Ten ways to be a better male feminist

Who says I’m always negative? Leaving aside the substantial evidence in the form of blog posts, angry Twitter rants and the rages that overtake me when my football team isn’t winning, I assure you I’m capable of being reasonable, constructive and even – make sure you’re sitting down for this – pleasant.

You may be under the impression that I hate men. This is not the case. Men are fine! (Some men are really fine, if you get what I’m saying, which I’m sure you do, because that had all the subtlety of a large-scale trainwreck.) What makes me mad is misogyny. What makes me madder is the appropriation of the feminist movement by men who either don’t know what they’re doing or are deliberately trying to profit from it.

Let’s say you’re the first kind – well-meaning, but just not that well-educated about what being a feminist entails. You’ve come to the right place! I’m going to stop yelling for long enough to tell you ten things you can do in order to be a better feminist, a better ally and – let’s face it – a better person.

1. Leave your baggage at the door.

I know you have a bunch of preconceptions about what feminism is and what your place in the grand scheme of things might be. That’s perfectly natural – all of us have preconceived notions about the world based on our prior experiences. But I’m gonna need you to drop all of that when you walk into feminist spaces.

Feminism is a movement that is largely based on female lived experiences. If you’re not a woman, you can empathise, but you simply can’t say you know what we’ve been through. And that’s fine! There are plenty of causes I support even though I’m not directly linked to them or affected by them. Nobody’s saying you can’t be a feminist. What we’re saying is that you need to follow our lead on this one, because this movement is about the way power structures affect our lives in ways that you may not even be able to perceive from where you’re standing.

Come in with an open mind and be ready to learn, and you’ll find yourself not only having your eyes opened to a whole new world, but being much more capable of understanding and processing what you’ll see and hear.

2. Be prepared to do a lot of listening.

You probably have a lot of insights that you want to share. You want to tell us why men act the way they do and how you think we can change that behaviour. And there’s room for that in feminism…to an extent. But for the most part, what we need men to do is just to listen.

I want you to think about all the women who are denied a chance to speak by men around the world – women who are barred from obtaining an education, women who are subjected to genital mutilation, women who aren’t allowed to work, women who are survivors of sexual abuse, women of colour, trans and queer women, sex workers. Don’t they deserve a chance to be heard? Wouldn’t you like to be the person to give them that chance?

It seems simple, but it’s so, so important. A huge part of being an ally is being prepared to listen to our stories – and there are a lot of them. A lot. You might want to get out a notepad and start taking notes. There may or may not be a test later.

We have been silenced for so long. Let us speak. Please.

3. Don’t expect an automatic welcome.

You’re a stand-up guy, right? Here you are, ready to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty fighting the good fight. If only more guys were like you!

The thing is – and don’t take this personally – we’ve seen a lot of guys who looked just like you, talked just like you, were just as enthusiastic as you…who proceeded to talk over us, silence us, demean us or use our movement to profit off us. Can you blame us for being a little wary? Can you blame us for being suspicious when men try to enter our spaces, no matter how seemingly good their intentions?

Under the guise of “feminism”, men have sexually harassed and raped women whose trust they’d gained, used their positions of influence to bully and silence women (Hugo Schwyzer, anyone?) and even gotten away with murder. No, you probably won’t do any of those things – but we can’t be sure of that. So be prepared for a little hostility. We’ve had to learn the hard way to be suspicious of strangers bearing gifts. If you work hard and do right by us, we’ll accept you in time.

4. Don’t expect special treatment.

This is something a lot of men struggle with, and with good reason – they’ve come from a position of total privilege, where their ideas and opinions are automatically given weight by virtue of their gender. You might not even realise this, but your maleness gives you huge advantages out there in the big, wide world.

If you want to be a feminist, you have to be prepared to give that up.

It’s hard. I know how hard it is, because there are times when I’ve had to do it myself. Sometimes you’ll find yourself feeling offended or affronted. You’ll find yourself wondering why you even bother if people aren’t going to acknowledge your efforts. That’s your privilege talking, and you need to learn to set all of that aside if you want to do this right.

Welcome to the new world, friend. Enjoy equality!

5. Don’t talk over us.

A lot of men take offence to this, but you need to learn to bite your tongue.

This is our movement. We’re glad that you’re along for the ride, but you have to learn that you don’t get to take centre stage. That space is reserved for women with real lived experiences to share. If you find yourself with the urge to talk over a woman who’s sharing her story, just…don’t. There is no easier way of riling up a feminist than by trying to tell her story for her, or assuming you know it better than she does. I promise you, no matter what the situation is, you don’t. You haven’t lived her life, you haven’t seen what she’s seen or felt what she’s felt, and there is no way that you, a man, can possibly understand 100% of what it’s like to be a woman.

I’m not saying you’re not allowed to speak. I’m saying you have to wait your turn. In feminist spaces, a woman’s lived experience takes precedence over your insights as a man. We’re kind of natural experts in this field, you know? Just let us talk.

6. Don’t stay silent when you see sexism in action.

Your buddies all tell rape jokes. They make you feel awkward, but you don’t say anything because you don’t want to be That Guy – the one who kills the buzz, the one who’s the PC Police all the time. You smile awkwardly when your bestie tells women to make him a sandwich even though you think it’s not really that funny, and you let yourself be drawn into discussions that degrade women even though that’s not your intent.

Yeah, that needs to stop.

If you want to do something concrete – and I’m guessing you do – this is the best place to start. Call out sexism when you see it. Tell your buddies those rape jokes aren’t cool. Roll your eyes at your friend’s sandwich jokes and tell him he’s being an ass. When you witness street harassment, step up and say something. Be the guy who doesn’t let other guys talk shit about women behind their backs. Be the guy who never lets “she was asking for it” stand.

I can’t stress enough how important this is. Your intent means nothing if you don’t back it up. Help us out here, dude. Use your voice for good.

7. Never, ever mansplain to us.

You’re talking to a sex worker who’s sharing her story of what working life is like for her where she lives. You feel like she’s getting some of the details wrong – maybe you’ve understood a certain law differently from her, or you find it hard to believe the police are so unsupportive. You tell her you don’t think that’s the way things are and proceed to explain reality the way you’ve experienced it.

That’s mansplaining, and you shouldn’t be surprised if that sex worker gets more than a little testy when you do it.

I know some of you do this unintentionally, but you need to catch yourself doing it and stop. Mansplaining derails discussions, trivialises the lived experiences of women and is just outright rude. Do you honestly think you know more about the reality of sex work than the girl who was talking to you about it? She lives it. You’ve just seen a documentary on TV. She doesn’t need you to explain to her what her life is really like.

