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Was that really 6 months ago?! My God!

Was that six months ago? My last post? Yes… a little more than six months ago I wrote a Facebook post that became a blog post. A sort of self-affirming, goal-refreshing and mission-setting piece, that you can read here. In that post I set out my revised goals/mission for both myself and for Express YOUR Gender, in light of my recent graduation from the Social Entrepreneurs Elevator Award Programme. When I started xYg, my mission was to make Speech & Language Therapy (SLT) services accessible to transgender people in Ireland. I thought at the time that all I needed was a steady income, not funded by the service user but through some other revenue stream, and I would be able to work full time giving free SLT to anyone who needed it. Lovely. But not sustainable, personally, economically or socially. I still want to make SLT accessible for the trans community, that is still my mission, but not by delivering all the services myself. I LOVE my work, but I also have other goals for myself, other professional interests. No. Instead, I want to make sure that all the SLTs in Ireland (as many as possible, but let’s shoot for the stars and say ALL of them), are empowered provide services to trans service users. Wouldn’t that be some legacy? And talk about sustainable impact! So that’s the plan. Well that and a few other things…
This was what I narrowed it down to in October last year: 
1. Reach more clients, either 1:1 or in groups, for speech & language therapy. transgender clients, and general voice clients (more on this to come…)
2. Reach out to speech & language therapists and empower them to provide this service to trans clients, through training, mentoring, and resources (more on this to come…)
3. Deepen my practice, through study, personal development and travel (india is calling me, more on this to come…)

And where am I now? 

1. I try not to think about numbers too much (small numbers make me feel like I’m not having enough impact) but I have worked with about 15 new clients since October, through 1:1 therapy and a confident voices group, co-facilitated by the talented speechie, Sinead Waldron. 15 lives I’ve been a little bit a part of, and which have been a part of mine too. My approach to this work continues to evolve as my understanding of gender and identity becomes more and more nuanced, and I know that this learning journey will be lifelong. I hope to be offering the Confident Voices group programmes again this Autumn. I am currently pressing pause on my trans voice clinic until September, so that I can write my Master’s thesis and focus on completing that. Mental energy is at a premium these days. I have never actively taken a break from therapy work so this feels very mindful and self-care-ish. This Saturday will be my last clinic day at Insight Matters until September. Of course, feel free to contact me if you want to inquire about voice and communication therapy or if you would like to book in for the Autumn. Existing clients will be able to work with me through Skype. I’ve also been lining up my ducks so that I can get my general voice therapy practice off the ground (this would include services for people with voice disorders like vocal nodules, muscle tension dysphonia, and so on). Jeepers there’s a lot in it. I’m mad about voice and I’m developing my own voice, as a health professional, as a social entrepreneur, as an academic, as a (shy) radical, as a person. I have SO many ideas on what this service could look like, but I’ve learned from the Express YOUR Gender journey. Small, slow, steady, suussssstaaainable. Anyway, there’ll be more on that in the Autumn. It’s nice not feeling like it all has to happen TODAY!
2. I’m focused now on empowering SLTs to apply their existing knowledge and expertise to working with trans clients, and also on promoting the role of the SLT in trans healthcare among other health professionals and among trans service users – if no-one knows what we do, why would they ask for our help? So I have presented to SLTs at the Irish Voice Special Interest Group and to a Multi-disciplinary audience at the Temple Street/CAMHS Academic Programme, as well as to undergraduate Occupational Therapy students in University College Cork (that was a lot of fun, exploring the role of the OT and how SLTs and OTs would work really well together to support trans service users). Working with students is so inspiring, because I feel like I might be impacting on future service providers and achieving a lasting impact on Irish services. To that end, I am gently seeking out opportunities to talk/lecture on various aspects of equality, diversity and gender, in 3rd level institutions and in workplaces. More to come on this…
3. Deepening my practice through study, personal development and travel… Well, I will be finished the Masters in August. I keep on discovering new areas of interest (did you know there is a ‘throat chakra’ that is all about communication and self-expression and truth? I have to stop myself from reading all about this right now). I have booked my flights to India, thanks to the Credit Union! I’m heading at the end of December after Christmas, for a month. I always find Christmas a difficult time for many reasons, but at the same time I didn’t want to always run off and avoid it. I have a little niece here in Dublin who I am mad about and I thought, how about stay for Christmas and then have something booked for new years? I’ll be waking up on New Year’s day in an Ashram somewhere near Mumbai, and I really look forward to it. I often deal with the black dog around that time of year so who knows, this might be the start of something new. I’ve also been thinking a lot about life design – how do I want my life to BE? What matters to me? What would an ideal calendar and life look like? I’ll write on that again, but heading away for new years and having scheduled time off is an important part of it. Oh, and I deleted my personal Twitter and Facebook and do not have the professional ones on my phone. That’s been GREAT!! I always encourage my clients to have a Facebook account because it can be helpful in accessing community groups and making connections, especially in the early days of embracing the gender journey, but man, it can be a real time sucker. I still find myself opening my Whatsapp randomly, such is my ‘screen addiction’ but I’m definitely improving.

