"Washing one's hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral." --Paolo Freire
Everyone deserves to become their most honest and authentic self. Gender roles often put people in boxes that don't conform to their true identities. Understanding that gender is a social structure that operates on a spectrum is the first step in challenging gender expectations. Understanding that people are free to identify themselves however they choose would follow soon after. The next step, of course, is picking up a pen and creating some change.
- Become an Ally. Being an ally means you are the support for a group you may not identify with directly. An ally's job is to create the space for the marginalized body to talk and express themselves. They offer assistance and make sure that they listen to the needs of those who are facing injustices. Think of it like this: the ally helps set the stage so that those who've felt marginalized can take the microphone and speak their truth.
- Write from Understanding. Even if someone's experience is different from your own you can still gather an understanding of the trials they face. In this year alone twelve members of the transgendered community have been killed-- all of them women of color. There are great organizations—like GLAAD and Trans Youth Equality—where you can educate yourself on the different work being done to ensure the safety and rights of trans citizens.
- Acceptance Rather than Tolerance. There's a really big difference between tolerating someone's differences and accepting them. Toleration is the bare minimum for civility amongst others. Acceptance, however, encourages us to engage and build with people from other perspectives.
- Advocacy is Activism. Your poetry speaks volumes! By writing for the marginalized, you're revealing their narrative to a broader community of people. Most people don't identify with something unless it has influence on their own experience. Using your poetry you can introduce these people to injustices that they have never been aware of. Open mics are hives of diversity where several different narratives are shared. In this way, poetry can start conversations that live off of the stage.
- Imagining a Better World. Through our literary imagination we can create a world better than the one we live in: one where people are treated the same regardless of their sexual orientation or gender preference. Challenge yourself to write poems where the gender of the speaker is never clear. Disassociate the genders from the actions in order to prove that men and women can do many of the the same things-- or that you don't have to identify as a man or woman at all. Write an ode to your transgendered peers who are brave enough to be themselves or write a love story where neither of the characters adhere to gender norms. One of the most effective ways to advocate for others is to draw normative, positive attention simply by including a new perspective into your writing.
Hear more about trans rights from The Jed Foundation, a trusted partner working to promote mental and emotional health.