8. Don’t tell us to calm down.

I think I’ve kept my tone fairly light thus far, but most of the time, if I’m talking about social justice, I’m pretty goddamn angry. This is a natural response to being discriminated against for being a woman for my entire life. I know that anger can be very confronting and a little off-putting, but there are reasons for that, those reasons being that a) the reality of existence as a female in our society is pretty confronting, and b) being faced with brutal, unpleasant truths is naturally very off-putting.

You might be tempted to say something about catching more flies with honey. The thing is, we’re not trying to catch flies. We’re trying to change the world, and you don’t change the world with niceness (believe me, even Gandhi was a manipulative old bastard – no activist is ever as serene as they may seem). As my dad was fond of saying: the reasonable man adapts himself to the world, whereas the unreasonable man adapts the world to himself; therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.

We’re the unreasonable women, and we’re adapting the world to ourselves, because that’s how you get things done. Telling us to calm down is tone policing, and if you’d like an explanation of why that’s a terrible thing to do, click that link above and prepare to feel like you’ve just been slapped in the face repeatedly by several angry women all at once.

Or you could take my word for it and just let us be mad when we need to be. Trust me, it works better this way.

9. Amplify and empathise.

If you find a great blog post about sex worker rights in India, share it with your friends. If someone you know is sharing their experiences as a trans woman going through the medical system, retweet the hell out of her and encourage people to follow her. If, say, a fiery young Muslim woman you know writes a great blog post that you find really useful, spread it around to everyone else you think might find it useful too. Allies are great amplifiers – they help spread our message so that it reaches audiences it might not have reached otherwise. That’s a valuable thing.

And while you might not understand what we’ve gone through or what it’s like to be us, when we share our experiences, listen empathetically. It means a lot to know that even though you might not know how we feel, you care that we’ve felt pain and it pains you, too. Be there for us. March with us. Listen to us vent. Come along to our seminars and tell all your friends to come too. Be a part of the creation of safe spaces for us because you genuinely care about our safety and well-being. Be the great person I’m sure you’re capable of being. This is what allies do.

10. Don’t give up when it gets hard.

Not if – when. Because it will get hard, I promise. You will be forced to re-evaluate almost everything you’ve ever known about women and feminism. You will learn about experiences that are totally alien to you. You will probably be taken down a peg or two when you mess up. (Don’t worry, we all mess up, and we all eat crow afterwards. It’s fine, the internet has a pretty short memory.) And once you start doing this, you can’t just stop, because even if you want to, you won’t be able to shut your eyes to reality once you’ve had them opened.

This is a war so many of us wish we didn’t have to wage. I can’t tell you how tiring it is to spend day after day after day having to fight for my fundamental human rights. It’s draining and exhausting and, to be quite honest, pretty damn demoralising sometimes. You won’t experience all of that, but you’ll experience enough to make you wonder why you got into this in the first place.

Here’s why: because equality matters. This stuff isn’t some kind of abstract academic debate. This is about the way fifty percent of the world is forced to live because of a system that regards them as second-class citizens. Isn’t that wrong? Isn’t that hateful? Shouldn’t it change?

And wouldn’t you rather be one of the people helping to change it?

Feminism is vital work. It’s hard, it’s messy, and it’s often thankless, but it’s also very, very necessary. It’s necessary for all the reasons I’ve stated and re-stated on this blog dozens of times. It’s necessary because when we don’t do this work, people don’t just suffer – they die because of our inaction. And it’s not just women who are affected – it’s every man ever criticised for choosing to stay at home with his kids, every man who likes crafts more than sports, every man who’s ever cried in public, every man who isn’t arrogant and self-assured enough to bluff his way through life as though he owns everything he sees. You might even be one of those men. If you are, this isn’t just about us, this is about you. This is about a world in which we can all be free to express our genders however we like without facing judgement or discrimination for simply being who we are.

I want to live to see that world. I’m sure you do, too. So welcome aboard, friend. I’m glad you’ve decided to join us. Let’s save the world together.


We need to talk about tone.

So here’s why I’m not “nice”.

Do you know what “nice” gets you? Nice gets you harassed on the street by guys who refuse to acknowledge that you are clearly uncomfortable with them hitting on you as you wait for the bus. Nice gets you passed over for promotions because you were the weakling who didn’t put herself forward. Nice means that when you’re raped, people will say it was your fault because you didn’t say “no” loudly enough, often enough or quickly enough to your rapist (who wouldn’t have listened anyway, but who cares about that?). Nice gets you not taken seriously. Nice is the inch you give that leads to a mile being taken.

Nice gets you a whole lot of nothing.

You may take issue with my anger. I’m here to tell you that I could not give less of a damn about your hurt feelings if I tried. I’m angry for a reason. I’m angry because nice has gotten me and other women like me and other women who aren’t like me at all absolutely nowhere, no matter how many times we’ve tried it. I’m angry because that is the only way people will sit up and take notice.

I’m angry because I have a right to be, and if you want to come into my spaces and try to police that anger, try to make me act nice because it’ll make my message more palatable for you, then I kindly invite you to take a rusty farm implement and fuck yourself with it, because you have colossally missed a point that I am getting very, very tired of explaining.

There is nothing militant or radical about anger. Anger is an entirely logical and reasonable response to decades upon decades of oppression, marginalisation, silencing and dehumanisation at the hands of the privileged.  Anger is what keeps us going in the face of man after man after man telling us that we do not deserve the fundamental human rights we are being denied. Anger is confronting, yes. It’s meant to be. You know why? Because the facts we’re dealing with here are pretty confronting things, and sugar-coating them so that you’ll find them easier to swallow is counter-productive.

It is a fact that women are raped and sexually assaulted in horrifyingly high numbers across the globe. It is a fact that women are being denied access to healthcare by men who think they are the best arbiters of what a woman should be allowed to do with her body. It is a fact that trans women, sex workers and women of colour are disproportionate targets of violence and other hate crimes. It is a fact that the system, such as it is, is so firmly rigged against women that compared to us, Sisyphus had it easy. It is a fact that women are paid seventy-five cents on the dollar to what men are paid in comparable positions. It is a fact that rape culture exists. It is a fact that women of colour are hyper-sexualised and fetishised, their bodies reduced to props on a white woman’s stage. It is a fact that female genital mutilation leads to morbidity and mortality of thousands upon thousands of women across the globe, even in the so-called developed world. These are confronting facts. They’re worth getting angry about.

