University of Vermont


Becoming An Advocate to LGBTQ People

Affirming@UVM card

What is an Advocate?

Educate... advocate... sacrifice... reflect... help... lead... support... speak up... serve... protest... learn... vote... organize... welcome... respond... confront... act.. care... There are certainly a variety of ways to be an advocate to LGBTQ communities, and every advocate must define this label for themselves. But above all, LGBTQ advocates share a desire to support LGBTQ people.

Need help with advocacy?

If you you would like to learn more about being advocate for LGBTQ people on campus, contact the LGBTQA Center. We can help you to learn about LGBTQ identities, familiarize yourself with the University's programs and services, and point you toward resources at UVM and in the wider community.

Becoming an Advocate

Becoming an advocate is a process that includes many steps. Here are a few beginning suggestions:

  1. Post an "LGBTQA Affirming" card in your office or residential hall. (See below for cards.)
  2. Educate yourself: Listen to LGBTQA people. Read up on LGBTQA topics. Go to LGBTQA events.
  3. Request an advocate training for your group or office.
  4. Learn how to confront homophobic and transphobic comments and actions, like jokes, name calling, graffiti, etc. (See #3 above.)
  5. Don’t assume people’s sexual orientations and gender identities.
  6. Respect trans people’s chosen genders. Use their pronouns. Ask respectfully if you don’t know what pronoun to use.
  7. Get involved. Subscribe to This Week in Rainbows. Volunteer at the LGBTQA Center. Join the student club Free to Be. Speak out against bigotry. Attend the Translating Identity Conference. Take a stand against transphobia, homophobia, and heterosexism.

“LGBTQA Affirming” Card

Download this colorful card and display it in your office or on your door to show your support for LGBTQ people. Or, request cards from the LGBTQA Center for you and your peers and colleagues.

Learn More

“Coming Out as a Straight Man” by Adam Warrington

“Throughout the field of student affairs and work in social justice, practitioners often use the word “questioning” when discussing sexual identities. This term usually refers not to heterosexuals, but to individuals who will eventually identify themselves as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. In fact, we often assume that heterosexuals, especially men, would rarely undergo such a process, as their identity is the majority, privileged, and expected. In fact, some research shows that this might not be the case and that many more men than one might expect may be questioning their sexuality. The author will explore his own experiences in navigating a process of sexual orientation questioning as a heterosexual male in high school and college through the form of a Scholarly Personal Narrative. Finally, implications will be offered for the field of education.” (Download article.)

Action Steps to Being a Trans Advocate

"Transgender" encompasses many different gender presentations and identities. From Male-to-Female and Female-to-Male to Femme Queen, Boi, Trannyfag, Female-born man, Transwoman, Tomboy, Butch, Crossdresser and many more. Many people do not identify as "transgender" but still face discrimination based on their gender expression and for not conforming to traditional gender presentations.

Here are some steps to being an advocate to trans people:

  1. Don’t make assumptions about a trans person’s sexual orientation. Gender identity is different than sexual orientation. Being gay doesn’t mean you’re trans and being trans doesn’t mean you’re gay. Sexual orientation is about who we’re attracted to. Gender identity is about how we see ourselves. Trans people can identify as gay, straight, bisexual, pansexual or asexual.
  2. If you don’t know what pronouns to use, ask. Politely and respectfully. Then use that pronoun and encourage others to do so also.
  3. Confidentiality, Disclosure and “Outing”: Some trans people “pass” and some do not. Knowing a trans person’s status is personal information and up to them to share with others. Gwen Araujo and Brandon Teena were both murdered when others revealed their trans status. Others routinely lose housing, jobs and friends. Do not casually share this information, or “gossip” about a person you know or think is trans.
  4. Don’t assume what path a transperson is on regarding surgery or hormones. Affirm the many ways all of us can and do transcend gender boundaries, including the choices some of us make to use medical technology to change our bodies. Some trans people wish to be recognized as their gender of choice without surgery or hormones; some need support and advocacy to get respectful medical care, hormones and/or surgery.
  5. Don’t police public restrooms. Recognize that gender variant people may not match the little signs on the restroom door—or your expectations! Encourage businesses and agencies to have unisex bathrooms, and offer to accompany a trans-person to the bathroom so they are less vulnerable.
  6. Don’t just add the “T” without doing work. “GLBT” is now commonplace to show support for queerness. To be an ally for Transpeople, Gays, Lesbians and Bisexual people need to examine their own gender stereotypes and transphobia and be willing to defend trans people and celebrate trans lives.
  7. Listen to trans voices. The best way to be an ally is to listen to trans people themselves. Talk to trans folks in your community. They are the experts on their own lives!

From "Action Steps to Being a Trans Ally," by Samuel Lurie. (Download flyer as a PDF.)

List of Web Resources for Advocates
Questions Answered: Terms for Allies to Know
Why be an Advocate? Info about Heterosexism & Homophobia
Taking action as an Advocate:
Activities & Training Sessions
Web Resources for Trans Advocates
Books for Trans Advocates

Many of these books are available in our reference library.

  • Body Alchemy: Transsexual Portraits, by Loren Cameron
  • Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women and the Rest of Us, by Kate Bornstein
  • Honey, Honey, Miss Thang: Being Black, Gay and On the Streets, by Leon E. Pettiway
  • Transgender Warriors: Making History from Joan of Arc to Rupaul, by Leslie Feinberg
  • Trans Liberation: Beyond Pink and Blue, by Leslie Feinberg,
  • Transgender Care: Recommended Guidelines, Practical Information and Personal Accounts, by Gianna E. Israel
  • Transgender Emergence: Therapuetic Guidelines for Working with Gender-Variant People and Their Families, by Arlene Istar Lev
  • Trans Forming Families: Real Stories about Transgendered Loved Ones, edited by Mary Boenke

Last modified November 16 2016 12:40 PM