felt the need to delicately and carefully expose. A place where I’ve personally provided this information to most people I work with in writing, sporadically outed myself during many social conversations, and on panels before a variety of audiences. A place where it’s an accidental oversight if I don’t tell a romantic or sexual partner, rather than a deliberate evasion.

As a current or potential ally, I just want to make sure you’re on the right track, because sometimes good intentions are not actually enough. Sometimes inaction is as detrimental as fighting on the other side that’s working tirelessly against our human rights, making the world a less safe place for us to exist in.



1. #NotAllTrans

It seems appropriate to start with this fundamental piece of advice.

Also me: “Never assume an automatic understanding of everyone’s trans experience because of information you’ve gained from one or two sources. Even if you yourself are trans.”

Thanks to Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, there’s this word intersectionality. It acknowledges the basic truth that multiple social categorisations apply to an individual (e.g. race, class, gender). This overlap can cause interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage. So on one end, you have the very visible, wealthy, successful Caitlyn Jenner, and on the other, you have unknown transgender women of colour living in poverty. People along this spectrum of privilege experience life differently, so their challenges and what they require from allies is not the same.

2. What’s Your Childhood Trauma?!

The following truth is something that doesn’t seem to occur to most cisgender people.

Me, earlier this year: “It’s likely that a trans person has endured one or more traumas as a direct result of being trans.”

This could include:

  • being outed without consent;
  • negative interactions or reactions regarding their identity;
  • difficulty accessing support services;
  • financial cost of treatments;
  • loss of or inability to gain employment;
  • physical pain;
  • false assumptions;
  • violence of all types; and/or
  • dehumanisation both directly and via the media.

Some, like me, have experienced all of these. Some, repeatedly. I consider myself lucky to not have experienced employment issues in quite some time. Yay for me. As with all trauma, how a person is on the other side can vary a lot. A trans person who has been through the above could be feeling angry (often toward cisgender people), depressed, anxious, panicked, or even proud.

Me, quite recently: “What many self-proclaimed allies have not understood about me, is that because of the substantial trauma I’ve sustained, when they suddenly bring up my transness for whatever reason, they trigger memories of the strong negative emotions I felt during thousands of related traumatic experiences. It is a horrible experience for me 100% of the time.”

Be mindful of that.

3. Coming Out, and Being Outed

There are two main ways you will find out that someone is trans:

  • from the trans person; or
  • from someone else.

If you hear it from someone else, you should not pass this information on. It is a legitimate risk to the trans person’s safety. The best thing you can do, is to reply with an assertive caution about how you should never, ever out a trans person. Also, definitely don’t approach the trans person with your newfound information about them. That is likely to cause them stress, for no benefit whatsoever.

If you hear it from the trans person’s own mouth/pen/keyboard, listen, acknowledge, and ask if it’s something they actually want to discuss. Something cisgender people often don’t think about, is that a trans person can become quite stressed with keeping their identity a secret. Telling you might be no more than removing some stress from their interaction with you.

Me again: “When it comes to me, if I tell someone about my past gender transition, I am doing it for no other reason than to improve the situation for other people. I never do it to prompt intrusive questions. If you’re curious, instead of asking me to relive the trauma, you can read my books on the subject.”

4. I’ve Made a HUUUUUUGE Mistake

At some point or another, we’re all likely to accidentally say or do something offensive to a trans person, because this is an area where we’re all still learning. Even in the last year, I have had to change problematic language I was using in ignorance.

My advice is to offer a prompt, genuine apology. You may also wish to ask them if there’s a way you can make up for your lapse in judgement. Some things to avoid however, are validating or excusing your mistake, invalidating their reaction, or making a huge deal about it. Listen more than you speak, and if it seems like they’d rather put the situation behind them, find a way to move the conversation in a different direction. If a reaction seems over the top to you, it’s probably less about this isolated incident, and more about a lifetime of related situations.

Me, right now: “Just realised that you’ve made a mistake while communicating with me? Please let it go, and resolve to never make that mistake again. Bringing it up will just cause me to experience feelings associated with the trauma all over again.”

