A safe space

By Preston Max Allen

I would love for my cis friends to take some time to reflect on if a space you’ve created or are a part of is actually safe for trans and nonbinary people, or if your space merely tolerates us.

Are you centering the normalization and celebration of trans identities, or do you simply have a space where you don’t believe physical harm will come to us?

Does your community take action to support us as our rights and lives are threatened on a daily basis by government policies and hateful violence?

Do you listen when we have thoughts on ways in which your space can provide more safety and comfort, or are we dismissed?

Are people in your community who “disagree with” or are “confused by” trans and nonbinary identities in the minority, and is there an active effort — especially from cis members of your community — to educate those people and lead them to a place of respect, empathy and understanding?

Or is weight given to their views, with an attitude of “we’ll agree to disagree”? That is not a safe space — that’s a space where you’re allowing validity to the idea that trans and nonbinary people are debatable, uncomfortable, merely “tolerable.”

To me, that is unacceptable. That is not a space that can be promoted as diverse and accepting. I won’t devalue that that kind of space can be meaningful for people who have nowhere else to go and are being treated with dehumanizing cruelty in other spaces, but do you want your space to go beyond that? To embrace and welcome? To be a true community? Or just to tolerate?

Ally is not a title you can give yourself; it’s a word that must be earned through continued action and education. Are you earning that word, or are you telling yourself you deserve it?

Preston Max Allen (he/him) is a playwright, composer and lyricist who lives in Chicago with his treasured cat, Hero. Nov. 13 to Nov. 19 is Transgender Awareness Week.

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