living towards liberation: four tools to help us create collective liberation

this post is part of a series about imagining and creating collective liberation. for more information, read the series intro post.

hello, beloveds. i’ve been learning a lot lately about how my whiteness and the norms of white supremacy culture i’ve internalized from being socialized in it act as barriers that prevent me from living toward liberation. to counteract this, i am actively developing regular practices to guide me intentionally toward collective liberation. i’m sharing some of the tools and practices i’ve been using below, in case any of them are helpful to y’all as well. ❤

Characteristics of White Supremacy Culture – this list of the characteristics of white supremacy culture was created by Tema Okun of dRworks and is part of dRworks’ Dismantling Racism Works Web Workbook. collective liberation requires deep cultural shifts and a necessary and enormous part of those shifts is a turning away from white supremacy culture’s paradigms as outlined in this list.

in addition to outlining aspects of white supremacy culture, this list thankfully also offers antidotes to these cultural characteristics, giving us the jumping off points we need to live towards a better world. i deeply love this list and am incredibly thankful that it exists; it makes a huge difference in my life and really helps me see aspects of the culture we’re in that i have trouble seeing without guidance.

my partner and i have an evolving weekly practice of sitting with this list. we started out going through it item by item, examining where we’ve seen those characteristics in ourselves and in the organizations that touch our lives and where we’ve been using or experiencing the antidotes. now we target specific characteristics that we know are going to try to show up in our lives in the coming week and make plans together for how to live differently by implementing the antidotes. having that practice has profoundly shifted how i move through the world.

mindfulness one of the characteristics of white supremacy culture is defensiveness. without tools to recognize and defuse it, defensiveness can get in the way of learning new things and of changing what we believe and how we act when we need to. when we’re trying to create a new world by living it, this can be an obstacle. i’ve found that mindfulness — which for me is the ability to name what i’m feeling, sit with it for the appropriate time, and then make values-informed choices about how to act — is a great help in recognizing and defusing my own defensiveness.

being able to recognize that i am feeling defensive — or that what i’m feeling may be defensiveness — allows me to pause and examine that feeling and whether it’s serving me and my goals for right relationship and collective liberation or if it’s serving to uphold white supremacy. my defensiveness is always doing the latter. once i know that what i’m feeling is defensiveness, i can choose to act from a place other than it. mindfulness is the skill i’m using to slow my responses to my emotions down until i have recognized what i’m feeling and to give myself the time i need to choose how i’m going to act, instead of me acting defensive just because i have felt some defensiveness.

my education regarding mindfulness comes largely from Kristen Neff’s work, especially her book Self-Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind (which appears to sometimes be known by a slightly different title). it was a helpful resource for me, but i absolutely cannot recommend it without warning about the parts of the book where the author talks about her personal life. her narrative contains remarks that are likely to be triggering/harmful/hurtful/all thee above for autistic and otherwise neurodivergent folks. these parts are labelled and distinct from the parts that teach the tools the author offers and can be utterly ignored.

i also found the episode of the Queerology podcast that featured Kristy Arbon helpful and there are many other resources on mindfulness available that are certainly at least equally as useful as these two. (if you have favorites, please drop them in the comments!)

curiosity – several months ago, a friend of mine requested that i come into a space with curiosity. moving through the world with a lens of curiosity can radically alter how i show up.

there are a few things that curiosity does for me that i think might be helpful to others as well. one is that it decenters my perspective — if i’m approaching people and situations with a desire to know more about them, i’m automatically undermining the assumption that my perspective is the only perspective or the “best” perspective.

as a white person, i’ve been socialized such that my cultural norms appear universal to me, instead of culturally specific. this creates a sort of “water i swim in” situation where i often don’t even recognize that i’m assuming that something is true for everyone or that there is no other way of being or doing. relatedly, my cultural norms seem benign to me when they’re actually harmful. (this is why the Characteristics of White Supremacy Culture list is necessary and important.)

what curiosity does is give me a tool for moving through the world that prioritizes considering the experience of others, knowing that it is likely different from my own. curiosity causes me to wonder about that experience, to position my own experience as just one of many, and to see other people as full complex beings who have valuable knowledge, experience, and perspective that i do not.

if i take curiosity on as a practice, it can help me negate the harmful behaviors that come from my former practice of centering my white self and it can help me learn about and imagine new ways of being.

rest – the system of capitalism depends on us believing that our worth is tied to our productivity. capitalism wants us to burn ourselves out making profits for the people who own the majority of the world’s wealth. keeping us busy is also capitalism’s attempt to keep us from being able to organize against it.

these cultural norms are also tied up in racism and ableism. Ibram X. Kendi teaches in How to Be An Anti-Racist that capitalism and racism are twin evils (think of how chattel slavery was put in place to generate wealth for white people).

also, productivity in this model is measured by an idealized version of human capacity that none of us can reach and remain healthy and that disabled people struggle to reach even more.

