5 ways to support your trans friends when they come out.

After director Lilly Wachowski was forced to come out, it's a good time for a refresher course on how to be an ally to your trans friends.

Writer and director Lilly Wachowski — known as co-creator of "The Matrix" series of films, "Jupiter Ascending," and "Sense8" — recently came out publicly as transgender.

For many gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender people, one of the most personal (and sometimes scary) experiences they'll go through is the "coming out" process.

Coming out means telling others of your status as an LGBT person. As society is becoming more accepting of people's sexual orientation and gender identity, coming out is getting easier all the time. Even so, for many, it's still a carefully calculated process that involves planning who, how, and when to tell people in their lives.


It's so great that Lilly came to that realization about herself and started living more authentically. In 2012, her sister Lana also came out as trans. What's not cool about this is the fact that Lilly was forced to out herself, in a letter she chose to share with The Windy City Times, after a reporter from The Daily Mail threatened to do it without her permission.


A self-portrait of Lilly Wachowski, courtesy of Windy City Times.

If someone trusts you with news that they're trans, there are a few key do's and don'ts you should follow — and telling a journalist definitely falls under "don't."

As a transgender person, one of the most common questions I get from strangers is: "My friend or family member recently told me that they're transgender. How can I support them?"

Below are five tips I give people who are thoughtful enough to ask.

1. Let them know they have your support.

If you're asking this question (or taking the time to look up an article on the subject), you're already on the right path. It's important to make sure your friend knows you're in their corner, as they're probably afraid of how others in their lives will react. A simple "If you need anything, I'm here for you" can go a long way.

Director/writer/producer Lana Wachowski attends the premiere of Warner Bros.' "Jupiter Ascending" at TCL Chinese Theatre in 2015. Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images.

2. Respect their identity, name, and pronouns.

Ask questions like "What are your pronouns?" and "How would you like me to refer to you in private and when we're around people who may not know you're transitioning?"

If somebody is just starting to come out to others, odds are that there are still some people who don't know and might still use old names and pronouns. Asking how you should react in those situations will help you avoid outing your friend to others who don't yet know.

Trans man Chaz Bono. Photo by Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images.

3. Educate yourself — don't rely on your friend to educate you.

There are so many great resources on how to understand trans issues. While your friend may be happy to answer those initial personal questions about things like names and pronouns, they might become overwhelmed if you start treating them as a walking encyclopedia of all things trans.

I recommend PFLAG's amazing resource "Our Trans Loved Ones: Questions and Answers for Parents, Families, and Friends of People who are Transgender and Gender Expansive." The 102-page guide is a comprehensive piece of "Trans 101" literature that's bound to answer some of your questions (complete with some more thorough do's and don'ts).

Writer Janet Mock. Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images.

4. Don't gossip about them or "out" them to others.

The only people you should be discussing your friend's gender with are people they've given you explicit permission to do so with. Going behind their back and outing them to someone they may not yet be ready to tell is not only a huge betrayal of their trust, but it could even put them in physical danger.

On top of that, when someone is hearing this news from a secondhand source (that is, you), some of the important details may get lost in translation, which get further garbled if this person tells someone else — it eventually turns into a game of telephone, and no one wants that.

A vigil for slain transgender woman Islan Nettles at Jackie Robinson Park in Harlem in 2013. Nettles was severely beaten after being approached on the street by a group of men and later died of her injuries. Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images.

5. Understand that this is not about you and your feelings.

It's OK to feel confused, and it's OK to not immediately "get it." Those feelings are completely valid, but demanding to know why your friend didn't tell you sooner (they were probably wrestling with this themselves for quite some time) or saying you feel betrayed will only hurt them during an extremely vulnerable time in their life.

Nothing you did "made" your friend trans, and it's probably less that they were hiding something from you and more that they were hiding this reality from themselves.

Laverne Cox at the GLAAD Media Awards in 2015. Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images for GLAAD.

Whether someone is a Hollywood director or a friend from high school, we should all have the right to come out at our own pace and in our own way.

Maybe years from now the aspect that makes this seem like such juicy gossip will fade and trans people won't have to worry about being forcibly outed. Maybe years from now trans people won't need to fear that coming out will be met with job loss, homelessness, or physical harm. Until then, it's important that those of us who care for our trans friends and family members do what we can do show we're there for them.

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On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

Oprah's Social Experiment on Her Audience www.youtube.com

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On September 4, Cadbury released the limited-edition candy bars in supermarkets and for every one sold, the candy giant will donate 30p (37 cents) to Age UK, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for the elderly.

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Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

Take Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, for example, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years, and as a teacher for seven. Entering the profession, she didn't anticipate how much influence a student's home life could affect her classroom, including "students who lived in foster homes" and "lacked parental support."

Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

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"Men as well as women tend to establish the worth of individual women primarily by the way their body looks, research shows. We do not do this when we evaluate men," Naomi Ellemers Ph.D. wrote in Psychology Today.

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