You want to tell women to tone it down, to be less emotional, but the fact is that this is not a matter for abstract academic debate. These are our lived experiences. This is the metric fuckton of bullshit that we are forced to wade through every day in an effort to live our lives the same way the other fifty percent of the population are allowed to without impediment. What function would be served by being nice? Do you honestly think that if we piped down, stopped yelling, stopped marching and protesting and refusing to back down, that men would suddenly realise that we had a point and we needed to be listened to? Is that how you think the way the world works? If so, that’s a spectacularly huge rock you’re living under, because you are so out of touch that I have to question whether or not you’ve ever come into contact with any semblance of reality at all.

Nice gets us nothing. Nice gets us ignored, pushed aside, relegated to abstract academic arguments that can be debated by people in ivory towers who do not have to live what we live, who have never had to experience what we experience, who have never had their identities and humanity denied by a society that considers them second-best. Nice gets us no further to breaking the glass ceiling, no closer to liberation. Nice gets us crumbs from a man’s table and a pat on the head. Nice is useless.

Anger gets us heard. Anger is confrontational and in-your-face and impossible to ignore, and because of that, anger makes men uncomfortable. It makes them want to turn away because having the truth pushed repeatedly and persistently in your face by someone who won’t just shut up when you tell them to is not how men are used to experiencing the world. Anger got women the right to vote, the right to work, the right to have sex with who we choose, when we choose. Anger makes you listen, and just because you don’t like what you’re hearing, that doesn’t make the anger less valid or less justified or less necessary, because without that anger, you’d never have listened in the first place.

There is no room for nice in feminism. There is no room for nice in any movement for equality, because all nice does is uphold the status quo. It’s anger that gets us places. The fact that so many men feel the need to police it, to silence it however they can, is testament to its effectiveness. Anger works. And you’re damn right, it’s unpleasant and uncomfortable. That’s because “unpleasant and uncomfortable” is the reality of female existence in this society. It’s unpleasant and uncomfortable to hear the truth because the truth is nasty and violent and shameful. It’s a truth you helped build and maintain. Don’t be so surprised that you’re finally being made to face it.

I could have written this non-confrontationally, and it would have made no difference, because when people say, “you need to be nicer,” what they actually mean is, “you need to stop talking about these things I don’t want to hear.” And that’s not going to happen. This is the truth of the world that we live in and I am not going to stop shouting and marching and protesting just because you don’t want to face the facts. This anger is the result of every catcall, every man who thought my sexuality existed for him and turned nasty when he was proven wrong, every friend I know who was raped and never saw their rapist brought to justice, every trans woman who has contemplated or carried out self-harm or suicide, every sex worker who has been dehumanised and degraded and treated like trash, every woman of colour who has seen her sexuality turned into a sick parody of itself for the entertainment of white people. This anger is because of you.

You can’t stop it. You can’t silence it. I’m damn well not going to let you police it. So you might as well listen, because I’m not going to stop being angry until you do.

Ten things male feminists need to stop saying

Hi there, men who want to be feminists. Take a seat.

I’ve noticed that you’ve adopted a lot of buzzwords. You think these phrases make you seem enlightened. You think you’re proving your feminist cred.

I’m here to tell you that you’re really, really not.

If you’ve said any of these things, you need to stop, and I’m going to tell you why:

1. “I’m really attracted to strong women.”

Wow, thanks for making female empowerment all about what helps you get your rocks off!

This might come as a shock to you, but women didn’t become “strong” so that you’d find them more attractive. The women’s liberation movement isn’t about turning women into a race of sexy fem-bots who will kick ass and take names in latex catsuits for your enjoyment. It’s about allowing women to express themselves however they like without having to worry about the male gaze.

Besides, who says all women have to be “strong” (whatever that even means)? All human beings have moments of vulnerability. Stop putting women up on a pedestal. That’s kinda what got us into this mess in the first place.

2. “Consent is so sexy.”

No, consent is so necessary.

Again, this is not about what you find hot. Consent is not important because it gets you aroused – consent is important because violating a woman’s bodily autonomy by coercing her into having sex with you is a crime and a denial of her humanity. It’s not about sexiness – it’s about treating women like human beings. This would be like me saying, “getting permission before entering someone’s house is so sexy,” except worse, because you’re talking about a woman’s body here, and the only way you can make consent appealing is apparently by turning it into a fetish. Uncool, dude. Uncool.

3. “Real women have curves!”

Which would make all non-curvy women…figments of their own imaginations, I guess?

I am a skinny bitch. At my heaviest, I was a size 2. And I assure you that this does not make me any less real than women who are bigger than me, or differently shaped.

Body acceptance is about promoting all kinds of healthy body types, not about fetishising some and tearing down others in the process. This is no better than saying real women work out incessantly, or real women say no to that second slice of cake, or real women have D-cups. We’re all real, whether you’re attracted to us or not.

4. “Intelligence is way sexier than looks anyway.”

Again – what the hell is it with men thinking that a woman’s characteristics can only have value if a man finds them arousing?

Some women are intelligent. Some women aren’t. Some women are conventionally beautiful. Some women aren’t. Some women are both of these things. Some women are neither. And none of that matters, because a woman’s worth is not defined by whether or not you can find something about her that’ll make her fuckable in your eyes.

If you need to tear some women down to prop others up, you’re not a feminist.

5. “Men experience that kind of oppression too!”

Just. stop. right. now.

Keep saying this to yourself until it’s engraved upon the inside of your brain: THIS IS NOT ABOUT YOU. Do not walk into a feminist space and start talking about your problems. There are places where you can do that, and those places are known as the entire rest of the world. Literally every other media outlet and soapbox is devoted to men’s problems and things men find important and concerning. Do you really need to bring that into women’s spaces as well?

6. “Personally, I think all women are sexy.”

Personally, I think you’re pretty damn full of yourself if you think all women care what you think of them.

I cannot stress this enough: women do not exist for you to find them attractive. Stop focusing attention on what you find sexy. We don’t care! Either we already have partners or we’re not looking for partners or you’re not our type anyway or we’re not even into dudes and therefore couldn’t give less of a damn whether you think we’re sexy or not. I realise that the world has conditioned you to see everything as a performance played out for the benefit of the male gaze, but if you actually want to be a feminist, you need to drop that right now. You need to drop it yesterday.

7. “Don’t you think more people would listen to you if you weren’t so emotional?”

Here’s some emotion for you: FUCK OFF.