stepping outside of that system by slowing down and engaging in rest in its many forms disrupts these cultural norms and is an important part of building new, healthy norms. leaning into rest and developing a new pattern of thinking about the world that is not about grinding all the time, but about leaning into the fullness of the human experience can be really hard. i highly recommend checking out The Nap Ministry, which is a body of work by Tricia Hersey about the importance and breadth of rest and about rest as reparations and rest as resistance, centering the experience and liberation of Black people. i have learned and do learn so incredibly much from this project and am continuously challenged by it, which is always excellent because that shows me where my growing edge is.

if you have tools that you’re using to dismantle white supremacy and other systems of domination in your life, please drop them in the comments! i am desperately in need of more tools. the larger the library we have to pull from, the better off we’ll be.

want to support this project? donate to the Concord Families Rent Assistance gofundme.

living towards liberation: visioning

i wake up when my body wants to. there’s a collective care circle tonight where we’ll think, learn, and grow together around how best to take care of ourselves and each other. we’re learning how to hold space for trauma, for healing, for mental health issues that disrupt our relationships and well-being.

i am eager to put myself into the gentle hands of my loved ones and to hold them in return, but right now i have time to make a thai tea and sit on the back deck of my house, watching the earth heal. i sit and sip and write scraps of poetry until my need for quiet and slowness is met.

across town, at a fully and easily accessible community building, my partner teaches his class of students. they’ve all chosen to learn biology today and my partner works in collaboration with them and with educators who are people of color. education is voluntary and culturally responsive. students create their own goals and partner with those who teach to assess their progress. my partner is full of joy.

i get a text from my friends — a polycule of trans folks my sister knows are moving into a house of their own today! with the time i’ve had to tend to my health and with free, accessible, responsive healthcare, i’m the healthiest i’ve ever been. i can lift things again. setting aside the writing i’m doing on what i’ve been learning about transformative justice with my community, i hop on the train and head over. we have a great day together, laughing about the unexpected effects of HRT — widely available without gatekeeping to all trans and/or non-binary folks.

we grab food at a cooperatively owned restaurant. my partner, with his flexible schedule, joins us, as others do as well. the food is delicious beyond words. we grab some of the free zines on the shelf near the door when we leave, several of them include tips on gardening and one of them is a superman comic. with our biggest pop culture icons in the public domain, the number of stories about them has exploded.

the art in the comic is extremely detailed, obviously time-consuming work. in it, superman is a Jewish man of color engaging in mutual aid in areas where natural disasters have struck. while the number of natural disasters we experience has reduced dramatically as Land Back meant we lived into Indigenous wisdom around caring for and living with the earth, we still experience some. mutual aid networks are stronger than ever though and folks pre- and post-natural disasters create the supports they need together.

i go home and devour the comic, resting in bed to have stamina to go to circle tonight. my time is mine to use as i want and my work on recording what we’re all learning together to share our experiences with others can wait until i’m able to do it. all of my work can wait until i’m able to do it, because i share all work responsibilities with others. together, we get the necessary labor done and make sure we’re all able to attend to our health and happiness.

circle is beautiful. we share deeply about how we’re doing and what tools we’re using to engage in self- and collective care. i learn so many new things. i am lovingly corrected when i misstep or fail to see how the vestiges of the white supremacy culture i was born into are still affecting my perspective and actions. tomorrow, i’ll talk it out in our circle for white accountability where other white folks can do the labor of moving me through these things rather than the people of color present in this circle. i’ll make the repair i need to with them individually and collectively, using tools and communication strategies we’ve developed together. our relationships grow more intimate and authentic. i feel more whole.

after, my partner and i crawl into bed excited for tomorrow. we share stories about our days and laugh together. worn out in the best way possible, we fall asleep in the middle of talking about how we’d rewrite xena warrior princess, smiling and holding hands. we have sweet dreams about community dinners, dogs, and the smell of lavender from the community garden that is our front yard.


hi beloveds. the above is a visioning of one way collective liberation could be experienced. there are so many ways collective liberation could look and they are all deeply exciting to me. i’m finding that when i don’t spend enough time envisioning the end goals for all my organizing work, i lose hope. so i hope to keep this practice up here. maybe it’ll help all of us. i think a vision to strive for is imperative in the hard work we’re doing. ❤


want to support this project? become a patron at or toss me money for a thai tea on venmo, @Ky-Magdalene.

some thoughts on apologizing too much

hi, loved ones. the pandemic is awful, full stop. but as i’ve been self-isolating in a house with my partner for, shit, nearly a year now, i’ve noticed that this time is a time of really deep-diving in that relationship. we’re the only people we see in person right now and that’s created an opportunity for us to have conversations about a lot of things that might otherwise have been overlooked because of time constraints. one of the things i’ve been thinking about is how much i say sorry.

while over-apologizing is not a behavior limited to folks who are marginalized, i think it can be especially prevalent among our communities because of how society has conditioned us to believe we should not take up space or, in many cases, even exist. i’d love to see us move away from apologizing when it’s not the time to apologize because i think doing so can free us from a lot of unneeded and harmful shame.

so i have some thoughts on apologizing too much/inappropriately and i hope they’re useful to you.

