What's this? A midweek post? As Bill, a founder of a yet-to-be utopia once said: "Most unprecedented!" ;-)
A few months ago, an email popped into the Chameleons inbox, from a local legal group. They were having a few guest speakers as part of an equality event around IDAHOT, the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. Although they'd got a few volunteers to talk about various subjects, they didn't have anyone from the trans community.
I quizzed them a little about what they wanted around a talk, who the audience would be and could my privacy be guaranteed? With all the right answers and an agreement with a long lunch, from work, it was all systems go. I remembered Tracey's story about a presentation, and how she'd deliberately done it in bloke mode. I think it helps break the mould and challenge some pre-existing ideas.
How did it go? Well, the room was rather warm and rather packed. I wasn't expecting quite so many people there. You can imagine how that helped by nerves! ;-) Luckily, the previous speaker had over-run a little, so I had time to read through my presentation notes, with half an ear to what was going on in the room.
Like the comedy gig all those years ago, it wasn't long before I was lost in the other person's words, only to hear "...and Richard Jones is here to speak to us today...". Ah, that would be my queue.
I had eight slides and I'm conscious of that old adage: no good presentation starts with PowerPoint :-) I like to keep things moving and try not to 'info-bomb' people, with too much on a slide. But, it's an means to an end. I may be able to spin a tale or keep an audience interested, but I'm not quite brave enough to show four photos and talk for five minutes about the subject. Besides, this is an education gig, so some on-screen notes are required. I do try not to read out anything that's on screen, because I know that bugs me, when I'm on the receiving end.
We talked about the tea & coffee binary and can you guess who drinks what, by looking at them?
There were some notes about Chameleon Group being 35 years old soon ("In five years, we'll have our mid-life crisis and will probably go respectable. Something mainstream, like accountancy." It was funnier at the time, trust me :-) ).
Who tends to come to our group: not just part timers, but those who wish to transition, including the young and the young at heart.
Some of the lingo trans people use and I mentioned some of the things we have to deal with.
The lack of legal cover for part-timers who aren't going to transition, to the social issues (such as a trans friend - remaining nameless - who was touched up by a dodgy bloke in a pub. The landlady stepped in and kicked ass, BTW).
|No, I don't know who Don is, either ;-)|
I did try to get across that for some, the dressing up thing, is a sexy thing. If that's their bag, so to speak, that's up to them. That doesn't mean it's true for the rest of us and it's one of the things we have to put up with, is the idea "we're up for it", which I did call out on. I noticed a few nods from the ladies in the audience; clearly some men have got to learn that no means just that.
I did touch on the idea that being trans isn't something you chose: you just are. I also mentioned that it takes a long time for some of us, to come to an understanding about who we are and how we fit into the world. It, being trans, isn't something you can truly switch off, at least, that's true for me and the people I've spoken to. Maybe some folk have managed it, but if they do, they're not around to talk to and many, who you think have vanished, often resurface a few months, or years later.
The bit I missed, and I'm kicking myself a little over this: is our requirement to be ourselves. Some of us can't live in just one gender. We need to be able to pick and when we can't, that's when the trouble can start. I did, however, try to make things informative, occasionally amusing, to make it stand against the heavier things I had to say. It's certainly not all doom and gloom, but some things, could be a lot better.... which is where the legal folk come in! :-) Change minds, change processes and change culture.
With the presentation done, it was time for a quick Q&A. A lady asked me about discrimination in the workplace, while another gent asked me if trans people would ever be completely out. It was a similar question raised to the lesbian lady, who preceded me. As a straight guy looking into gay culture, I think we've come on a long way as a society. I know things aren't perfect, but things seem better, at least from my limited view from the outside.
If I let my trans side through, I can completely see how people may decide - for whatever reason - that they don't want to be out. I get that and it would be wrong of me, as someone who is also, not out, to disrespect their choices. I think, that because many of us trans folk like our privacy, our visibility is less than it might be. I don't say that lightly, or negatively: to be out takes courage. Not just for you, but for your loved ones too.
A little later on, one of the organisers was kind enough to email me and she had this to say:
A colleague has just told me he "...really enjoyed the presentation immensely, it was informative, well considered, funny, engaging and gave him insight where he had little prior knowledge." This has been a really positive experience and has helped me and others to be able to open a dialogue in relation to Diversity and Inclusion. Thanks once again for sharing your experiences for being so honest and making us all laugh so much. You were amazing
All in all, a very positive experience and one I thoroughly enjoyed. Education and some light comedy? That's so me, darhlink. ;-)