Do you know why women are angry at men? They’re angry because men have systematically perpetuated their depression for centuries. They’re angry because it is men who are predominantly responsible for the rape and murder of women, particularly trans women, sex workers, and women of colour. They’re angry because it is men who control the boardrooms and the bedrooms of the world, because it is men who stop women from being able to access affordable healthcare and education, because it is men who have set up arbitrary standards for ideal womanhood and it is men who punish women who don’t meet those standards.

That anger is valid. That anger is entirely justified. We can and will express it. We have that right. If you’re the kind of guy who says, “well, I was going to be a feminist, but your anger is really off-putting,” you were never an ally anyway – you were just a man looking for a cookie and a pat on the head. And we are alllllll out of cookies, my friend.

And even if you personally have never done any of the things I just mentioned, I really don’t want to hear you say…

8. “But I haven’t done any of those things!”

Congratulations! You’ve managed to behave like a decent human being. Do you want a medal to go with that huge sense of entitlement you seem to have accrued along the way?

I am a privileged person in some ways. As a cisgender woman, I enjoy many privileges that my trans sisters are constantly denied. I have not actively participated in the denial of their rights – in fact, I work as hard as I can to ensure that they can achieve equality – but the fact remains that I’m a member of a privileged group to which they do not belong. When they’re angry at cis people, I know it’s not about me (because, fun fact, not everything is All About Me!). I know their anger is justified. I know they’re not exaggerating their lived experiences. If you want to be a decent ally to women – and if you’ve read this far, I’m guessing you do – you need to shelve that sense of entitlement at the door. The fact that you are not a heinous criminal does not excuse you from being called on your privilege. Learn to sit down, shut up and listen. You might actually learn something.

Speaking of which…

9. “I haven’t witnessed any of what you’re describing.”

Geez, I wonder why. Do you think it might be because…you’re not a woman?

No, you have probably not witnessed street harassment – or you have, but it didn’t register with you the way it registers with the women who are forced to endure it. You may not think you know any rapists (though odds are that you actually do, since statistically speaking, one in sixty American males will commit rape in their lifetimes). You might never have seen a female colleague be passed over for a promotion at work – probably because you weren’t paying attention. Why? Because these aren’t things that affect you.

It’s pretty easy to be blind to the injustices other people face when you never have to face them yourself. That’s kinda how privilege works.

10. “But I just want to help! Why are you picking on me?”

Because if you sincerely want to help, this is all stuff you need to hear.

Did you think this would be easy? Did you think being a feminist was as simple as reading something by Gloria Steinem and not raping women then showing up for your hard-earned participant ribbon? Well, boy howdy, do I have news for you: like every other worthwhile endeavour in life, it’s not that easy. Being a feminist is hard work. It’s even hard work for women! Why do you think you deserve an easy ride?

Being an ally isn’t a title you claim. It’s not who you are – it’s what you do. And if what you do is barge into female spaces and derail conversations so that they’re oriented around the male gaze, if what you do is whine about how you don’t get enough credit for being a decent person, if what you do is baulk when you realise there’s actual work to be done, then you are not doing the work of being an ally. All you are is a hindrance, and one we neither want nor need to put up with.

I’m sorry, fellas, but them’s the breaks. If you want to be a feminist, you need to leave your baggage at the door. You need to go into this with an open mind and a closed mouth and a willingness to be taken down a peg or two at times. This is not your movement – this is our movement, and you will play by our rules or not at all. Don’t be surprised if your self-aggrandising male ally circle-jerks are met with hostility and derision. You’re coming into female spaces, ostensibly to help. So let go of your ego, get rid of your preconceptions and stop making it all about you.

If you want to help, we want you to help us – on our terms, not yours. Take a seat and start taking notes. You have a lot to learn.


Ten things white folks need to stop saying to me

Dear white people,

I know you’re usually well-intentioned. I know you’re trying to broaden your cultural horizons by exposing yourselves to people from all walks of life. That’s great! Exposure to different ideas is an excellent way of tearing down misguided preconceptions and becoming more open-minded. (Why do you think I’m dating a white guy? I’ve learned so much!) So I get that when you ask me questions, you’re probably doing it out of a desire to learn and become more educated and aware about the world around you. Kudos! I wish more white people would do the same.

That said, there are a few things you need to understand about me. Firstly, I’m not a walking, talking, nicely-tanned substitute for Google. Secondly, you need to think a little before you speak. I’m pretty understanding, but I’m not that understanding. Here are ten things I really don’t want to hear you say to me – no matter how good your intentions are.

1. “Your looks are so exotic!”/”Your people are so beautiful!”

Um, excuse me? “Exotic”? I know you think this is a compliment, but I’m a human being, not a zoo exhibit. I was born and raised here in Australia. I’ve been back to Pakistan once, and I was two years old and barely remember anything. I’m about as exotic as the imported Greek feta cheese I buy at the supermarket – of foreign extraction, perhaps, but otherwise pretty ordinary (if incredibly delicious). And even if I was a foreign immigrant – which both my parents are – I still wouldn’t be exotic. I’d just be from somewhere else. Calling a non-white person “exotic” isn’t the compliment you think it is – it’s just a reminder that you see us as unusual and foreign.

And all this “your people” stuff? Which people would those be, exactly? Most people who say this to me mean Indians. I’m not even Indian. I’m Pakistani and Afghani on my dad’s side, and Turkish on my mum’s side – and yes, there is a difference. This is kind of like asking a Welshman which part of England he’s from. (Note – I did this with a supervising doctor once. He did not take it well.) And besides, “my people” are just as diverse in appearance, behaviour and custom as your people are. We’re not a monolith. There are plenty of brown South Asian folks with whom I have things in common, and there are plenty who would consider me just as “exotic” as you do.

2. “Where are you from? No, I mean, where are you really from?”

Short answer: Australia.

Long answer: Australia. I was born in Canberra.

Do you ask every white person you know exactly which part of Europe their ancestors came from? Probably not, because you consider them just plain ol’ white, just like you. So what makes you think it’s any of your business which part of the world my ancestors lived in? Maybe this is just you trying to strike up conversation, but when I answer your first question with “I was born here”, and you follow up with “yeah, but where are you really from?”, my answer is going to be, “from somewhere where I was taught not to ask pushy, invasive questions. Where are you really from?”

I’m proud of my ethnic heritage, but I was born and raised Australian. Any details I choose to share about my background are optional extras. They’re things about me that you’re not necessarily entitled to know. So when I politely rebuff you the first time, don’t push it. I’ll tell you if I want to, not before.

3. “So, like, do you have an arranged marriage?”

