Trans Representation: The Community

I think a lot about representation of trans identities whether it is in the media, in our own community, or even society. I want to talk about the different sides of this sentence over the next few weeks. I thought the best place to start would be within our own community. I have done a lot of work within the LGBTI community and so I thought I would share my thoughts. These thoughts and impressions are in general, not specific to certain people or organisations.

It always annoys me when LGBTI organisations say they are trans friendly and that they support the trans community when they make as little effort as possible to go about that. They will have minimal trans people as a part of their staff or governing board and when something comes up where the organisation has to speak on trans issues, they will often still ask a cis person to do it. They seem to think it is ok that because they have spoken to trans people they somehow know what it’s like to be trans.

When a trans person has something to say about how something is run and how it isn’t the most inclusive don’t make them feel bad about speaking out. Instead sit down and talk about ways the organisation could do things differently to be more inclusive, work out what the issues are, and make sure that everyone in the organisation is aware that there are issues that they all need to work on. If a trans person says something isn’t inclusive, don’t make it sound like it’s a huge inconvenience to change it. Come up with an action plan and just change it.

Cis people don’t have the right to tell trans people that it’s too much effort to change things or that cis people can speak on behalf of trans people, no matter what the situation is. Trans people are more often than not treated like second class citizens, and an inconvenience to society. When in fact all trans people want is respect and validation that they are a part of this community and that they can be whoever they want. They are never going to get these opportunities if cis people keep speaking up for them.

I’m considered an aggressive person more often than not, particularly because I just stopped sitting quietly and started speaking out. If I see a space where trans youth aren’t being acknowledged I will show up and I will say, “Hey I’m here and I am not leaving quietly.” I might be considered overdramatic, and I might seem like a diva but I just refuse to be ignored and brushed aside. I have 9 years worth of experience, so if I see a problem or an issue I will say something, and I will keep saying something till it is fixed.

#TransWomenInPower  #TransMenInTheKitchen

One day this table will be filled with cis people, and I'll be in charge.
One day this table will be filled with cis people, and I’ll be in charge.

Professional Tokenism

There is one thing in particular I’ve noticed over my years in this community, which I thought I would discuss this week. The views I express are my personal thoughts based on real conversations and meetings I have been apart of; these views don’t represent any organisations I am apart of or have been apart of.

 

Me walking away from tokenising organisations.
Me walking away from tokenising organisations.

 

There’s this fine line between small and big organisations/businesses asking for help and support to make their events more inclusive and safe for LGBTI people. More often than not though those organisations/business just do as little work as possible to make safe spaces for LGBTI young people, instead they use it as a platform to make them look better. So when you call them out they can say, “actually we’re doing this, but thanks everyone.”

They seem to think LGBTI organisations will do all this work for free, but then they expect the LGBTI organisations to pay money to “create a presence” at their event. This is money that these organisations just don’t have, especially for those organisations that are running on volunteer support.

They also think that out of 50 people speaking at their event that only one LGBTI speaker is totally fine, and that they can accurately speak for all the different letters in the acronym. Then when you call people out on this you’re the bad person. The common excuse of, “well there are lots of minorities and we can’t cater for them all” pops up a lot.

Organisations/businesses have this idea that we want the very best treatment for our LGBTI young people and that we are asking them to do some ridiculously crazy things, when actually what we want is young people to feel safe, included, and respected at your events.

One of the worst things is when you’re all ready to go support an organisation/business but the day before you get an email saying “oh actually don’t worry, we have a gay person who can do it instead.”

The face I normally give to people who don't realise how rude they are being.
The face I normally give to people who don’t realise how rude they are being.

Everyone seems to think that it’s acceptable to ask LGBTI organisations to offer their services and time for free. Most times the LGBTI organisations would do something for free because it’s better to support then not to. But really these organisations barely have the funding to have a single staff member, let alone a team of volunteers behind them. The work these LGBTI organisations are doing can quite often be life saving, but everyone just looks over that and says thank for your time, here’s a box of chocolates.

Our voices, knowledge, and experiences are our personal treasures; they are the things we hold closest to us. They can also be some of the hardest things to share with others, but we do it anyway to make sure that young LGBTI people know they aren’t alone, and that there are people who care about them. Organisations/business need to start understanding that and respecting it. It’s not fair to expect these people to open themselves up so everyone can stare and say “well that was very fascinating”.

 

Me using my platform to be inclusive and talk about how that looks.
Me using my platform to be inclusive and talk about how that looks.

 

Choices, and looking after yourself.

In life we have choices to make. Those choices could be anything from what to have for breakfast, to what we want to do with our lives. Over my last nine years being out I have had to make a lot of choices. Some of these choices have been do I want to speak about my journey? Do I want to open myself up to the world?

Last year I was asked to be a part of the team to organise Shift Hui 2015 with InsideOUT. I had been out of high school for a year so I needed to do something to help keep me sane and social. After that I kept volunteering and ultimately joined the InsideOUT board as Treasurer. My main reason for wanting to be Treasurer was that it sounded like something a pirate would have been.

I have been given so many amazing opportunities over the last 18 months thanks to InsideOUT: I’ve had dinner with the US Ambassador, spoken at many conferences, ran workshops, pushed for more trans inclusivity in a variety of spaces, and so many more. I also took on the position of Co-Chair alongside my role as Treasurer earlier this year, and it was a lot of fun trying to bring some level of fun into a space that would normally be seen as professional. I would make sure that my treasurer reports were in pink and there was always good food at the meetings.

InsideOUT has given me the platform to grow and spread my knowledge tentacles to so many parts of society. That’s why stepping down from the board was one of the hardest decisions I have had to make in a very long time. I’m doing so many things for so many different organisations, plus trying to look after myself and make sure I can actually hang out and be social with the amazing people I have met over the last few years.

I’m not leaving with bad blood, I know we will be working together again in the future, it’s about looking after me and focusing my energy on other projects that have been put off for far too long. LIKE THIS BLOG!!!!!

 

Below is a handful of some of my favorite memories with InsideOUT:

Dinner with the US ambassador was highlight.
Dinner with the US ambassador was highlight.
Helping on the radio show, even if I didn't know what i was doing.
Helping on the radio show, even if I didn’t know what I was doing.
Getting the chance to attend lots of fancy events in parliament was always fun.
Getting the chance to attend lots of fancy events in parliament was always fun.
I will always be proud of the "volunteer cult" photo's we would take.
I will always be proud of the “volunteer cult” photo’s we would take.