5. Actions Speak Louder Than Ally Badges

Based on my own experience, and chatting to a range of trans people, below are some ways that will clearly demonstrate to a trans person that you are NOT an ally:

  • Bringing up the subject of their being trans. It should always be their decision to bring it up if they want to.
  • Disclosing to them that someone else is trans. They might think you’re likely to out them too, and would they be wrong?
  • Asking questions about what’s under their clothes. They’re a person deserving of respect and some privacy, not a gallery exhibit.
  • Likening their trans experience to something else. Chances are the simile will be offensively wrong.
  • Discrediting their trans experience by quoting something you read in an article.
  • Telling or sharing a joke where a trans person’s identity is the punch line.

Some ways to clearly demonstrate to a trans person that you ARE an ally:

  • Always allow a trans person to be the one to bring up the topic.
  • Call out someone when they disclose a trans person’s identity.
  • If a trans person brings up the topic, ask them if they want to discuss it.
  • Respect a trans person’s choice not to tell you all about their experience.
  • Announce your gender pronouns – not just to people you think are trans.
  • Be hasty and genuine with an apology when you make a mistake.
  • Allow trans people to speak, rather than quoting facts you’ve read.

Do you want to help more?

A great way to help right now, is to share or discuss this article with someone you know. This sentence is your permission from me for you to do so (and yes, this sentence is very important).

You can, and should, also broaden your knowledge, and see if there’s a not-for-profit organisation that could use your skills. The following links and quotes have been collated to make this easier for you.

GLAAD Media Reference Guide – Transgender – a glossary of terms, that includes a list of words and terms to avoid and information about why they are considered offensive.


“LGBTQQIAAP stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Intersex, Asexual, Allies and Pansexual, with all other nine laying under the umbrella of Queer. Queer is a little complicated one…”

Out for Australia – an organisation that seeks to support and mentor aspiring LGBTIQ professionals as they navigate their way through the early stages of their career. I talk a bit about my work with them in this video.

Pronoun Round Etiquette: How to Create Spaces That are More Inclusive

“it’s becoming more common to announce one’s pronouns in a “pronoun round” before a group discussion or event begins … there are a few issues that come up that can cause problems and should be addressed.”

QuAC Trans* Health – an LGBTI health organisation with programs that are trans inclusive, with a range that are specifically trans focussed.

Between the (Gender) Lines: the Science of Transgender Identity

“Science tells us that gender is certainly not binary; it may not even be a linear spectrum. Like many other facets of identity, it can operate on a broad range of levels and operate outside of many definitions.”

OII Australia – Intersex Australia – an independent support, education and policy development organisation, by and for people with intersex variations or traits.

Gender and Genetics (World Health Organisation)

“There are a number of cultures, for example, in which greater gender diversity exists and sex and gender are not always neatly divided along binary lines such as male and female or homosexual and heterosexual.”

Pride in Diversity – Australia’s first and only national not-for-profit employer support program for all aspects of LGBTI workplace inclusion.

How Science is Helping Us Understand Gender (National Geographic)

“The conversation continues, with evolving notions about what it means to be a woman or a man and the meanings of transgender, cisgender, gender nonconforming, genderqueer, agender, or any of the more than 50 terms Facebook offers users for their profiles. At the same time, scientists are uncovering new complexities in the biological understanding of sex.”

Minus18 – Australia’s Largest Youth Led Organisation for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Youth.

Paige Krystal Wilcox (me)

“I acknowledge that this article is not, and cannot, be complete. This is just the start of a conversation… So please, get talking.”

Open Doors – provides Advocacy and support services for lesbian, gay, bisexual, asexual and/or transgender, Intersex and queer  (LGBTIQ) young people aged 12 to 24 and their families who live in South East Queensland.

Check The Science: Being Trans Is Not A ‘Choice’

“Brain differences are biological. We should know then that to be transgender is not a choice.”

The background story of this post has been included in My Life Most Memoirable. Memoirable tells of Paige Krystal Wilcox’s emergence from a socially anxious girl trapped in a male body, into a strong, self-assured, successful woman and social butterfly… and beyond.