So, like, did you learn everything you know about brown people from fragments of an old Bollywood movie you saw on SBS one time?

This is an offensive question for a bunch of reasons. Firstly, it makes assumptions about my assumed culture, and secondly, it implicitly judges said culture based on those assumptions. For the record, no, I do not “have an arranged marriage”. Neither did my parents – they met here in Australia, dated and got married in the regular (i.e. Western) way. I’m currently in a relationship with a guy I met all on my own, no parental nudging involved.

A lot of people ask me this because I’m Muslim, which is doubly offensive because it plays into stereotypes about Islam as a religion that are rooted in half-knowledge about some of the cultures of people who practice Islam. Now, I’m not saying I have anything against arranged marriages – I’ve known plenty of people in them who’ve found love and long-lasting happiness. But you know what they say about people who assume, right?

4. “So does your dad wear a turban?”

No, because he’s not a Sikh – and even then, not all Sikh men these days wear turbans. You’re aware that brown people, even South Asian brown people, aren’t one giant cultural and religious monolith, aren’t you?

…Aren’t you?

Turbans are, generally speaking, associated with the Sikh religion, which is, generally speaking, followed by quite a few people in Punjab province in both India and Pakistan (though this is not a hard and fast rule – there are non-Punjab Sikhs and non-Sikh Punjabs). My family aren’t Sikhs, though I grew up with Sikh friends (many of whom did not wear turbans except on formal occasions, just for the record, because we live in the tropics and those things are heavy). This would be like asking a Hindu woman why she’s not wearing a hijab. Don’t assume a religion or set of cultural practices based on my skin colour, please. You will almost always be wrong.

Honorary mentions go to all the people who’ve acted confused when they’ve seen me eat beef (that’s a Hindu thing, not a Muslim thing), all the people who don’t understand why I don’t eat bacon (that actually is a Muslim thing), and everyone who’s ever asked me about bindis.

5. “Why don’t you wear your traditional dress more often?”/”So do you own any saris?”

The last time I owned a shalwar kameez was when I was about thirteen. It was maroon with cream embroidery, a combination that is absolutely killer with my skin tone. I haven’t owned or worn one since because, as it turns out, we brown folks often dress for comfort and utility, just like white folks do, and a heavy knee-length tunic and wide pants are not the most practical garments for someone who lives in Oh My God When Will The Humidity Stop, I’m Melting, Queensland.

And no, I don’t own any saris, those being items of clothing more commonly worn by Indian and Sri Lankan women than by Pakistanis or Afghanis. (Or Turks. Why does everyone constantly forget that I’m half-Turkish?) I actually do know some Indian and Sri Lankan women who choose to wear saris when they go about their daily business, but that’s a personal choice on their parts. We’re not obliged to remain in costume just so you can easily identify us, you know. It just so happens that I’m more comfortable in miniskirts than I ever was in heavy shalwar kameez. That’s not to say I wouldn’t wear one again if an appropriate occasion were to arise, just that I don’t feel obliged to wear one every day in order to prove my South Asian-ness. My cultural background is quite a lot more than just a costume, you know.

6. “You’re Pakistani? I met this Pakistani guy in [town I’ve never visited], maybe you know him!”

Wow, you’re white? I met a white guy at LAX once! Maybe you’re cousins?

India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka combined easily have a population of almost a billion, possibly a little more. No, I do not know every single one of these people. I barely even know a fraction of them, and most of the ones I do know are blood relatives of mine. I am no more likely to know the random Pakistani dude you met at a conference than you are to know the white guy who checked my bags in Dallas one time.

Now, if you were to ask my dad, on the other hand, he’d probably know exactly who you were talking about. He’s connected, man. You don’t even know.

7. “You’re the first [Muslim/Pakistani/Turkish] person I’ve ever met!”/Introducing me as “your Muslim friend”

That’s great! You are not even close to the first person who has ever said that to me!

Again, I am not some kind of novelty. I’m a human being. Am I the first one of those you’ve ever met? If not, you probably shouldn’t be getting so excited about this. Despite my skin colour and facial features, you and I actually have a huge amount of DNA in common. We’re not that different, so please stop treating me like something out of one of those alien encounter movies. Brown girl phone home? Yeah…not so much.

And while we’re on this, if you feel the need to introduce me as “your Muslim friend” (or “your Pakistani friend”, or “your Turkish friend”), I am going to start introducing you as “my white friend who is incredibly boggled by the idea that non-white people exist”. Sure, it’s a little unwieldy, but maybe if I keep doing it, you’ll get the point eventually. I’m just your friend, m’kay? You know, like all your other friends. (Or are you one of those people who introduces folks as “your gay friend”, too? If so, you have so, so many problems that I do not even have time to start fixing.)

8. “Can you teach me your language?”

Well, I would be happy to, but it seems to me like you already know how to speak English, seeing as you and I are using it to converse right now.

My parents both speak different first languages, so growing up, we all spoke English at home because it was the only language my parents had in common. It’s the only language I speak fluently (though I can teach you how to say a few phrases in Turkish and how to count to five in Urdu). And even if I did have a different first language, why would you feel entitled to free private lessons from me? I happen to teach English (the language I do speak) for money. Why would I teach you for free?

I get it – speaking other languages makes you feel enlightened and cosmopolitan and worldly. But if you want to learn, do it the way everyone else does – either travel overseas or take a class. I’m not your private tutor.

9. “Can you make me [insert food here]?”

Yes, because a little-known secret about us foreigners is that we’re actually born with the instinctive knowledge of how to cook the perfect biriyani.

Seriously, now? I mean, I grew up eating curry pretty much every day for twenty years. Then, when I left home, I never ate it again, because it’s pretty much the equivalent of the old steak and three veg to me. What seems like exotic, exciting food to you was just “dinner” when I was a kid. Not only did I not put much effort into learning how to make it (because I wasn’t all that interested in eating it), but even if I did…you’re aware that there are restaurants that specialise in the cuisine of different countries, right? You can literally go right in and ask for all the curry you want! The people who work at said restaurants are paid to make you feel like you’ve got a little bit of [insert country here] at your doorstep. I’m not.

Other things I get asked for a lot: Turkish delight (no, I do not know how to make this), dolmades (I’m pretty sure even my mother doesn’t know how to make this), some Indian sweet that you don’t know the name of that you tried at a multicultural fest one time and really liked. I make a great baklava, though, and if I like you a lot, I might make it for you some time – without you even having to ask first!

10. “Your culture is so fascinating, teach me more!”

