1. Realize that no two people are alike: trans or not.
Chaz Bono is vocal about being on hormones, in addition to having surgery, to feel more aligned with his body, but that does not mean every trans person wants the same things. If a trans person in your life does not choose to medically or hormonally transition, that does not change their identity.
2. Ask for the person’s pronoun preference.
It’s a good rule of thumb to refer to trans people based on their gender presentation, or the way in which they appear to the general public, but don’t always assume that people use typical pronouns like “he” or “she” based on their external appearance. Also, be aware that some people prefer gender-neutral pronouns or no pronouns at all; you won’t know if you don’t ask.
3. Don’t “out” them to others who may not know.
Respect people’s right to disclosure if or when they choose to. Like GLB individuals, trans people are also subjected to discrimination and violence based on who they are, oftentimes to a much more severe degree. By not disclosing, you prevent any potential harm while also helping them live healthily in their identities.
4. Respect their outward appearance.
The media often focuses on presentation when discussing trans people. Like any woman, just because a transwoman doesn’t wear a dress every day doesn’t mean she’s not a woman. Learning to respect trans peoples’ choices in presentation will help you grow more open-minded and reject gender norms that hurt all people, GLBT or otherwise.
5. Show support.
Sometimes the best way to be an ally is to just let your friend know that he or she has someone who can listen.