Three trans activists walk into a tent… No, but really. This month our founder, Chris, took to the main stage at IdeasFest (which was later graced by Steven Bartlett, we might add) to join a panel discussion, ‘Business has a vital role to play in the fight for trans inclusion’. They were joined by moderator and founder of TransMission PR Aby Hawker (she/her), psychosocial expert at TNBI charity The Clare Project Victoria Oldman (she/her), and fashion designer, influencer, content creator and model Danielle St James (she/her).
Aside from a snapped heel thanks to an arguably inappropriate wardrobe choice (don’t judge us), IdeasFest was a mega day packed with gripping conversations, mind-altering ideas, and more entertainment than your guiltiest Netflix binge. In the spirit of sharing and caring, here’s a run-down of the key insights you need to know…
Setting the scene…
Aby Hawker: Right now, the UK is a pretty toxic place to live if you’re trans or non-binary. In fact, Europe's overarching human rights body, PACE, recently ranked the UK alongside Hungary, Poland, Turkey and (wait for it) Russia in terms of our failure to uphold the rights of LGBT+ people over recent years.
In its report, council members singled out the UK as a country that has given “baseless and concerning credibility” to the rise in anti-trans rhetoric “at the expense of both trans people’s civil liberties and women’s and children’s rights” in the country.
But, there is some good news. It seems the toxic narrative we see if we venture on to Twitter or read the Daily Mail is not reflective of how we as a society feel about trans and non binary people. Research suggests the overwhelming majority are supportive of trans rights. The key challenge, therefore, is how to redress the balance between a very vocal minority seeking to stoke hatred and spread misinformation, and a majority who, while supportive, prefer to stay out of the conversation altogether.
This is where business can play a vital role in the shape of active allyship.
On active allyship…
Chris King: Being an ally means not being silent when an underrepresented or marginalised group is being attacked. It means actively standing alongside that community – not just popping up when it suits you, either to virtue-signal or make a quick buck. Being silent means being complicit to the active hate being targeted at a community.
On why businesses should care…
Aby: In an increasingly activist world, what we stand for and how we choose to act matters to our stakeholders – from customers, to employees, to shareholders and even suppliers. Trans inclusion sends a powerful signal that a brand cares about doing what’s right.
On the fear of getting ‘cancelled’...
Chris: Everyone f*cks up sometimes. But if you’re doing something for the right reasons, or with the best intentions, it’s usually forgivable. Walking around being scared to say anything for fear of getting it wrong only exaberbates the problem, so, if you want to be part of the solution, you need to get over it!
If you want to make sure you’re not doing or saying anything that might offend or alienate a group of people, then you need to include them in the conversation. Whether than means hiring for diversity to make sure your business benefits from lots of different perspectives, hiring (paid) consultants from marginalised groups to advise on strategy and messaging, collaborating with businesses run or staffed by marginalised folk, or simply asking your friends and family who happen to be from an underrepresented group. No one knows how it feels to be in someone else’s shoes – the only way to understand is to ask!
Aby: Like most of us, I get it wrong from time to time. When that happens I do what I’ve been taught by my trans and non-binary colleagues: 1. Acknowledge the mistake; 2. Apologise; 3. Correct yourself; 4. Move on.
Of course, I also mitigate the risk of getting it wrong through continuous learning, listening and, crucially, by bringing in those who know better than I do – those who have first-hand experience of what it means to be gender diverse in the world today.
On practical steps to implement straight away…
Chris: Use gender-neutral language and educate staff on why pronouns and language matter. Look at your recruitment policies and marketing to make sure your business is – and is seen to be – safe by the trans community.
We’re so grateful for the opportunity to join these conversations – and we want to see more of them! Coming home from IdeasFest we felt energised, challenged, and inspired – a whole different post-festival vibe than we’re used to, tbh. See you at IdeasFest 2023?