(this post is also available as an instagram post, if that’s more your speed!)

for folks who apologize constantly, like me, can be a hard habit to replace — even if the folks around us reassure us that we don’t need to apologize for xyz thing(s).

i think sometimes we say sorry when we mean or need something else, but haven’t had the practice saying it or find saying sorry easier. i think that identifying — and saying — what we really mean can deepen our relationships with others and with ourselves.

one thing i think we might sometimes mean instead of sorry is “thank you.”

instead of “sorry i’m such a mess.”

we might actually mean and/or be better served by saying something like “thank you for comforting me.”

instead of “sorry i’m talking so much.”

we might actually mean and/or be better served by saying something like “thank you for listening.”

saying sorry over and over throughout time spent with loved ones can be very taxing for them as they do the work to reassure me that i don’t need to apologize.

apologizing repeatedly implicitly asks for more work from them. reframing to gratitude is a more mutual approach. it reminds me to appreciate my loved ones and their care for me and lets them know their care is seen and appreciated.

another thing that i think we may sometimes mean when we say sorry is that we have a need or feeling we don’t know how to express or don’t have practice expressing.

i say sorry sometimes when i mean “i’m feeling insecure about how much attention i’m receiving right now”

or “i would really appreciate some reassurance that you love me and want to help me”

or “i feel self-conscious about how emotional i am”

there may be more work to do when i express those things, but at least when i’m honest, my loved ones and i can choose to do that work together.

saying how i’m actually feeling gives them the chance to engage with me about it and to meet my needs if they can and are willing. it deepens the intimacy of my relationships.

if y’all have thoughts on what apologizing constantly means for you, please share in the comments! i am definitely in the market for other ways to replace “sorry” with what i actually mean and/or need. ❤

want to support this project? become a patron at or toss me money for a thai tea on venmo, @Ky-Magdalene.

ANNOUNCING: “living towards liberation: dismantling hierarchy” zine!

hi loved ones! now that i’ve figured out how to format eight-page mini zines, i feel like i’m on a roll! my goal remains to get as many of my blog posts turned into zines as seems relevant and towards that end: my post about unmaking hierarchy is now available in zine format!

the “living towards liberation: dismantling hierarchy” zine is free to print here! i love having things in print and figure i’m not the only one, so i’m excited to make this available in this way. i hope it’s useful.

(the zine is the same as the blog post with the exception of the title. “dismantling” just seemed like more recognizable language when i was imagining tabling with it at a zine fest.)

image description: an eight-page mini zine titled “living towards liberation: dismantling hierarchy” placed against a backdrop with a large floral pattern. the cover of the zine also notes ky magdalene as the author.

the zine is an eight-page mini zine. it requires some simple cutting and folding to take it from print out to finished product. the video below shows you how to do that cutting and folding:

i’m going to keep turning posts into zines as i go and if there’s a post you really want to see become a zine, let me know in the comments so i can prioritize it!

want to support this project? become a patron at or toss me money for a thai tea on venmo @Ky-Magdalene.

questions to ask potential employers to determine how trans affirming they are

hello, loved ones. i’ve been thinking a lot about how trans folks (and allies/accomplices) can determine whether an organization where they’re interviewing for a job is trans affirming.

getting into an organization just to find out that it’s cissexist as shit and, often, unwilling to change is very awful and i want us to be saved from that if at all we can afford it. i know that jobs are hard to come by for trans folks and more so during the pandemic, but if any of us are ever in a position to be able to prioritize our safety in this way, i’d like us to have some tools to do so.

toward that end, i’ve put together a list of questions we can ask potential employers to determine their degree of trans affirmation and make our decision of whether to work from them with as much knowledge as possible.

  • do you have a written policy for how this organization supports employees who will transition during their employment? ask to see it! it’s a good plan to get eyes on it because people can claim anything. get that evidence!
  • does your insurance plan include coverage for medically transitioning? ask to see this, too.
  • do these facilities have gender neutral restrooms?
  • how often do you hold cultural competency trainings regarding trans issues? who gives these trainings and what are the priorities of the trainings? ideally, trans cultural competency trainings are part of the organization’s onboarding process and are also held periodically throughout the year. you’ll want to make sure that you feel you can trust the people/organization giving the trainings. priorities for the training should include an anti-racist gender lens, guiding trainees to a gender expansive view of the world, and upholding the validity of non-binary identity/ies. you may have some other things you want the trainings to prioritize. add to this list as necessary.
  • what is this organization’s understanding of gender justice and its place in furthering it? how does this organization incorporate gender justice into its daily operations? i suggest sitting with these questions to determine what answers are important to you to receive from potential employers about them. for my part, i want to know that any organization i’m considering working in understands the value of trans perspectives and values its trans employees (and clients, as applicable). i also want to know that the organization understands that gender is a large concept that contains multitudes of identities or lack thereof and acts accordingly. it’s important that potential employers are able to be specific about how their organization incorporates gender justice in their work. a lot of nice, pretty words can be said but without examples that resonate with you, they don’t mean anything.

