The One With The Transphobia

Last week, over two days I experienced two separate acts of transphobia. It has taken me a while to process this and find the words to write about it. I could ignore it, I could move on and let it be, but I don’t feel that I would be accurately describing life as a trans* person if I ignored the acts of hate or ignorance that become part of our daily lives.

So please bear with me and listen closely.

PART ONE: The one with the cleaner in the toilet

I was asked to go to the Lush Creative Showcase down in London which is AMAZING and such a great opportunity. I was so excited to have been asked to go and represent our shop! I traveled down on my own, had a pajama party by myself in my hotel room with pizza and TV dramas. I got up the following morning and had a minor meltdown getting dressed.
It was set to be over 30 degrees that day and I was in all black, in a binder. I was hot and yucky before I was even out of the hotel room. My trusty chinos that have always felt great clung to my legs and hips in the heat and my top seemed to cling to the outline of my binder. Everything looked wrong, I looked female, I looked bad, I looked wrong.
I packed up and left to walk to the venue hoping some cracking tunes and sunshine would help. My thoughts on the walk were plagued with how would I correct any misgendering, how do I tell my pronouns to every single person I meet, how do I find the energy? I got to the venue, settled in. I found out where my place would be, I began to feel comfortable. Surrounded by the amazing Lush team from all over the world I felt at home and my queerness blended into the background.
I went to the toilet quickly before my shift began, skipping up the stairs and along the corridor and stopping dead at the sight of “men” and “women”. I pondered silently for milliseconds and decided that I would be brave, this is a place of safety, I feel more man, I will use the mens.
I walked in. I saw a cleaner, she looked up. She saw me. She said “further down”, I thought “does she want me to use a different stall?”. I moved forward. She more frantically said “no, further down”. I said “what?”. She told me “the women’s, it’s the next door further down”.
I froze.
I said “I know”.
I walked in.
I peed.
I stood and listened to make sure the bathroom was empty.
I walked out, washed my hands and ran out before I could dry them.

PART TWO: The one with the kids at work. 

We’ve established I work at Lush – the BEST PLACE IN THE WORLD. I feel safe there, I’m out and I know that my colleagues and managers with stand up for me and support me however they can.
This day, the day after the Lush Showcase and Part One of the transphobia debacle, I was working in store. I was having a lovely chat with a customer when three children came over to us. I had spied them earlier giggling and pointing at me while i stood at the door but chose to ignore them. Anyway, they walked up to me and the gang leader (oh ok they’re not a gang but they felt like one…the eldest then?!) said “you look like a boy!!” and they all laughed. I told them “well I kind of am a boy” which they responded to (obviously wanted to upset me) with “err well you look like I girl I mean”. “why do you sound like a girl?” “why do you look like a girl?”. I told them that’s not nice and it’s rude, I thought they understood. They didn’t, they continued with “but are you a boy or a girl? You look like a boy, but you sound like a girl. what ARE you?” All while laughing.
I left the shop floor, went up to the staff room and cried. I don’t often cry, I can remain calm and strong and fight for my space and right to exist. But a week of dysphoria and the incident the previous day had worn me down.

These two things may seem small, and many cis people would shrug them off. But for me, they undermined my very identity. I am a grown up, I know which bathroom I’m using thank you very much, and if I didn’t then the wall of urinals and men in the bathroom would have given it away before you loudly pointed out the women’s were elsewhere. Being laughed at, ridiculed, in a place you feel safe…can you imagine what that feels like?

So why tell you this? Why relive it? Because ignoring it means that the experiences of trans* individuals remain forgotten. Because ignoring it goes some way to condoning it. Because, if we don’t speak up and tell people that what they are doing is wrong, we will never see changes that will accept us.

Transphobia, in any form, is NEVER OK. There is never an excuse. Trans* people are people, with lives and experiences probably way more varied and colourful than yours. So shut the hell up and listen to us, respect us, value us and don’t deny our existence.

