“What does it take just for us to get into the room?”
A lot of the offerings from the session titled “Action Steps Toward Intersectional Trans Equity” were what you’d expect. Some lessons in vocabulary. An intro to the trans performing arts scene (or at least a small portion of it) and some serious and concrete recommendations for welcoming trans artists and others into your non-trans world.
All of that good advice remains radical material to many in the world outside of GIA, but there was nothing shocking or hard to consume for folks privileged to live in the arts/funding/philanthropic/woke world.
The compelling part came in panelist Sean Dorsey’s explanation of the real-life difficulties trans performers can face when doing their work. It was thoughtful, experiential, personal and useful to everyone.
“What does it take just for us to get into the room?,” Dorsey asked.
In this case, he meant what are the challenges faced by trans performers, consultants, perspective employees and others when traveling out of town for a meeting, a show or a job interview.
They can start the minute trans people leave their house in a taxi:
“Often folks are misgendered for the whole journey to the airport,” he said. “My experience of that is just stomach-turning, drop into the pit of my body, and shame and stuff coming up and getting disembodied and having a horrible rest of my day.”
Then there’s the airport:
“You’re dealing with identification,” Dorsey said. “The stuff that’s on your I.D., the gender markers or names, may not match who you are.”
Then, there’s a stop at TSA where people are sorted and scanned through a traditional gender lens, and where a nontraditional traveler may be subject to physical examinations that can call out “things or parts that shouldn’t be there.”
On the airplane: “Again, you can be misgendered or have a lot of people staring at you.”
Then at the hotel: More questions, more gender evaluations when a person hands over credit cards or identification.
“And that’s all happened before you can even get to your job,” said Dorsey.
The bottom line is that trans people can have different needs, and they go beyond the need for gender-neutral bathrooms.
Safety is a major concern, and that means monitoring both physical and mental well-being. “What if a trans person has to encounter medical assistance, which is a nightmare for many of us?”
His bottom line advice: Be aware, be sensitive, be sincere. Plan ahead.
“I Invite you to talk to trans people in your community about these things.”