even with this list of questions as a toolbox, you may not be able to find out whether an organization is a less cissexist place to work than average. you may not be answered honestly or folks may think their organization does something or believes something it doesn’t actually do or believe. word of mouth from other trans folks working at places is still the best chance at knowing what you’re getting yourself into. but i know that having these questions on hand to ask has helped me make decisions about my own employment, so i’m hopeful that it will be useful to y’all as well. i’m wishing you safety and wellness as we traverse this capitalist hellscape together.

if you have other tips for determining how trans affirming an employer is/may be, please let us know in the comments!

want to support this project? become a patron at or toss me money for a thai tea on venmo, @Ky-Magdalene.

living towards liberation: mutual aid resources for beginners

this post is part of a series about imagining and creating collective liberation. for more information, read the series intro post.

hey beloveds. with the dream of a new culture feeling more possible with the ongoing uprisings across the u.s., i thought it might be useful to chat about mutual aid.

mutual aid is about helping each other meet our needs without relying on the systems that are put in place by the state. these systems deliberately fail and harm Black people, Indigenous people, other people of color, women, trans and otherwise queer folks, children, immigrants, poor folks, and others this society refuses to value. but those systems and the state that houses them are just constructs that we can work outside of if we pool our power, time, effort, and other resources.

mutual aid is anti-hierarchical and reciprocal. it’s the communities who need the aid providing the aid by resourcing themselves. this is in direct opposition to hierarchical structures usually employed by the state and its agents.

for example, non-profits tend to be driven by a board of directors made up of people who are not experiencing the need the non-profit says it meets. this board gives the direction for its employees in a top down fashion, filtering it through the CEO and other leadership until it reaches front-line workers. often, the workers in a non-profit are also not members of the community the non-profit is formed to serve. this charity model isn’t equitable and in fact acts to reinforce the capitalistic structures that created the disparity these organizations are supposedly addressing.

service organizations also often require something of the people they claim to serve. this can range from highly personal information to behavior change in order to receive services, ultimately forcing clients to choose between receiving services and maintaining their autonomy.

this is all if people are even considered eligible for services in the first place. undocumented folks face difficulties accessing social programs, as do people of color, trans folks, and many others. think of how homeless shelters often deny trans people shelter.

working outside of the state is an essential component of mutual aid as it is a practice not only to take care of ourselves but also to edge the state out of social service work and ultimately to abolish it and the oppressive systems it upholds.

mutual aid looks a bunch of different ways, but some mutual aid efforts that i’ve been involved in include pooling money so folks can get out of abusive households or building a network of folks who can deliver groceries to those who need to stay safe at home during the pandemic. donating to someone’s gofundme is mutual aid. picking up someone’s prescriptions is mutual aid. pooling money to pay someone’s rent is mutual aid.

below are some resources that you can use to get started practicing mutual aid:

Dean Spade made the syllabus for a class he taught called “Queer and Trans Mutual Aid for Survival and Mobilization” available at Big Door Brigade’s website, which also has other resources for learning about mutual aid.

Annika Hansteen-Izora created these templates to use to express needs, share offerings, and negotiate skill trades. they’re available in Annika’s instagram stories to be screenshotted and used with credit to Annika for their creation. i think they’re an incredibly useful tool for getting started in these conversations. we’ve been taught not to share our needs or accept help and so voicing them can be difficult, as can be asking for resources — especially money.

towards the end of being able to ask for money, i wrote a post about how to talk about money with the people you love. it has tips for having discussions about money in open, honest, productive ways.

to learn about mutual aid practices specifically centering the experiences of disabled and chronically ill folks, try Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha’s book Care Work: Dreaming Disability Justice. there is a lot of wisdom and brilliance in this book that has greatly informed my mutual aid practice.

along similar lines, T-Maps (Transformative Mutual Aid Practices) are a set of tools to help you explore your own needs and connect your struggles to collective ones. getting a deep understanding of our own needs and how we have gone about getting them met or could go about getting them met is a pivotal step in building relationships where care is mutual. having this information to share with each other helps us set up care webs or collectives, which Care Work provides foundational guidance for.

if you want to get connected with an established mutual aid network, try It’s Going Down’s list of mutual aid networks that were created to deal with the fallout of COVID-19. networks are listed by region and state and include a short listing for Canadian networks as well. at the end of the list, there are some other resources to use in growing your mutual aid practice, too.

if you’re in the seattle area and want to get involved with pre-existing mutual aid networks, you could try the networks below:

if you have other resources that can help us grow our mutual aid practices, please drop them in the comments!

want to support this project? become a patron at or toss me money for a thai tea on venmo, @Ky-Magdalene.

