Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Education

Hello dear reader,

What's this? A midweek post? As Bill, a founder of a yet-to-be utopia once said: "Most unprecedented!" ;-)

Education

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. ;-)

Take care,
Lynn

6 comments:

  1. So sorry, missed this midweek - as you pointed out, I didn't expect it! Unprecedented!

    You are funny and giving up after one moderately successful gig was a shame. Is this gig too.

    The other thing I have to say and not to make you blush is a very sincere thank you. It takes a great deal, in male mode, to stand up, be out and very brave to a group of strangers to do that outreach. And to win them over and garner such positive feedback is not surprising, but just a little fantastic at the same time. I for one, can't thin of anyone I'd rather have telling it how it is on our behalf. You are a gutsy, brave person and if it's not too cheesy to say, I'm proud of you and to know you Lynn.

    Rhi x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks you, Rhi, for the very kind things you said. <3 I'm having the fight the urge to say something to politely humble myself. Is it 'cos I is British? :-)

      Yeah, the comedy thing. I wonder - and yeah, I do this a lot, wonder - if the written medium is more my bag, than standup? I don't say this to be dismissive of what you say. Moreover, with the written word, there's plenty of time to gather my thoughts and style, as it were. Plus, you are choosing (thank you!) to come to read this little blog, so I have a friendly audience.

      May be it's a mix of preparation and knowing the crowd. Here, people were present to learn (so receptive and friendly), I knew my subject (Chams, issues some trans folk face) and, I had notes with my slides, so I didn't disappear into a an improv dead end... well, maybe only once :-)

      Oddly, standing up in front of strangers and doing some organised showing off (there we go, there's that Brit compliment displacement! :-) ) is, more me at least, something that comes fairly easily. That doesn't mean I'm better than others and those who struggle to do the same, will certainly have strengths I don't.

      Perhaps, doing it in male mode makes it easier? I mean, you're not being judged on your appearance. Full time female readers may wish to comment at this point :-) Instead, I'm hoping people are listening to what's being said, rather than wondering how I put an outfit together, or mentally removing the 'wrapping' to see what is look like in bloke mode. But, maybe that's The Fear talking.

      Larks, this is almost a blog post on its own :-) Much as I looked the first go at standup, I think I enjoyed this more. Certainly much more than the 'dying' last time. Besides, i think this type of education gig, is something I could do and would like to do. The cost, or risk, is my privacy, so treading carefully wild be vital.

      Thanks again. L x

      Delete
    2. Gah. Apologies, the last paragraph should've been "much as I loved the first go at standup..."

      Posting a blog comment on a smartphone? I too, like to live dangerously :-D

      Delete
    3. No longer being the high stakes risk taker, I've moved onto my laptop! I completely understand in terms of stand up - and you are very funny in written word and I think you have to do what you feel works best for you. But there are two issues: are you successful in the written form already because that's what you have done more of? And did this time, you create an environment that set you up for success - i.e. it was educational, it was a positive audience, you were one a topic you knew well, you used the room and visual aids to help you into your comfort zone etc etc. I'm a trainer and I know how hard it is on your feet, I'm just always struck by the way you hold people when you are speaking and that you have such a quick wit and a way of finding a punch line or two in the most ordinary of tales. I think you'd be a smash, but you also, have to do what you find right for you. Being an organised show off sounds fun :o).

      The privacy issue was what I thought was bravest about the whole episode tbh. I'm in awe of your willingness to do it without knowing what current or future connections there might be to your world. These days, I guess we can be a little more, 'if they find out, c'est la vie" but that doesn't make it easier. Standing out in that way is such a step forward and the fact that you changed some minds about us makes you my heroine. And is deserving of at least 4 cheers (including the British one for luck)!

      Take care, Rhi x

      Delete
    4. Ah, old school keyboards, rather than those new fangled strokey screen things. Devil's mirrors they are! :-)

      I really don't know what the route is, if I'm honest. I'm quite happy tapping away at this blog and writing out my thoughts, or things that have happened. If folk are amused, that's good. If they're happy to comment and share their stories, that's even better.

      If I park my ego, so to speak and try and look at things logically: do I really want to spend X number of nights, travelling and practising a skill to make strangers laugh*? To me, that seems somewhat intrusive on family life and I think deep down, much as I like a bit of excitement, I'd rather have it from a positive view, rather than the knife edge of 'good or terrible' gigs.

      * One could also ask, why do I spend a Friday evening (occasionally earlier), writing a What Lynn Did Next... piece that's about Yours Truly, for strangers to read and comment on. I don't know: Acceptance? Vanity? Ego? Need? The Want of Belonging? Name your cliché! :-D

      As to the future: I did check with the two organisers that there was no one from my village (and therefore school) before attending. That, and there was a privacy / confidentiality clause, which people agreed to. Not just for me, but because some of the other presenters had things to say, that they probably didn't want bandying around the coffee room, as it were.

      So, maybe a little brave, but more from a practical and aww f**k it, route. Of course, that way, danger lies. Perhaps, when I'm explaining the family, why Dad goes off to be fabulous twice a week, I may not be so glib about the whole situation, but... I'm not sure I'd like to be a caged bird, if you get my drift.

      Lynn
      x

      Delete