The more important the message the harder it is to write, the more work I need to put into preparation and today’s message is definitely one of those for today is International Women’s Day. As leader of a trans+ support charity I am grateful to be invited to participate in the Mayor of Southampton’s event tonight, taking my place at the virtual table with local women who have achieved success and made a real difference to the city. I am proud to be a citizen of Southampton and it warms me to see that my inclusion is because of my work supporting trans and non-binary people, a way to include trans+ people in the conversation.
And so the message I give at that event tonight, the central message of this blog needs to be clear, it needs to be concise (I’ve only got four minutes after all) and how to convey the conflicting feelings that arise in me onthis day, this inclusion? Should I look for balance or should I look to challenge? And where is my challenge directed? For this year I choose to challenge myself, more than any other, because it is only through challenging my own assumptions that I can change, and if I can change me perhaps I can influence change in others.
And so I look inside at the resistance, what is it that I’m resisting? I’m resisting the impression of a binary, of a state of them or us, and I’m recognising my place as a bridge between. The tension of being a place of joining, of compromise, of meeting and acceptance. As someone who is non-binary I know the damaging power of adherence to a binary, of attempting to conform or of only existing in opposition to. Of knowing that if one isn’t that then surely the only other option is to be that.
These last few years have shown us all the damaging power of the binary, of the promotion of polarisation, of the use of words and power to create clear camps of us, and them (it helps if you curl your nose in disgust as you utter “them” in your mind). The power of words to create fear. The power of words to remember deeds done by a person and apply those deeds as stereotypes to a whole class of people. We have watched and tried to stem the tide as people became more tribal, the zones of opposition drawn more clearly. And I have watched, my, myself. I have checked in with myself when I’ve felt pushed to the edge, when I have wanted to respond harshly to someone, when I have seen that a view is so profoundly wrong that it must be corrected and then I have looked at the part in me that really doesn’t like conflict.
And so my call to action, my choice of challenge, the message I want to convey is to break down the binary, to consciously move towards a place where we are people first, with aspects that make us unique, different, incredible and of such varied experience and knowledge. A place where gender identity takes its place as just 5% of who we are, sure there will always be times when that gender identity is the most important part of our life but for the vast majority of our time we should be free to focus on the other aspects of ourselves. Those aspects that drive us into careers as carers, as astrophysicists, as musicians and lighting techs. Those aspects that make us excellent parents or teachers. Faith leaders and caretakers, philosophers and reddit commentators. I challenge you to see equality as a space where everyone is invited in, because there is room for everyone at the table, because the space around the table recognises that some people will need chairs and yet others bring theirs with them, that some might need a cushion to sit on and others would prefer to stand. The table has space for peacocks and mermaids and all the splendor and pomp that humans love, but how you dress is not conditional on your acceptance at the table. In embracing gender neutrality you take the challenge to the next level, making space for everyone because no one is excluded.
International Women’s Day