ANNOUNCING: “using non-binary pronouns 101” zine!

hi loved ones! i’ve been meaning to turn my blog posts into zines since the start of this blog. laying out a zine turned out to be more difficult than i anticipated, but i’ve got a couple zines to show for it now — a poetry one and one based on the blog post i wrote about how to use non-binary pronouns.

the “using non-binary pronouns 101” zine is free and available to print here! my hope is that it’ll be useful for folks to print and hand out to others in their lives. i know that having a physical copy of something can be really useful to me, so i wanted to make that post available in a format that lends itself to print.

image description: eight-page "using non-binary pronouns 101" mini zine pictured against a colorful pillow with intricate embroidered designs. the zine's cover has it's title and author's name, ky magdalene, as well as half of a non-binary gender symbol. the pillow rests against a couple unidentifiable white wooden structures and a small slice of blue wall.
image description: eight-page “using non-binary pronouns 101” mini zine pictured against a colorful pillow with intricate embroidered designs. the zine’s cover has it’s title and author’s name, ky magdalene, as well as half of a non-binary gender symbol. the pillow rests against a couple unidentifiable white wooden structures and a small slice of blue wall.

the zine is an eight-page mini zine. it requires some simple cutting and folding to take it from print out to finished product. the video below shows you how to do that cutting and folding:

i hope the zine is useful to you! i am in the process of making zines out of other posts, too, and hope to someday table at zine events, when the pandemic has passed. (remember to wear a mask! collective care is good!)

want to support this project? become a patron at or toss me money for a thai tea on venmo @Ky-Magdalene.

living towards liberation: unmaking hierarchy

this post is part of a series about imagining and creating collective liberation. for more information, read the series intro post.

hello beloveds, i’ve been thinking a lot lately about unmaking hierarchical power structures. i believe very strongly that hierarchies are morally and ethically wrong. systems which give people power over others shouldn’t exist. in a collectively liberated future, they wouldn’t.

Sonya Renee Taylor teaches in her book The Body is Not an Apology that the hierarchy of bodies in our current culture is oppressive. racism places a white body higher on the hierarchy than a black body. ableism places an able body higher on the hierarchy than a disabled body. cissexism places a cis body higher on the hierarchy than a trans body. all oppressions, Taylor shows, can be articulated this way — as coming back to body hierarchy.

the truth is that all bodies are of equal and immutable inherent worth. placing bodies — and the people within them — on a hierarchy is an oppressive lie. hierarchy is a tool of oppression.

hierarchies are also our most common organizational structure: people in management — or “leadership” — positions have power over people in non-managerial — or non-leadership — positions. (you may have heard this articulated as the ruling class having power over the worker class.) organizations that use this structure include non-profits, religious institutions, corporations and other businesses, schools, and many others, though they don’t have to and some don’t. those higher-up positions are harmful — to the people in them and to the people positioned “below” them.

hierarchies create a need for power-hoarding (a characteristic of white supremacy culture) instead of power-sharing; once someone has power, they are pressured to do anything they can to keep and increase it, which necessitates stopping others from having it.

a horizontal structure — i.e. one that does not have hierarchy — places all members of an organization on equal footing. this is a lot more ethical because it allows for people to have power with others rather than power over. it also still allows room for experts: some folks have specific knowledge or skillsets that others don’t and we should rely on their wisdom, but it doesn’t mean that they should have power over others or be paid more than others (we all are equally worthy of survival and of the tools we need to achieve it).

horizontal structures require a lot of learning, tending, and care from their members, but destroying dominant paradigms always does and is always worth it.

Taylor teaches that we must root the body hierarchy out of ourselves to root it out of the world. here are some of the ways that i’ve been thinking about that we can unmake hierarchical culture in ourselves and in the world:

  • name hierarchy when you see it. name it and call it bad, immoral, unethical, harmful. suggest alternatives
  • if you have information, share it
  • learn about, learn how to use, and use non-hierarchical decision-making methods like consensus. use them in your personal life. use them in your professional life
  • admit your mistakes and learning curves freely
  • acknowledge areas where you lack expertise. uplift and rely on the expertise of others
  • do not gatekeep, examples of how not to fall into common gatekeeping traps below:
    • make sure that any role you play in a system can be played by someone else, that the information and tools are readily available to them to be able to do so
    • if someone comes to you for help and you know a resource that can help them, direct them to that resource. do NOT access the resource for them, unless specifically requested to do so by them after you’ve made sure they have everything available to use to access it without you. (if you are their access, access the resource on their terms)
  • be assured of your own worth. your expertise, experience, and wisdom are different than other folks’; they are not worth less than others’. all wisdoms have their relevant contexts.(shout out to Sonya Renee Taylor’s The Body is Not an Apology again for this one. knowing and being confident in our own worth is a way of ridding ourselves of the hierarchy by removing our compulsion to move our place on it)

unmaking a hierarchy from inside one, especially as someone on the lower rungs, is a huge task at this moment in time and you’ll need to honor your need for rest as you undertake it. but even small actions that chip away at it are meaningful and necessary. i’m with you and if you have other ways you’re working to unmake hierarchy, please tell me in the comments!

want to support this project? become a patron at or toss me money for a thai tea on venmo, @Ky-Magdalene.

living towards liberation

hello, beloveds. i’m starting work on a series of blog posts titled living towards liberation. i’ve been thinking a lot about how to grow our ability to imagine a different, better world than the one we have and how to collectively create the world we wish to see by living into it.

i’m inspired by adrienne maree brown‘s work especially as i think about this. brown taught and continues to teach me a lot about living towards collective liberation. i highly recommend you check out her blog to either read her writing or to access the long list of audio interviews she has listed. her work is foundational for me in this.

