As part of Trans Awarenes Week 2020 TSSA Member Cathy has shared her personal story about being a Trans Ally. My name is Cathy, and I’d like to share a personal story with you about how I’ve been able to be an Ally in my personal life and how I believe I’ve been able to translate that experience into being a better Ally at work.
I am the proud parent of a trans child!
In the early 90’s I gave birth to a boy and a girl, and more recently, I’ve ended up being a mum to 2 boys who are now 28 & 26. I’ve been on very different journeys with each of them but have ended up being very proud of them in very different ways. About eight years ago Heather, my younger child with whom I’d had always had a fractious relationship, informed me that they identified as male and that their preferred pronouns were now going to be he/him and that he was changing his name to Harry.
I can tell you it’s not easy being the parent - or any close relative - of someone transitioning. I went through the whole range of emotions from “ yeah right, it’s a rebellion” to “Nah this is just a fad”, to “OK I’d better take this seriously”, right up to “Harry, would you please do me the honour of giving me away at my wedding ?” (yes, really). In the early transitioning years I even went through thoughts and feelings of “what have I done wrong as a parent?” and then the whole grieving process kicked in at some point because I was having to come to terms with losing my daughter. That was the most challenging part for me, but I DID come to terms with it.
How? easy - by telling myself that no matter what my thoughts and feelings were, my child, needed my help, love and support, and therefore that was exactly what they were going to get. I didn’t need actually to understand any of it. I’d never heard the term “gender dysphoria” – indeed hardly anyone had heard of it back then.
The transitioning years went by, and I watched him develop, grow, and flourish as a man. I witnessed his highs and lows and his struggles and victories. I’ve seen him bullied, physically attacked and be vilified and discriminated against in several work and social settings. Still, I’ve watched him rise above it all. I’ve often wondered what it must feel like to be in a hostile and toxic work environment and I’ve had to give amateur HR advice on many more occasions than I would have liked. I’ve stood up for him, I’ve called people out on their behaviour (sometimes within our own family), I’ve educated myself on Trans matters, and I’ve generally championed his cause. In short, and quite simply, I needed to be brave and stand up for someone I care about.
Why? Not only is he my awesome son, but he is also a thinking, feeling, intelligent, self-aware human being with an amazing set of values which contributes to our society in some pretty unique and spectacular ways.
I cannot help but wonder how he must have felt being marginalised, targeted, ridiculed, and bullied in the way he has been by the organisations he has worked for. All I can say is thank goodness I am fortunate enough to work for a progressive employer. Let’s face it, in modern corporate life; you’d have had to be living under a rock if you didn’t realise that a diverse team is a stronger team as we all bring something to the table. I know I can make a difference, and I am 100% committed to doing just that both inside and outside work.
It’s been a journey – one I’m still on - and I’m extremely proud to be a part of it.
(and by the way, Harry is a little bit proud of me too)
I hope from reading my story it encourages everyone to:
· Take action to support under-represented groups
· Learn appropriate terminology and language
· Identify themselves as an ally wherever possible
· Commit to learning more about the various networks