While it's easy to call yourself an ally if you believe in supporting marginalized communities, one man says being a true "trans ally" requires a dose of humility.

Artist Samson Brown, who is a trans man, said it's a constant process of learning and unlearning what a lot of people have been taught their whole lives. 

Brown, the director of trans experience at Toni Marlow — a clothing company that designs underwear for trans people—is leading a workshop about trans issues Thursday night at the Centre for Social Innovation in Regent Park.

"You have to be be willing to open yourself up to being checked on things you did not know and honouring that you are going to make mistakes," he said on CBC's Metro Morning. 

'You can't be a constructive ally unless you first come to them from a place of love.' - Samson Brown

Brown says there is a danger in calling one's self an ally but not really understanding what that means. 

"Often allies are not part of that community," he said.

"What winds up happening is they can at times step over the voices of the people who are actually in that community." He says people who don't have first-hand knowledge of being transgender run the risk of offending or even outing people. 

"They can sometimes put people in an unsafe space," he said.

Call in, don't call out

Brown will use his own experience of navigating through life as a trans man at Thursday night's workshop. Specifically, he'll talk about his idea that "calling in" can help people avoid calling others out. He uses his father, who asks questions before introducing Brown to someone for the first time, as an example. 


In his work with clothing company Toni Marlow, known for making underwear for trans people, Brown runs workshops to generate conversations about the trans experience. (Paul Ohonsi)

"He'll let me know, 'Hey, so there's this person, this is the type of personality that they have and I don't know how to best introduce you.'" Brown explained how his father then asks him how they can "educate" that person and avoid being shamed, outed or insulted.  

"For me, having my dad ask me these questions ...  lets me know he values my experience." He says just being a friend who listens can go a long way. 

"You can't be a constructive ally unless you first come to them from a place of love."