my goal for this series is to increase access to tools that can help us grow our imagination and our practices. i’m writing this series with trans and/or non-binary folks as my primary audience; i write from a trans perspective to and for a trans audience and consider all of the topics i’ll be writing about to be trans issues. my hope is that this series helps us, in our unique position, to navigate the dominant system(s) in a way that allows us to be healthier individually and collectively and that it helps us to push those oppressive dominant systems out of existence so that survival is ultimately easier for everyone to attain.

this is not to say that i don’t hope that folks who are not trans or non-binary find this work useful; i very much hope they do. (i always hope they know that to work for trans liberation is to work for their own.) it’s only to say that i, as always, can find no way to separate trans and/ or non-binary issues from collective liberation and i want to be very clear on that.

trans communities do the work of imagining and enacting alternative ways of being as a means of survival — among our many other reasons for doing so. i want to center our wisdom here — for ourselves and for others, who have a lot to learn from us. white trans and/or non-binary folks also have a lot to learn from people of color, particularly trans and/or non-binary or otherwise gender non-conforming people of color. i want to center that wisdom as well. as bell hooks taught me, those living in the margins have the greatest perspective on liberating wisdom.

the idea is that together we’ll be discovering (because much wisdom already exists) and developing (because we’re always creating new technologies) ways of thinking about and living in the world that — hopefully support the struggle for collective liberation.

you can read the posts in the series here.

want to support this project? become a patron at or toss me money for a thai tea on venmo, @Ky-Magdalene.

how to make your workplace more trans and non-binary affirming: an ally’s guide

hello, beloved ones. in a prior blog post, i detailed tips and tools for trans and/or non-binary people to use to make their workplaces more affirming. as a complement to that, i wanted to create something for cis folks out there. we need y’all to do the work too — both beside us and in spaces where you don’t know we’re present (but we probably are). you’ve got the privilege here, make it work for us. liberation’s gotta be collective, friends.

trans and/or non-binary folks, i hope this is a guide that you can give to your coworkers so that you don’t have to do all the work to educate them on how to help you as you move through your own process or hand off the process to them. if you think i’ve missed anything at the end of this, please please let me know in the comments.

understand what the ally/accomplice role is

you are not a savior. you aren’t coming in to save a population. you absolutely cannot view yourself this way — consciously or subconsciously — and be effective at the work i’m about to ask you to do. you are a disciple of trans and non-binary wisdom. humility and steadfastness are your greatest assets.

take time to imagine in detail what it looks like for you to be a humble and steadfast disciple as you work to make your workplace more affirming. imagine it until embodying it feels natural, but don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you’ve rooted out everything in you that wants to swoop in and be the big hero. that idea of yourself will sneak up on you if you aren’t vigilant, because we’ve been taught all our lives that justice is about individual acts of heroism. that isn’t true. it’s about community effort and collective care. you are a part of a whole — and trust me, once you truly live into that, it’s a much more fulfilling way to live than taking on injustice as a solo mission.

educate yourself

if you need help imagining humble and steadfast discipleship, start with positioning yourself as a learner in relation to trans and/or non-binary folks, particularly trans and/or non-binary people of color and deeply listening to what they ask of you. to do so, you may ask some trans and/or non-binary friends you have how you can be on their side or you may just go on twitter or facebook or elsewhere on the internet and see what’s being asked for publicly.

be mindful that asking trans and/or non-binary folks for their wisdom directly is asking them to do labor for you. offer to pay them for their time and expertise or to take them out to eat or to donate to a cause/person/organization that they request or offer to do labor for them. make the exchange mutual in whichever way works for you both/all.

here are a couple articles that delineate some of the basics of allyship and/or accompliceship:

for foundational educational materials about transness and trans people, check out the “for teaching trans 101 to cis folks” tab on the trans resources spreadsheet i curate. follow that up by going through the “resources for allies/accomplices” tab at the end.

get anti-racist training

cissexism (transphobia by a more apt name) is a product of white supremacy, of colonialism. indigenous cultures the world over had and have many varied gender paradigms that differ from the model of a gender binary that colonialism established as a hegemony. cissexism is racist; to rid a space of one of these axes of oppression, you must rid the space of both.

as i am a white person, i do not believe it is my place to speak to how people of color choose to engage in anti-racism work, so i’m going to speak to just my fellow white folks momentarily: if you’re white, you must demand that your organization perform an anti-racist audit of the organization, take the necessary steps to right the wrongs that audit reveals, and invest in continual agency-wide anti-racist training. in the seattle area, organizations like The Non-Profit Anti-Racism Coalition (for non-profits), Families of Color Seattle (for educational organizations), and The People’s Institute Northwest can help you with this.

