A Guide to Being an Ally to Transgender and Nonbinary Youth

A Guide to Being an Ally to Transgender and Nonbinary Youth


The first step to becoming an ally to transgender and nonbinary people is to learn more; thank you for taking that step with us!

It can be tough for transgender and nonbinary people to bear the burden of educating others about their lived experience. That’s why we’re publishing this guide: to help begin your education on the basics of gender identity and expression. You’ll be able to better support the trans and nonbinary folks in your lives, and help to create a safer, kinder and more accepting world.

Our Guide to Being an Ally to Transgender and Nonbinary Youth is an introductory educational resource that covers a wide range of topics and best practices on how to support transgender and nonbinary people.

The guide includes:

  • The difference between sex and gender
  • Basics of gender – identity, expression, and perception
  • Forms of address that show respect (names, pronouns, honorifics)
  • Helpful tips to increase understanding
  • Common mistakes and what to do if you’ve made one

Learning is an ongoing experience, so it’s okay to acknowledge that you might not know some things, even after reading this guide. Part of being a good ally is continuing your education, and we’re happy to be part of that journey with you.

Trans and nonbinary young people in search of support can contact The Trevor Project’s TrevorLifeline 24/7 at 1-866-488-7386, via chat at or by texting START to 678-678.


Sex and Gender: What’s The Difference?

Many people confuse sex and gender, or use the two interchangeably. Many wrongly assume that sex defines gender, when in reality gender identity is a living, growing experience that can change over time.

It can be tough for transgender and nonbinary people to constantly educate or be subjected to the other’s curiosity, so one of the best ways to be an ally is to educate yourself on the basics of gender identity and expression, so you can better support others.

Gender Identity

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Sex is the classification of a person as male, female, or intersex. When we are born, doctors usually decide whether female or male will be listed on our birth certificate. This sex assignment at birth is typically based solely on one’s genitals, however sex characteristics also include chromosomes, gonads, and sex hormones. Our sex assigned at birth may or may not correspond to our gender.

Many people incorrectly claim that you can only be born male or female, however intersex people also exist. Intersex babies are born with any of several variations in sex characteristics including chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, or genitals that can’t be classified as typically male or female.

Someone’s sex characteristics are their personal information, and you do not need to know someone’s sex assigned at birth to be respectful of their gender identity. When someone shares their gender identity with you, it’s inappropriate to assume or try to deduce that person’s sex assigned at birth. Rather, believe others when they share their gender identity with you and support them.


Gender describes our internal understanding and experience of our own gender identity. Each person’s experience of their gender identity is unique and personal, and cannot be known simply by looking at a personmon genders include:

  • Cisgender: people whose gender identity aligns with the sex they were assigned at birth.
  • Transgender: people whose gender identity differs from the sex they were assigned at birth. Many transgender people will transition to align their gender expression with their gender identity, however you do not have to transition in order to be transgender.

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