The theme this year is Together: Resisting, Supporting, Healing – a powerful theme with great ambitions, that in this time of beginning to recover from covid-19 the international community needs to come together to tackle discrimination and abuse. Events on days like today draw attention to the individual actions organisations are taking to counteract existing prejudices, to address internal cultures where staff go back into the closet or fear to transition. Hosting an event might not change the whole culture today but it does show that you are committed to making this space safe, right here and right now and the more people who come into that safe space the more people who learn that they too can take small, and big, actions to make more space safe.
Chrysalis creates safe spaces. With a mission to provide world class support to trans, non-binary and questioning people across England and Wales and a vision of a world where everyone is free to be their authentic self we live and breath the concept of safe, inclusive, supportive, respectful spaces and nowhere was this more evident than at our board meeting on Thursday night. The Chrysalis board is a healthy mixture of people with lived experience of the impacts of gender diversity and those with the power and passion to effect change. As our charity has developed we have gathered up an incredible mix of allies at all levels. Our volunteers are a truly impressive bunch with a vast array of knowledge and experience and our board a fine example of this.
Quite often when people ask to get involved with Chrysalis they ask me what I want them to do, they want me to tell them that a specific action or task will be their opportunity to change the world, but that’s not true. Change takes time, inspiration and most importantly passion. For the board to truly empower change they needed to be able to see how their individual skills, knowledge and experience could really make a difference. Chrysalis empowers people to make healthy, informed decisions, we don’t want anyone to rush into something without all the information and through the creation of safe spaces we most importantly give people the opportunity to listen to other’s experiences.
Last week St Peter’s Andrology centre lost the NHS contract, leaving all UK transmasculine people high and dry, with no idea of when, or if, they would ever be able to access surgery, or if ongoing treatments would be continued. Transmasc people, until very recently, were the unspoken, invisible, trans people. When I started my own discovery back in 2010 I could find very few writers, very little data and I was on the inside, for those on the outside it is hardly surprising that you did not know much at all. Transphobia takes many forms and one of those is that very lack of knowledge, the lack of information, the silencing of a whole category of people through not giving them their voice.
At our board meeting on Thursday we all found out more about what the loss of that contract meant to transmen, to all transmasc people who are hoping for medical transition, last week we found out that for transmasc people a transition of 15 years is not even the maximum. Last week we found out that for the men who have been caught in the middle of this administration mess their time to receive treatments that are essential to their wellbeing could have been put back by 4 years.
That this information was shared within our safe, supportive, space meant that those affected were supported and also that those who could take action have now been empowered to do so. For every transmasc person out there, and for all those who love, respect and support you, I would like to offer you the knowledge that your allies are empowered. Our trustees have seen the impact of lazy transphobia, of the carelessness that comes from not realising the true impact of poor standards of care and they are taking action within the NHS at the highest levels because they can. I get asked so often about case studies, about personal stories, to get our members to tell their stories, but there is no short cut to finding out what pain is really like. You, the listener, need to give some of yourself first. You are the one who creates the safe space for someone to tell you their story, at a time that suits them, and then you, the listener, take action from your position of empathic understanding, within your own realm.
This is what happened in our board meeting on Thursday and the feeling of community, of compassion and of intent to take direct action, has stayed with me all weekend. Giving me more hope that allies are everywhere, and each ally can make more allies. So thank you to Paul Draycott, Jenny Harvey and Andy McMillan our trustees from the NHS your support in the meeting meant the world, and your support and actions speaking with commissioners and other people in the right places will change the world.