(i have not personally worked with any of these organizations and would welcome any firsthand feedback about them. they are orgs i’ve learned about from an intensive but not exhaustive internet search.)

pursue anti-racism training and education individually as well. Ibram X. Kendi’s book How to Be an Anti-Racist is an excellent place to start.

assess your workplace for trans and non-binary friendliness

here are some quick questions to get you started on understanding what your workplace may lack when it comes to being affirming of trans and non-binary people:

  • are there easy to access gender-neutral bathrooms?
  • are folks encouraged to put their pronouns in their email signatures or on their name tags or in other relevant places? it’s not cool to make people display their pronouns publicly, because requiring it can put some trans folks at risk, but doing so should be an accepted part of organizational culture.
  • do your coworkers struggle to use the correct pronouns for someone? is anyone intentionally using the wrong pronouns for someone?
  • does your workplace hold regular cultural competency trainings on trans identity? are those trainings led by trans people? do the trainers include trans people of color?
  • does your workplace have a written policy for employees transitioning on the job?
  • does your employer health insurance cover medical transition costs?

i’m going to include here some common scenarios of where workplaces lack trans affirmation and ideas for what you’ll want to ask your employer to do to address them that i mentioned in my previous post. if you’re working with trans and/or non-binary folks as you move to improve your workplace, defer to their assessment of their needs and how they should be met.

if there isn’t an easy to access gender neutral bathroom, facility changes should be made. this can be as simple as changing the signs on the restrooms. (here’s an all-gender restroom sign that may serve you. do NOT spend your own money on it; it’s your employer’s responsibility. make them do it.)

is someone intentionally misgendering someone? that’s harassment. you’ll want to check in with the person being harassed about what you can do to help. they may be worried about retaliation, so please don’t act on what you’ve witnessed in a way that will put them at risk. if you’re in the seattle area, you can let them know that the lavender rights project is available as a legal resource for them. you can also craft a plan for going to HR about the harassment together. if your place of work is unionized, bring the union in on it as well.

if the misgendering is unintentional, your coworkers might just need more education. i created a guide to non-binary pronouns, with accompanying resources that might be useful to you. run it by any coworkers you have who use non-binary pronouns and if they find it suitable, ask your employer to pass that around. alternatively, ask your employer to set up a cultural competency training on pronouns. i’ll give you resources for cultural competency trainings below.

does your workplace lack a transition policy? tell them to craft one with the input of trans employees, if such employees are out as trans and are willing. if there aren’t any such employees, hire at least two trans people with this expertise to do this work with trans people of color making up half or more of the number of people you bring in. the procedure your workplace will use to work with employees who transition on the job must exist in writing. i’ll give you examples of such policies a couple steps below.

facility changes, cultural competency trainings, and written policies are the most common asks in my experience of trans justice issues in the workplace. while you may not be dealing with the issues specifically mentioned above, those are likely to be among your asks.

offer yourself as an ally

probably don’t come up to someone and say “i want to be an ally to you.” in addition to being pretentious, that puts the onus of figuring out how you can be helpful on the person you’re talking to. i promise that they’re already doing a ton of emotional labor that they shouldn’t have had to be responsible for in the first place — they don’t need to do yours, too.

instead, offer specific help. if you’ve noticed someone being misgendered, say so. ask if they want you to correct folks when that happens or if they’d like back up in going to management about dealing with it. if you know there is no gender neutral bathroom for your agender colleague, tell them you’re willing to push for that to change with them — or on your own so they aren’t unduly burdened. if a trans person at your workplace is fighting to get cultural competency trainings to happen at your workplace, support them vocally and persistently.

if you approach your trans and/or non-binary colleagues about these issues and they ask you not to move forward in dealing with them, do as asked. they may be worried about their safety if attention is brought to these issues. if you approach multiple folks and their responses are divided, use your best judgement while being sure to remember that you are a disciple, not a savior. you may still move forward with helping those who are seeking change, but do so with humility.

if you have coworkers who are trans and/or non-binary, but who do not wish to be burdened with this work, move forward only with their blessing. remember to stay open to their level of involvement changing over time. seek always to defer.

find allies

this section will describe what to do about increasing your leverage through use of more voices if you are given your trans and/or non-binary coworker’s blessing to move forward without them or if you don’t have any out trans and/or non-binary coworkers to partner with. to tweak these next steps to follow if you are partnered with trans and/or non-binary coworkers, simply remember to check in with them before taking any of these steps and to defer to then as you go.

if your place of work is unionized, go to your union delegate. your union has more power than you individually to force management to make change. the steps your workplace needs to take to become trans affirming can be made part of contract negotiations (suggest this to your union if your union doesn’t suggest it to you).

if your place of work is not unionized or if your union is unsupportive, find coworkers who you believe will be supportive individually. is there someone with a trans and/or non-binary loved one who they speak about with respect and deference to their wisdom? someone who understands trans justice issues? someone who understands other justice issues who you believe can be educated in trans justice?

approach these folks. start with the person who you trust the most. explain what needs are going unmet in the workplace. ask if they’re willing to come together with you to seek trans and non-binary wisdom in figuring out how to address those needs and then to come forward to management with you to address those unmet needs in the ways you’ve learned about.

if you can find an ally in the management staff, all the better for you, but be cautious in approaching management for this purpose. hierarchical structures are not built with the humanity of those in the lowest tiers in mind.

two things to remember about these conversations:

  • they can take place over the course of days or weeks. you don’t need to try to fit this all into one convo. you can move at the speed of trust, as adrienne maree brown says. if you’re new to your workplace, you probably need to get a feel for where your coworkers are at on these issues over the course of time. if you’ve been at your workplace for a while, you may know exactly who is willing to fight for what.
  • you should be actively listening to and intentionally asking about the needs of your coworkers’ that are going unmet in the workplace as you converse. you should be on each other’s teams on these issues; mutuality is important morally and tactically.

get info

our culture is big on precedent. this is obnoxious because change by nature demands a lack of precedence and because the precedent for how trans and non-binary people are treated in our culture is shitty. i have many angry words to say about how evil perpetuates itself in this paradigm, but i don’t have the emotional capacity to write it all for you. the long and short of it is that your workplace will want to follow in the footsteps of something else. it’s your task at this stage to give them the footsteps to follow.

i have given a workplace the following footsteps regarding policy changes:

always keep in mind that none of those guides are perfect and that our understanding of trans justice is ever-evolving. you have to remain dedicated to discipleship and open to new information.

i’ve collected some other guides as well over the months i’ve been doing this and they’re all listed on the trans resource spreadsheet i curate. i especially encourage you to study and utilize the one that is non-binary specific as many guides fall shortest when it comes to handling non-binary identities.

if you are working with trans and/or non-binary coworkers, accept the resources they present to you or, if they desire your help in attaining resources, present these resources to them and allow them to tell you which resources they want to use moving forward. in fact, in addition to presenting these guides to them, please share with them my blog post written for trans and non-binary folks on this topic — again, if they’re open to receiving resources from you.

insist to your employer that trans folks be a part of crafting whatever policies you are asking your employer to create, reminding them that it would be immoral and ineffectual to not center trans voices. if those voices can’t be found from within — either because there are no out trans people employed in your workplace or because those folks do not want to take on this burden — hire at least two trans and/or non-binary people to partner in this work, making sure that at least one of them is a person of color and that both of them have expertise in this area. truly, a panel of trans and/or non-binary folks with a majority of people of color on it works best. you want to be sure that you are especially centering the wisdom and experience of Black trans and/or non-binary folks.

if cultural competency trainings are what your workplace needs and you are in the seattle area, ingersoll gender center* provides them. if you’re outside of the seattle area, prompt your workplace to approach sylveon, a company co-founded by Tuck Woodstock, the host of the podcast gender reveal (which happens to be an extremely useful tool for educating yourself as a disciple of trans and non-binary wisdom). explicitly state to your employer that cultural competency trainings must take place periodically: they are not a one-and-done deal. in addition to being held organization-wide periodically, they should be a part of the onboarding process for all new employees.

*[update 3/16/2021: you might reconsider participation with Ingersoll Gender Center at this time. many current and former staff members have come forward about issues of anti-Blackness, other racism, and abusive behavior perpetrated by leadership at Ingersoll. click here to read and sign on to their letter about the situation.]

present your info to management

if you’re working with a union, they’ll be able to tell you the most effective venue for approaching management. they should be able to back you up in your requests in some way, either by including them in contract negotiations or by making them a part of regular dealings they have with management. follow their lead when it seems right to do so, but remember to defer to the judgement of any trans and/or non-binary coworkers you’re working with if they disagree with the union’s tactics or suggest others.

if you’re not working with a union, this is the time when any trans and/or non-binary folks you’re working with will put their presentation of needs and their solutions to meeting those needs in writing. defer to their judgement on how you should help them do this. they may want you to handle it. they may want you to read it over for them. they may want you to sign off on it.

if you aren’t working with any trans and/or non-binary folks, you must put a presentation of needs you see going unmet and the solutions to those needs that you’ve crafted with trans and non-binary wisdom guiding you. it is always good practice to have a paper trail. my suggestion is to send an email outlining the issues and the solutions with links and attachments to the relevant info.

this email is probably best sent to HR, but don’t be afraid to hold HR accountable by sending it to others in leadership as well. your direct supervisor might also be someone you want to send it to and if you have any allies in management, definitely include them on the email. ask your non-management allies if they want/are willing to be included in this email in any way. you can cc folks or bcc them as appropriate.

this will likely progress to a face-to-face conversation with management, probably HR. do your best to not have those conversations alone. bring a union rep or another ally along with you. take notes — paper trails remain important, so be sure to date your notes and jot down who you’re speaking with. bring printed versions of the resources you sent if you are able.

make change

it’s likely that these conversations with management persist over the course of your employment. monitor the work they do to make sure it’s truly meeting the needs you or your coworkers have identified. if what they’re doing isn’t working, prompt them to iterate. keep a paper trail throughout the process, saving emails and notes. remember to continually seek out and defer to trans and non-binary wisdom on these matters as you go through the process. let any new trans and/or non-binary employees who come onboard during this process in on what’s going on and defer to their judgement if they offer it. center their voices and their needs.

(if you are trans and/or non-binary and you see something i’ve missed in this guide, please let me know in the comments! or email me at

want to support this project? become a patron at or toss me money for a thai tea on venmo, @Ky-Magdalene.