I’m putting this one last because it’s pretty much the first nine all summed up in one sentence.

Look, it’s awesome that you want to learn more about other people. But to me, this isn’t “fascinating” – it’s just my life. I grew up in a mixed race household in a white country exposed to all kinds of cultural influences, both ancestral and otherwise. It’s not exotic or exciting or foreign to me. It’s just a part of who I am.

If you want to learn more about my culture, or the cultures of your other non-white friends, engage us respectfully. Ask specific questions about things you’ve observed (“so, I noticed that you call all your mum’s friends Aunty and Uncle – what’s with that?”) and I might answer you if I feel like it. What I won’t do is answer blanket questions based on mangled pop culture references to “my people”. What I also won’t do is educate you on whatever you feel like whenever you feel like it, solely on your terms.

I’m just a regular person. This is my life, not a National Geographic documentary giving you a glimpse into the mystical people of some far-off land you’ll never get to visit. Please stop treating me like a museum exhibit. If you want to learn, ask respectfully – and don’t be surprised if my answer is “I can’t really explain that, it’s too complicated” or “that’s not really something I’m comfortable talking about”. It’s cool that you want to learn, but you don’t actually have an inherent right to that knowledge. This is someone else’s life and history you’re talking about. What we choose to share is entirely up to us, and we’ll be more likely to share if we don’t feel like we’re being asked to entertain you or help you feel more sophisticated. That Eat, Pray, Love garbage just won’t fly, you know?

Respectful cultural exchange is an excellent way of learning more about the world, being exposed to new ideas and finding things you love in places you might never have thought to look. I would love to learn more about you, and would be happy to teach you more about me. But let’s do it the right way, m’kay? That way, we can come away from the experience enriched by our new knowledge and nobody ends up feeling like someone else’s neat party trick.

Now – who’s up for white people food?


[TW: death, violence] Blood on our hands

You are a murderer.

Earlier this year, a woman named Jasmine was killed. She was a sex worker in Sweden. She lost her children to her abusive ex-partner because the courts deemed her an unfit mother due to her occupation. She reported her ex-partner’s abuse and the authorities took no notice again and again and again and again because her life and safety and well-being as a sex worker meant nothing to them.

Her ex-partner murdered her, but her blood is on your hands for every time you didn’t stand up for the rights of women like Jasmine. She is dead because you did nothing.

In Melbourne earlier this year, a woman named Jill Meagher was raped and murdered by a serial killer. I say “serial killer” because the man had done it before. Nobody cared because all of his previous victims were sex workers. It took the murder of a woman society deemed worthy of their regard in order for the killer to finally be brought to justice.

Her blood is on your hands as well. So is the blood of the sex workers who were raped and killed by a man who got away with it because nobody cared as long as they deemed the lives of his victims not worth saving. You heard them scream and did nothing. You let them die and looked away, unseeing, unknowing, uncaring.

Society has devised a particularly cruel method of punishment for those it deems inferior. We don’t kill them ourselves – we allow the dregs of society, the rapists and torturers and murderers, to do our dirty work for us. We stand back and shake our heads and cluck disapprovingly at the side of the victims’ graves. Didn’t they know what they were getting themselves into? Didn’t they know they would eventually be punished?

We let the blood drip from our hands and pretend ourselves innocent as more and more and more people die, condemned by our judgement to be slain by society-sanctioned executioners. We swear we had no part in their murders, but we turn a blind eye to those who commit them in our name.

Once every three days in the United States, the murder of a transgender person is reported. Often, the corpses are found with their genitals mutilated, with slurs carved into their flesh. This, we have decided, is the fate reserved for the abnormal – to be tortured, maimed and brutally killed while we look on, unmoving and unmoved. We stay silent as gays and lesbians are beaten and left for dead on the curbside outside pubs on a Saturday night. We pretend we do not see every young black man in a hoodie who is gunned down in cold blood by a white man with a grudge. They are guilty of the crime of existence. We allow them to be punished for it and then wash our hands of the deed.

Two years ago in Scotland, a young gay man was tied to a lamppost, beaten and then set on fire for the crime of existing and being gay. He was twenty-eight years old when they killed him. In Queensland, there is a gay panic defence on the books – if someone murders a gay person, they can claim it was self-defence because the person they murdered might have been making advances towards them.

So much blood and so many dead and we continue to delude ourselves into believing we are innocent of their murders.

A friend told me recently that a quarter of trans* people end up taking their own lives. Twenty-five percent. Imagine if twenty-five percent of young, attractive, white women felt driven to kill themselves in order to escape a world they knew didn’t want them. Imagine if twenty-five percent of the people you love the most felt so hated, so reviled, that they did the murderers’ work for them so that they could at least choose to make it swift and painless. Imagine one in four people you care about killing themselves, and ask yourself why you are content to let one in four trans* people do so.

You may not have set fire to that young gay man, nor raped and murdered Jill Meagher, nor beaten Jasmine and been ignored and ignored and ignored until you finally killed her. You may not personally have bullied a trans* person into taking their own life. But it may as well have been your finger on the trigger, your hand grasping the dagger hilt, your fingers that struck the match. You killed them when you stood by and said nothing as they were bullied and mocked and shunned. You killed them when you decided they weren’t worth saving.

Their blood is on your hands. Their blood is on all of our hands.

How many more must die before we decide to take responsibility for the monsters we have created? We allow the small oppressions – the slurs, the cyber-bullying, the whispered comments on the street – knowing full well that they enable larger ones. We know that we are giving our implicit consent to rapists and tormentors and murderers to do with those we’ve shunned as they will. We know that our silence is assent. We know, each of us, deep in our hearts, that we are every bit as guilty of every beating and every rape and every murder as the people we allowed to commit the acts.

We did not do enough to save Jasmine or Jill or Trayvon or the thousands upon thousands of people who are murdered or who take their own lives to escape the cruelty of a society that has deemed them lesser. These were not isolated incidents – this happens every second of every minute of every hour of every day and we stand by and let it continue. There are so many Jasmines and Jills and Trayvons, so many people killing themselves or being killed by people we have allowed to appoint themselves judge, jury and executioner. All that evil needs is for good people to do nothing. We tell ourselves we’re the good ones, but how good are we if we allow ourselves to discount the value of human lives?

If we are ever to wash the spot from our hands, we must act. We must stop the small things – the taunts, the insults, the “jokes”. We must let our fellow human beings know that we consider their lives sacrosanct, no matter who they are or what they do for a living. We must refuse to sanction thugs who carry out our dirty work for us. There must be no dirty work at all. The victims of our inaction lived, loved and were loved, had so much potential, so much to give. If only we had opened our eyes. If only we had stayed the hands of their murderers. We are allowing ourselves to be robbed of the most precious resource on the planet – human life – because we have become complacent, careless, callous, cold.

