The Toe Rule for Allies

I’ve been working on trans issues as a non-trans person for long, long time, and there’s really one rule that I find the most useful. Not that I’ve always managed it, but still.

Here’s the deal: when you step on someone’s toe and they say “OW, damn, you stepped on my toe!”, your response is not:

“Why was your toe there?”

“I hardly stepped on it!”

“But I didn’t mean to!”

or even

“Why are you using that tone with me?”

No, when you step on someone’s toe you say “I’m sorry.”

So when you’re called out for being a dick in whatever way – and believe me, I’ve been called out a gazillion times – you check with the toe rule. If you’re responding initially with anything but “I’m sorry, what did I do?” then you’re not responding right.

That doesn’t mean the charge is always just. It doesn’t mean you meant to step on that person’s toe, or that you did it maliciously, or that you make a habit of stepping on people’s toes. You just did, and it’s better to say sorry and sort out the rest later.

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