Last night and Monday night I went to two local colleges for what we call an “Outreach”. Monday night it was a part of the Stonewall Speakers and I was on a panel where we told our personal stories and answered questions from the class. Last night it was for a class that was researching a new dormitory policy for trans-students at a local Catholic women’s college, they want an open and affirming policy. Both classes were for students who are working for their bachelor in Social Work.
When we tell our stories, we bring the abstract to a personal level. We create allies who will speak up for us and also it is a lot harder to hate when you know the person, People can speak for us, but they cannot do it on a personal level, how can they explain what it is like to be discriminated. They cannot say what it felt like to be made fun of a fast food store. They can’t say what it was like to get fired from a job, they can only read statistics.
I have a problem when a non- trans person who knows nothing about being trans speakers for us. In the Huffington Post, Rebecca Juro wrote about that and said,
The first concern is also the most obvious. Given that Chaz Bono is a female-to-male transsexual man, one has to wonder why Ed Schultz invited a gay man and not an actual transgender person to appear on his show to speak on the topic. It's kind of like hosting a discussion on issues faced by African Americans with a white person presented as an expert, and makes just about as much sense.I agree. When I go out and give an outreach, I always say that I am speaking about myself and my experiences. A non-trans person can only talk about second hand experiences or worst just what they have read about. She goes on to write,
Those who saw the segment and took it as accurate and representative of the reality of transgender lives would likely be led to believe that all transgender people are gay, that being transgender is just another form of homosexuality. The problem is that they would also be completely wrong.That is the biggest misconception that I face when I do outreach, they all are surprised when I say I’m attracted women. It is something that takes time to explain that I am attracted to women as a woman.
I know many non-trans people who can do training about gender variant people, but still I believe that the very best outreach or training should have a trans-person do that training. It is like Rebecca Juro said “It's kind of like hosting a discussion on issues faced by African Americans with a white person presented as an expert, and makes just about as much sense.” Personal stories are the best teaching method, they have the greatest impact. The doctors refuse to treat me… I was thrown out of the restaurant… I was fired… Instead of 47% of trans-people are discriminate against in hospitals.
I know public speaking is not for everyone and I not saying we should all go out and speak. What I am saying is let us speak for ourselves. We can give the best answers to the questions that are asked.