Firstly, a caveat, I am not your average 53-year-old transwoman and lots of my thoughts and ideas do not represent my trans brothers and sisters. So, take all of this with a pinch of salt and if you find it ‘off message’ maybe read it again on International Transgender Day of Visibility, and all year round.
I used to be a boy, but I’m alright now. I lived for 44 years as a man and now nine years as a transwoman. Since my transition, I have lost multimillion-dollar consulting projects “because nobody takes you seriously anymore” to quote a big global client.
I’ve been physically attacked twice, which is twice more than when I was male. I’ve been sexually attacked once that involved NYPD special victims’ unit and groped by men in public more times than I can count, and one woman. I’ve lost friends, didn’t speak to a close relative for two years, had employees leave because “your risking our livelihood with your fetish” and generally made my life significantly harder than it was before.
However, I wouldn’t change a single day of my life. I’m happier, fitter, and 26kgs lighter and definitely prettier than I was before, I dare you to say not! So, here are some thoughts for you on the day we’d like you to think about us:
What do you need to know?
- Trans is a minority at 0.03% of the population (1 in 350)
- Trans is broad and can encompass transgender, transsexual, non-binary, gender fluid etc
- Most of us do not identify as trans, we don’t want to be visible
- Visible trans are more at risk than stealth trans
- Transwomen are 10x more likely to be attacked both by partners and strangers on the street than cis-women. (cis = ‘non trans’)
- Transpeople are 10x more likely to commit suicide than the general population
- 80% of trans teenagers that are bullied for being trans, attempt suicide
In summary, we are more at risk of attack and more vulnerable than you are and generally experience derision, hate and are frequently fetishised and bullied.
Some thoughts of mine for you:
- How you treat us is a reflection on society and you, not us
- Show your support, but please don’t out us
- Stating your pronoun preference is a positive affirmation of the fact that mine have changed, so thank you to all cis-gendered people who have added them to their emails; makes me weep
- People close to us need support too, maybe even more, partners, kids, family, work colleagues all struggle sometimes more than us
- It’s really hard for people who knew us pre-transition but much easier for those who met us post. So if you have a friend who has transitioned, and you now don’t speak….then pick up the phone and use the right pronouns
- I am not one of the “guys” even if you think that’s not gendered
Things I have been asked, that you probably shouldn’t ask anyone, ever:
- Are you trans?
- Do you like men or women?
- Do you still have your penis?
- What underwear do you prefer?
- Do you like stockings?
- Do you know ‘Bob’ they are trans too?
- Which toilets do you use?
Or my personal favourite, “sorry, you say you’re trans, can I ask use male to female or female to male?” which honestly deserves some condemnation.
As a comic, I have a funny response to all of these, mostly not printable but generally along the lines of “it is better to be silent and thought a fool than to ask a transwoman a question and remove all doubt.”
- If you are a 40+ HR executive your view of trans is not the same as 20+ applicants. For you it may be novel and unusual, but all your applicants know a transperson and will judge your organisation on how it treats us
- Non-binary transpeople are the touch point, if they say they prefer non gendered pronouns, they mean it
- Non gendered job descriptions and communications are essential. Dear Sir is so inappropriate
- How you treat trans is a litmus test for what you organisationally think about gender, if you want to address the gender balance, pay close attention to us as a group
Tips for engaging with a trans person
- Ignore the fact we are trans
Transition is a hard-scary time for us, lots to learn and relearn, even simple things like taking a pee are not simple anymore but once we’ve settled into our target gender the battle scars tend to make us pretty self-confident and self-aware. So, most of us have a good sense of humour, right up until you ask one of those stupid questions.
Nicci Take is Chairwoman of m62|vincis, a pitch consultants company, which has been a Mercer supplier for over 10 years.