I do not want any more blood on my hands. I am tired of death counts and statistics. I refuse to give my consent for the destruction of innocent human lives by killers who get away with it because we do nothing to stop them. Jasmine’s children lost their mother. Jill’s husband lost his wife, and the sex workers killed before her left behind family and friends who had loved ones snatched from them for no reason at all. Trayvon Martin’s family was forced to watch as their son’s character was assassinated on national television after his person was assassinated by a man with a thirst for blood. Can we really claim to have humanity if we allow this to continue? Can we claim that we are compassionate, loving, fair, just, when innocent people die and we do nothing?

If you want to stop being a murderer, disarm your weapons. Disenfranchise the bigots. Defang their hate. Only then will our Jasmines and Jills and Trayvons be safe. You cannot afford inaction, not any more. Too many lives depend on you.

There is so much blood on your hands.


The invisible girl – bisexuality in a biphobic society

I’m a bisexual woman in a relationship with a straight man. That means I don’t exist.

You see, in order for society to accept me as bi, they need to see evidence. If I’m not neck-deep in a threesome with an attractive woman on one side and a strapping man on the other, how can they be expected to tell that I’m not monosexual? If I’m dating a woman, I must be lesbian. If I’m dating a man, I must be straight. Unless I’m dating both at the same time, I can’t be bisexual.

The first person to tell me I wasn’t “really” bi was a gay friend of mine. I believe I’ve told the story before, so I won’t retread old ground, but suffice to say that while he was the first, he certainly wasn’t the last. I’ve heard it all – it’s just a phase, I’m fence-sitting so I don’t have to pick a side, I’m greedy, I’ll cheat on my partner, I’m just doing it for the attention, I just don’t want to come out of the closet. It seems everyone has a theory about my sexuality that they’re just dying to share with me, as though they’re the first people ever to think of it. (Yeah, I’ve never heard the one about how I can’t be bi because I’m not poly before. You’re so original!) You’d think I’d know my sexuality better than a stranger, but in a world where anything perceived as differing from the norm instantly becomes fair game for public discussion and dissection, it seems the only person who isn’t a self-proclaimed expert on my sexuality is…me.

See, the truth is, I haven’t got myself 100% figured out yet. Oh, sure, I know I’m into dudes and ladies. I’ve even been attracted to the odd non-binary or GNC friend. I’m pretty sure I’m built for monogamy, but that doesn’t mean I don’t fantasise about threesomes. I’m interested in sex with women, but seem to prefer the idea of relationships with men. Sexuality isn’t about ticking a bunch of boxes and calling it a day – as with every facet of a human being, it’s a complex thing, subject to change.

Here’s what I do know about myself, presented in a convenient list format (because it was only a matter of time before I sold out and became like Buzzfeed):

Jay’s Guide to Jay’s Sexuality [a work in progress]

1. I’m attracted to men, women and people who identify as both, neither or somewhere in between.

I guess this makes me pansexual, but “bi” is the term I’ve always used and the one I’m the most comfortable with. Truth be told, I just don’t spend all that much time obsessing about people’s genitals. If I’m into someone, it’s because I think they’re cute or funny or witty or sexy or alluring, and what kind of equipment they’re carrying or how they identify isn’t really a big deal to me.  People are attracted to other people for lots of reasons. Sometimes one of those reasons is gender – for me, it just…isn’t. I really don’t care what you are – I care about who you are.

2. Yeah, yeah, I’ve only ever fucked dudes. I’m still bi.

It’s funny – nobody ever tells a straight person they’re not “really” straight because they haven’t had sex with someone of the opposite binary gender yet. A straight virgin is still hetero, right? And yet, I’ve been told time and time again that I can’t “really” be bi because I’ve never so much as kissed a girl. Seriously? The fantasies, the awkward high school crushes, the endless flirting with cute British redheads – that means nothing just because my bits have never touched another girl’s bits? Please. I know what I like, and what I like includes both dudes and ladies. I know it like I know my own name. That tingly feeling I get when I see a dude I like? Yeah, there are ladies who make me feel that way too. I don’t need to have sex with everyone I’m attracted to in order to know I’m attracted to them. That’s really not how that works.

3. I’m monogamous. Lots of bi people are; lots of bi people aren’t.

The threesome talk might have thrown you off, but let me clarify – yes, I’m monogamous. I’m in a long-term, committed relationship with a single partner and I plan to stay that way. I’m not throwing shade at my poly friends – we all have different wants, needs and desires when it comes to relationships, and there’s no one kind of relationship that can make everyone happy. Me? I love my one partner set-up. Just because I’m bi, doesn’t mean I need to have both a boyfriend and a girlfriend at the same time – in fact, I’m not sure I’d know what to do with more than one partner, regardless of their genders. One boy or one girl (or one GNC person) at a time is just fine with me.

That said, if my partner and I met a cute girl at a bar and she wanted to come home with us for a night…well, we’ll see.

4. My sexuality isn’t something for you to fetishise.

This harkens back to the “you’re just doing it for attention” thing. Apparently, I’m only bi because I know dudes find it hot when two girls make out in front of them. Yeah…not so much. Leaving aside the fact that plenty of dudes aren’t into that at all – I’m bi because it’s how I am, not because I want attention. Trust me, if I wanted to get your attention, I could do it without exploiting my sexuality for your pleasure. I mean, have you met me? I’m the face that launched a thousand flamewars.

In any case, guys who think bisexuality is a performance for their enjoyment are a major ladyboner-killer. I’ll take a guy who loves me without fetishising me, thanks. (Joke’s on you, chasers – he gets the good stuff because he’s a great guy, and he didn’t even have to be a creep about it!)

5. My sexuality and gender are linked, but separate.

There are still people who think that being cis or trans* is a sexual orientation, not a gender identity. These people have apparently been living under a rock for the past infinity years. I’m a cis queer bisexual chick. The “cis” bit is separate from the “bi” bit (though in my case, the “queer” bit indicates that there’s a link between them – but that’s another story, to be told another time). You can be cishet, cis and gay, trans* and het, trans* and gay, cis/trans* and bi, cis/trans* and asexual…basically, you can be any combination of gender, sexual and romantic orientation. A cis person is not automatically monosexual. A trans* person is not automatically gay or bi. You know what they say about people who assume.

