EDITOR'S NOTE: Hello everyone, Andrew and Bin here. As two cisgendered males (we're still learning all the terminology so please bear with us!), we knew we couldn't be the ones to write about LGBTQ issues but we acknowledged there was a lot to learn and understand about the LGBTQ community, and we're all about bridging cultures at Boba Guys. Two months ago at a shift lead meeting in New York, we were presented with the idea of doing staff trainings to educate our own staff on how to become an LGBTQ ally by Mars, one of our awesome bobaristas. They work at our Canal Street Market location. We were excited about the initiative and have started to roll it out in our stores, to the benefit of both our staff but also those that stop by our shops. We've gotten permission to share this publicly for everyone's benefit, whether you're a business owner like ourselves and would like to introduce similar training and dialog in your business or if you just want to be more informed about LGBTQ issues. Thanks again to Mars, Jae, Liana and everyone else that helped write this article.
It’s Pride. What does that mean for you? Maybe you are going to attend Dance on the Pier, now called Pride Island, in New York. Maybe you will be marching down Market Street in the San Francisco Pride Parade. Or maybe you will go to your local Pride events wherever you are in the world. Regardless of what you do during Pride, for LGBTQ folks it’s about celebration, community, and being fabulous.
With the widening acceptance of LGBTQ people and policy, there are more allies than ever in the world, but “ally” is not an identity. Anyone who has delved deeper into activism will tell you that allyship is an active practice. For many people, their first action is self-education. If you are new to the world of active allyship, you may not know where to even start your education process. That’s why your we’re here to help.
In this article you will learn the basics of identity, the transgender umbrella, and what coming out means. A lot of this information may be new to you and possibly overwhelming. Since you are just starting your active allyship journey, you will make mistakes, and that’s okay! Mistakes happen because you are trying and putting in the effort is the only way to becoming a better and more informed person.
Let’s start with the following diagram:
This diagram introduces four terms that make up a person’s identity: gender expression, gender identity, attraction, and sex.
The dotted line enveloping the Genderbread Person on the outside is gender expression. Gender expression is how you present yourself to the world through clothes, interactions, and behaviors. This can be anywhere on a scale from feminine to masculine. It can even be a combination of both.
Next we have gender identity. This is how you, and only you, define your gender. It’s based on how you feel you align or don’t align with what you understand to be the options for gender (usually it’s just option A: girl or option B: boy). As you can see on the diagram, this scale can also be separated into two: from non-gendered to woman-ness or man-ness.
Following gender identity, there’s attraction which can be separated into sexual attraction and romantic attraction. Attraction is who you are physically, spiritually, or emotionally attracted to, or not. This ranges from asexual (no sexual attraction) to men only or women only. It also ranges from aromantic (no romantic attraction) to men only or women only.
Lastly, there is your sex. Sex is objectively defined by the physical characteristics you’re born with or develop, including genitalia, body shape, voice pitch, hormones, chromosomes, and more. When you are born, this is what the doctor, or doula or whoever is delivering you, labels you as when they first see you.
Sometimes assigning a sex can get complicated for intersex babies. According to the Intersex Society of North America, “Intersex is a general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male.” Usually sex is only determined by genitalia at birth which is why some intersex people don’t find out their intersex status until later in life.
All of these things can be combined in an infinite number of ways. For example, you can be a biological male who identifies as genderqueer, presents as feminine, and is sexually attracted to no one. Another example is you can be a biological female who identifies as a transgender man, presents femme, and is attracted to femininity. An important thing to keep in mind is that you shouldn’t assume what someone identifies as based on one or two physical characteristics.
Since you’re probably on your way to get some ice cold boba, I’ll only highlight two terms from the above infographic: transgender and cisgender.
Transgender is an umbrella term to describe those whose gender identities differ from their sex designated at birth. Sometimes you’ll see trans or trans* which are variants of the word transgender.
The term cisgender or cis means a person who identifies with the sex they were designated at birth. This term was created so that being transgender wouldn’t be a synonym for abnormal. In fact, cisgender originated from the transgender community. The prefix “cis” means “on the same side of” and the prefix “trans” means “across.” Trans people come in all shades, shapes, and sizes and since our community experiences increased rates of harassment and poverty, there are a lot of us who aren’t so willing to come out. In order to create safer spaces for the trans and other LGBTQ people around you consider these do’s and don’ts:
Incorporate gender inclusive language into your everyday life. Instead of saying “you guys”, “ladies,” etc. use: “excuse me, folks,” “hello, everyone,” and “have a good night, friends”
Make a habit of asking everyone for their preferred pronouns. You can do this at the start of a business or extracurricular club meeting, book club, a social gathering at your local Boba Guys location, or wherever you’re meeting someone new. It is especially important for cisgender people to do this so that this process can become normalized. To help you with making this happen in your life, here’s a little script to follow: Hi my name is John. I use he/him pronouns. What are yours?
Affirm a person’s identity by using their preferred name. Some trans people may choose to continue using their birth name, also referred to as legal name or dead name. Others may decide to change their name. This change may not be reflected on paper so if you are taking a person’s Boba Guys order or are in charge of someone’s employment paperwork, just two of many applicable scenarios, ask if the person has a preferred name.
Assume someone’s attraction based on their gender identity. Nor someone’s gender identity based on their perceived sex.
Assume a person’s pronouns. When in doubt, ask. And then use them! If you hear someone misgender your trans coworker, friend, boss, or professor, correct them. This is what practicing good allyship looks like. A good follow-up question to ask your trans companion is, “are there any situations when I shouldn’t use your pronouns?” Sometimes trans people are limited in the spaces they can use their preferred pronouns.
Use terms like “tranny” or “transvestite.” These are generally inappropriate to use in any situation and are seen as slurs.
Out someone. Outing is when you disclose an LGBTQ person’s identity without their consent. For more about the difference between coming out and outing, watch this video: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1FD-HUDlueLCdMPQW8LkmNNdYDaKfeKF5/view?usp=sharing
This is by no means an all-encompassing how-to guide to practicing allyship. As I mentioned before, allyship is about action. It is a constant state of education, checking yourself, and supporting those around you. I have included a few resources below for you to continue your self-education. It has been an honor to lay the first plank in the bridge from Boba Guys to the LGBTQ community. Boba Friends, I wish you an informative and prosperous allyship adventure.
Written by Mars Marson
With the support of Jae-Young Park
Edited by Liana Huynh
Mars Marson is an animator and illustrator who moonlights as a bobarista. They live and work in NYC with their partner and trained rabbit.
Liana Huynh is happy to be here.
The Genderbread Person
Gender Inclusive Language
Kumu Hina (2014)
Paris is Burning (1990)
“Speak No Evil” by Uzodinma Iweala
“Love is the Higher Law” by David Levithan
“If You See Me Don’t Say Hi” by Neel Patel
“The Twilight of Equality?” by Lisa Duggan
“Gaga Feminism” by J. Jack Halberstam
“Cruising Utopia” by Jose Muno