It was a very novel and exciting evening for HACP as we ventured into the world of Zoom training. As an organisation, we have been keen to trial this method and our recent circumstances pushed our agenda forward rather swiftly.
It feels important to review the method of delivery of training as well as reviewing the wonderful presentation too.
Chai Joel very kindly and bravely agreed to switch in person training to Zoom, in light of our current health situation. It was their first experience and it was very well done. We had a mix of power-point views, video views and for a brief time a ‘break out room’ discussed below. It felt considerably interactive, given we weren’t in the same room.
Our evening talks coordinator Graham, oversaw the proceedings and supported Chai Joel throughout the process [thank you Graham for a truly wonderful job].
Chai Joel first invited us prior to starting our zoom meeting, to add which pronoun we all would like to be used, when being addressed [she, he, they, them]. As the training began it became very clear why this was deemed so important. Chai Joel identifies as non-binary (not identifying as either male or female) and therefore using they instead of she/he is a more respectful way of interacting.
This act of ‘simply asking’ how one likes to be referred to, immediately opens up the conversation to gender identity. Gender fluidity as the word suggests, means how one identifies can be a fluid process and can ebb/flow/change, depending on many factors. Allowing a client (or any person) the space for this to be discussed is respectful and can greatly improve the mental wellbeing for transgender people.
Chai Joel shared some videos with some young people explaining the above concept and how it’s disrespectful and distressing for a trans if a person knowingly refuses to use the correct gender pronoun.
The next day I came across a video when a transgender woman explains how one knows about their identity. It was explained in comparison to when as a person you learn to pick up a piece of cutlery or a pencil and decide ‘which hand feels right’. If it’s not ‘right’ then you feel like it’s not working for you. It’s that simple – if feels ‘wrong’. [you switch hands if it’s a pencil etc]
Identifying with a gender that you weren’t assigned at birth is very common. How this presents differs for every individual and there are many ways. Some examples in which a person identifies can include (but not limited to)
- Assigned female at birth – identifies as (straight/gay) male
- Assigned male at birth – identifies as (straight/gay) female
- Assigned either gender at birth – but doesn’t identify as any specific gender (non-binary – neither male or female)
- Assigned either gender at birth – identifies across the spectrum of gender at different times in their existence – gender fluid.
Cis-gender is the term used to describe the gender which one connects with and to on a soul level.
Hopefully this gives some clearer idea why limiting pronouns to she/he is not fitting for the majority of transgender people. The use of they/them is crucial and needs to be adapted into everyday language.
Chai Joel shared with us The Gender Unicorn – this idea/illustration invited us to get in touch with ourselves and how we identify on the following levels.
- Gender Identity
- Gender Expression
- Sex assigned at birth
- Physically attracted to
- Emotionally attracted to
I suspect that this was a very new concept for many/most of us, as so often our gender is assigned at birth and family/media/society dictates ‘the norms’ thereafter. It was a very interesting exercise to do.
(you can look up www.transstudent.org/gender for more details)
It was evident to all that we did have a few stumbling blocks when it came to sharing screens for video (this was later rectified) and screen sharing for case studies, but given this was a first for all involved, the overwhelming feeling and feedback, was one of great success.
So if we extrapolate day to day living from all the ideas/descriptions above, it becomes very easy to envisage the challenges in accessing services, employment opportunities and so much more. There are very practical elements such as use of bathroom facilities and even further such as obtaining identification if a transgender person has transitioned in the physical. If they identify in a fluid way, there is most often no option for identifying as nonbinary or transgender. There will occasionally be an option for ‘other’ but as Chai Joel explains that doesn’t feel inclusive or correct. They refuse to be defined as ‘other’.
The language around transgender identification is lacking in most of our systems.
Chai Joel explored the idea of intersectionality. This is a great concept and a new one for many attending the training. It is to do with the heightened risk or severity of a person’s vulnerability, when they fall into two or 3 (or more) categories in society when they are deemed to experience more bias/discrimation.
Typical examples of groups where this happens are
- Gender (females are more likely to experience bias/discrimination)
- Sexual identity (transgender and non binary people are more likely to experience bias)
- Culture/religious (BAME/certain religious groups are more likely to experience bias)
What this in effect means, a person who fits into 2 or more categories are likely to have complexities resulting from – the challenge of ‘difference’ itself and the lack of acceptance by one’s family/society/religious group – the more of this challenges ‘intersect’ the greater the risk for the person involved.
Within the transgender community there exists the possibility of a subset of this intersectionality from Gender assigned (male/female), Sex (sexual activitiy) and Sex orientation (which gender).
Understanding the existence of these is key to allowing our clients the opportunity to be heard, understood and explore their place and existence in our world.
We did a small group session where participants were randomly selected by the computer to group off and just have 3 of you on your screen for about 10 minutes. Many really enjoyed this and some would have preferred to opt out (this is actually possible to turn off camera and microphone for that time).
Our session of training felt like a snippet of what is an intriguing and complex area that warrants future attainment of knowledge and training.
Some people felt they wanted more information, including being advised ‘what to do’ rather than a ‘what not to do’ e.g. if one has a family member transitioning or identifying as non binary and the effect of ‘loss of [birth gender identity] child (son/daughter). I suspect that itself could be a whole other training session.
Some members asked if training via Zoom would be possible in the future as they enjoyed the luxury of doing from home. As a committee, this is being discussed. For now we believe meetings will ‘rezoom’ face to face when we can. Some zoom trainings will happen when a) a speaker lives far away or b) speaker/weather/health scenarios impede face to face training.
Thank you to all those who joined us on our first adventure into the world of online training.