6. I’m not going to cheat just because I’m bi. Geez.

Yes, I am capable of maintaining a monogamous relationship with someone of one gender without feeling an irresistible urge to cheat on my partner with someone of another gender. Do I flirt with cute girls sometimes? Sure. Am I going to cheat on my boyfriend with one? Nope. Relationships – both mono and poly – are about commitment to your partner or partners. Are you compelled to cheat on your partner with every attractive person of [gender you like]? No? Then why would you assume I feel compelled to cheat just because I happen not to be monosexual?

There are lots of reasons people cheat. Being bi isn’t one of them.

7. I exist. Deal with it.

Bi erasure is a problem in both straight and queer circles – that’s why things like Bi Visibility Day are so important. Yeah, we’re around. No, we’re not figments of our own imaginations. Just because you can’t see physical evidence of our sexual orientation, doesn’t make it any less real. I don’t have to date a girl to prove to you that I’m attracted to women, just like I wouldn’t have to date a guy to prove to you that I’m attracted to men. I just am. I’m here, I’m visible and I’m not going to let you erase me just because I don’t fit into the categories you’ve created to neatly sort people based on sexual orientation.

That’s the thing about people – they’re not neat. Actually, we’re pretty damn messy. We’re contradictory and ever-changing. We grow, we learn, we develop from the people we were into the people we’re becoming. Trying to sort us into categories is always going to be a square peg/round hole exercise, because not only are there various shapes of peg, we don’t even always stay the same shape! I thought I was straight when I was younger. I know that I’m bi now. Who knows what I’ll learn about myself in the future?

It’s amazing how many things become visible when you learn to open your eyes.


[TW: transphobic violence] Creating a world without fear

Like a lot of people, I was transphobic when I was younger. Society had conditioned me to be. There were men and there were women, and anyone who didn’t fit into the narrow definitions of one of those categories was abnormal, abhorrent, a freak. I remember (much to my shame) pointing at people I saw on the bus who didn’t look like what I thought a man or a woman should look like and laughing at them. I remember whispering rude comments to my friends, not really caring if the targets of my scorn heard me or not. I remember judging women with facial hair, men with effeminate faces, or people whose genders I couldn’t readily discern with one glance.

I cannot tell you how ashamed I feel as I write this. I wish I had never been that person. I would give anything to go back in time and undo all the damage I undoubtedly caused to the people I mocked and shunned out of the misguided belief that they deserved it for not looking the way I expected them to look. I want to tell them I’m sorry. I want to tell them I know better now.

But I can’t, can I? And anyway, this isn’t about my guilt or my shame. This isn’t about me at all, in fact, though like all privileged people, I like to act as though it is. No – this is about a group of people to whom we as a society have done many a grave disservice, and what we can do to right those wrongs.

In the United States, a hate-related murder of a transgender person is reported once every three days. Often, the bodies are found with their genitals mutilated. Sometimes the bodies bear signs of the victim having been raped before they were killed. These are just the murders that are reported – around the world, transgender people are murdered daily by people who cannot – no, will not – accept that not everyone fits into the neat, binary definitions of “male” and “female” that society has constructed. Many more trans* people – binary, non-binary, genderqueer, gender-non-conforming, bigender, agender, androgynous and more – are forced out of homes and jobs if they’re outed or if they dare to out themselves. They lose family, friends, partners. They lose everything – or more accurately, everything is taken from them by a society that deems them undeserving.

I have trans* and genderqueer friends. They’re people, just like me. They’re straight, homosexual, bi, pansexual, asexual, mono, poly, single, in relationships, looking for love, sometimes finding it, sometimes not. They’re not normal – but that’s because “normal” is a fiction designed to keep anyone who doesn’t tick a certain set of boxes from ever being granted their birthrights. My trans* friends are game developers, writers, photographers, designers, sex workers, literature students. They live and love and laugh and cry and bleed just like I do. They’re not any more different from me than my cis friends are – in fact, I have a lot more in common with most of them than I do with most people, because we share an understanding of what it’s like to live in a society that has designated you Other and will use any means necessary, including violence, to keep you from rising above your place.

That said, I cannot tell you what it is like to be trans*. I can only relate the stories they’ve told me – about losing jobs when they decided to out themselves, about threats of violence as they walk down the street to get groceries, about contemplating suicide as a means of escaping a world that doesn’t want them. I can only tell you that they are human and they are hurting in a way that nobody deserves to hurt. I can only tell you that I love them and I want their pain to stop.

They do not deserve the way they are treated – living in fear for their lives, knowing that each time they dare to leave the house, they’re exposing themselves to people who will mock and ridicule them if they don’t “pass”, or who might fly into a violent rage and beat or kill them if they “pass” too well and are deemed deceptive tricksters. I cannot tell you what it is like to live that way, but I can tell you something you should already know: that it is wrong. I can tell you that nobody should have to live every single day fearing for their lives because they were born a little different – not abnormal, just a little different. I can tell you that you need to stop thinking of them as freaks. I can tell you that nobody deserves to be denied dignity, humanity and compassion based on their gender.

I could write – self-indulgently, appropriatively – about trans* identities, but the truth is, I’m no expert. I’m just someone who has seen too many of her friends go through too much pain. I’m just someone who wants the world to stop and think before they dismiss an entire group of people as subhuman just because they don’t fit a couple of very arbitrarily defined boxes. I’m someone who doesn’t want to hear you use the t-word any more – no, not even if you “didn’t mean it as an insult”. I’m someone who wants you to stop thinking you have the right to ask someone about their surgical history just because you feel like knowing. I’m someone who wants you to treat human beings like goddamn human beings.

I am not qualified to tell you how to be a trans* ally, but I have friends who are. I urge you to read what they have to say and take it to heart. Read this Trans* 101 by @transstingray. Read “How to be a Trans Ally” by Metamorpho-sis. Read Samantha Allen’s excellent Thought Catalog piece, “7 Ways To Be A Trans Ally”. Learn it. Live it. Internalise it like you once internalised those messages about what made a man a man or a woman a woman. Remember that there are people whose lives depend on you taking this seriously.

I cannot undo the harm I once did, but I can try not to do any more. And I can try to make things better. So can you. Erase transphobic slurs from your vocabulary. Stop thinking people need to fit into arbitrary boxes. You don’t need to declare yourself an ally – you just need to be a decent human being. I’m begging you on behalf of every friend of mine who has to live in fear because they exist in a society built on fear and hatred of difference. We have done so much harm. It is time for us to begin to make amends.