Sunday, 23 November 2014

Challenge Trans Phobia!

"Hello, my name is Gloria.  What pronoun are you?"  I am at a clothing swap in support of a student lead campaign to promote awareness of trans gender issues.  As a writer I am keenly aware of how words betray our values but I can only imagine the grief that pronouns cause those individuals struggling with a gender obsessed society.  Frankly, I welcome alternatives to the black and white, binary coding of male and female.  I am particularly fond of the term "gender fluid" which to me seems so much more accurate at describing the rich shadowing of real life.  The directness I am encouraged to use at the clothing swap is downright refreshing. It is a relief to those of us who want to show support and respect.  I find myself monitoring my own language use and cringe at the regularity of my own gender default setting.  If I'm any indication, changing society's habits, even among the well intentioned is going to be difficult.

I applaud the Trans Needs Committee at Memorial University for the clothing swap.  It was a supportive environment to score some clothing (no questioning looks from sales staff), share perspectives and in my case learn.  It was the right blend of activism and education.  It appealed to my sense of community building and politics of inclusion. The beauty of events like the clothing swap is that unlike protests and rallies, this is a relaxed happening that encourages discussion. 

Trans Pride Flag

During the week there were more politically focused events but they were not adversarial in nature.  There was a signing of a charter of rights at City Hall in St. John's and the pink, blue and white flag was flown in recognition of the annual week of celebration and education of the lives of the trans community, which occurs usually around November 20th.

The wrap up for the week was a full night of entertainment followed by a social at the Rocket Room.  Under the stage name of Ritual Frames, Daze (pronounced Daisy) Jefferies, mesmerized the audience with her particular brand of experimental, electronic music.  It was environment-rich, evocative and told her very personal story of maturing from a boy in rural Newfoundland to a transgender woman in love, loss and acceptance.  I have followed electronic music for decades and I wager Daze is a talent to watch and eagerly look forward to her forthcoming album Diaspora Tale, which will be released in 2015.

The evening also featured Dash and Noelle in their scintillating light and lasers show and the premiere of the Trans Awareness Documentary "Fighting the Cistem: Trans Narratives" produced by Memorial University's Social Work Faculty. The short film was a disarmingly unadorned series of interviews with local trans youth and leaders talking about the challenges of dealing with family, the medical system, education and workplace.  Sadly, the trans community is no stranger to discrimination and violence inside and outside the home.  We all need to keep in mind that beneath a bewildering and evolving list of labels is a beating, human heart.

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