 

LJ x

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Allies…It’s Your Burden To Share Too

 

To be a good ally means more than just carrying a flag, walking in a march or changing your profile picture to “we are Orlando”. Movements such as “HeforShe” have highlighted the fact that men need to be feminists and use their male privilege to make changes for the benefit of non-men. In the same way we need non trans* people to use their privilege and platforms to bring about positive changes. It is unfortunately a matter of course that trans* people don’t get the massive media platforms to share their experiences. Trans* parts in films are taken by cis people, most often it seems by cis/het/male actors who already reap the benefits of their privileges. They play these parts, show up for media interviews and yet, still, do not accurately depict or describe the experiences of trans* people. Why? Because they are not good allies.

To be a good ally means sharing the burden of oppression, so how can you do that? Here’s a handy guide!

  1. Educate yourself! This seems so simple but it’s the point so often missed by allies. How can you expect to stand up for your friends and family if you don’t understand their struggles and experiences? It’s not difficult to get yourself educated either, there’s so many accessible resources out there including the ones HERE. The key to educating yourself is to be open and willing to learn, there is no point in asking questions and seeking information if you are not ready to have your opinion changed or see things from another point of view. It can be tough to share the burden of an oppression that you cannot ever understand or experience, so the first step is to read, ask and listen to trans* people’s experiences. This doesn’t mean skim reading a quick article, I mean really read, really delve deep and put yourself in their shoes. I don’t mean ask a question and vacantly nod while they respond; I mean ask and really listen, absorb and experience the pain alongside them.
  2. Share your knowledge. Once you have taken the time and effort to ask questions and learn, your responsibility doesn’t stop there. It is not enough to simply educate yourself and then sit quietly while the oppression and harassment continue. If you truly want to be an ally you must be prepared to share your new found knowledge. As Uncle Ben in Spiderman said “with great power comes great responsibility”. Equally so with great knowledge comes great responsibility, it is now your responsibility to educate those who are ignorant, whether accidentally or wilfully so. Which leads nicely onto the next step…
  3. Stand up for trans* rights. As Desmond Tutu said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice you have chosen the side of the oppressor”. So, if you hear trans*phobia and do nothing, you have chosen to side with the oppressor. If you are told a trans*phobic joke and don’t call that person out, you have chosen the side of oppression. It isn’t good enough to know and silently scorn, you need to be prepared to stand up for your trans* siblings whether they’re there or not. This is your opportunity to put your new found knowledge from Step 2 into action, to share what you’ve learnt and continue educating people. For example, I came out as non-binary to my work colleagues and have taken time to answer their questions and educate them (as well as pointing them in the direction of resources to find out more themselves). Because of this, one of my managers was able to have a conversation about non binary and trans* identities and the customer left correctly gendering me and using the right pronouns and having learnt something. So the cycle continues and that customer can go and inform people who ask about non binary and gender neutral pronouns.
  4. Finally, this is not a finite “3 steps to success”, I’m sorry if you thought it was so simple. Unfortunately, or fortunately, things change; terminology updates, protocols and laws change. It’s imperative to keep up to date and that involves continually educating yourself and checking in with the trans* community. It means finding out what it is that is oppressing them, their erasure in LGBT* spaces? Their erasure in the media? Their misrepresentation in the media? (Think The Danish Girl etc..).

 

So there it is, how to be a good ally in 4 simple steps, that can be condensed into 4 words. Learn, Love, Educate, Repeat.

 

 

 

 

***DISCLAIMER: I am aware some cis/het/male actors are good allies. Some trans* parts are played by trans* people. This is, in my opinion, the minority.

Gender Neutral Language

Have you ever thought about how gendered your daily life and language is? From choosing shower gel to greeting customers our lives are crammed full of binary gender and it can make those of us who identify outside of this binary extremely uncomfortable. Here are some ideas of how you can de-gender your language!

When greeting groups/customers:

  • Hey folks!
  • Hi everyone!
  • Hello there!
  • Can you help our lovely customer please?
  • Our client needs “x” can you help?

For a group of people you know better:

  • Hey cats!
  • Hi team

In paper work 

  • You can often just eliminate any pronouns all together, by simply changing from third to second person you can eliminate gender for example:
    The client is responsible for his / her ….
    You, the client, are responsible for your own….
  • You can use a different pronoun such as: the student, child, customer, attendant….

 

Can you think of more? how do you try to eliminate gender from your language?