 

So that’s it really. I think it’s good to do these exercises every so often, even once or twice a year, to keep track of where you’ve been and where your instincts are pointing you. Actually I think my three goals are going to stay put – reach more clients, empower SLTs, deepen my practice. Other opportunities will come and go, but that’s the key work. Yeah, I’m happy with that! I’ll probably be even more quiet on the xYg Twitter and Facebook (sure I’m hardly on there anyway) as I knuckle down to my thesis. I actually read a really cool article about whether we even need social media for our businesses to be a success? I love the word of mouth approach. I love the thought of my reputation doing the work (with the website there for reference) so I don’t know, maybe all the social media will be gone by end of 2017… I need to think about that a bit more (and I don’t consider LinkedIn social media..).

I’ll be around though. Give me a shout! 

 

P.S. The reason I am sharing all of this is because I like to be really honest and transparent about what I’m up to. I don’t have a board of directors to report to, investors, anything like that. But I did make a commitment to this project, and a lot of people have got behind me on it in some way, so this serves as a sort of a progress report. And also, I suppose, I am often motivated about other people’s strategies for life and work and their decision making and personal development journeys, so I am putting it back out there – maybe someone else will be motivated by mine. AND, I don’t think it’s particularly healthy for anyone to believe that healthcare providers have it all sussed out. We don’t. Mental note: Write an article about imposter syndrome and rejection hypersensitivity and how it has impacted on my career, social enterprise journey and life in general…

 

 

It started as a Facebook post…

Right, Facebook. Loads of things are on my mind. Too many! 

I attended the SEI awards on Tuesday night, which marked the end of a 12 month journey of major learning, progress and pivots. A really personal journey. Let me tell you, it has been a roller coaster. I’m still baffled I even won the award in 2015! An amazing organisation, truly, and a heartfelt hug of thanks for my mentor, Sara Dennedy, who was a rock of sanity throughout. My biggest learning? Two things: 1. Scheduled time out is imperative, and 2. While I am a visionary – passionate, outside-the-box and bigger-picture oriented – delivery of services, the actual work, being with my clients, supporting diverse lives, is where I add the most value. All the new awardees reminded me of my energy 12 months ago and pushed me to refocus: what was my original mission? What did I originally want to do before even bigger ideas took hold? I looked an my mission board from my time at the School for Social Entrepreneurs Ireland, when I had long hair and zero self-esteem, and it was simple:

Make Speech & Language Therapy Services Accessible to the Irish Transgender Community. 

Setting up a business – strategy, social media, VAT returns, legal structuring – was a real struggle for me. I am not industrious. The last year has been about simplifying the process and making it sustainable, and I have had amazing support, through the SEI programme, my business consultant Samantha Magee, from the trans community as well as from my friends and family. Keep simplifying. Keep scaling back, so that you might scale up and reach. Be practical I suppose. And take care of yourself! Don’t burn out!

My most important work is my voice therapy work (I intend “voice” here in it’s literal and metaphorical sense – expressing, voicing, the self). I know how much this service helps the people I work with and how much I love doing it. I have invested years of academic study and personal time in developing my expertise. I have more to learn, always. But this is the work I love to do. When I talk about voice work, personal expression, finding the truth within, people smile at my passion. Something happens to me and I suddenly feel as though I know what I am talking about. I feel good! The rest of the time I feel like an imposter – barely holding adult life together and giving my self an awful ol’ time, fighting the urge to self destruct and run for the hills.

So, back to the basics. Back to the truth, to the start. A bit like my pal T.S. Eliot says,

“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time…”
For me it’s a bit of decluttering too. Less time on Facebook, more time on my M.A. (yes, I’ve been doing a Masters throughout all this!). Less time dreaming of new services I could provide, more time deepening my current practice. Less time talking the talk, more time sharing the knowledge. What I want, what I really want, if I sit still and listen to my heart, is three things (the power of three eh?):
1. To reach more clients, either 1:1 or in groups, for speech & language therapy. Transgender clients, and general voice clients (more on this to come…)
2. To reach out to Speech & Language Therapists and empower them to provide this service to trans clients, through training, mentoring, and resources (more on this to come…)
3. To deepen my practice, through study, personal development and travel (India is calling me, more on this to come…)
There are so many more possibilities. The weight of possibility, potential, and obligation, is massive. There is a constant flow of information in my every day life, which I know is the same for everyone, particularly social justice advocates. It makes it really hard to stand still. I read this lovely quote by Lao Tzu, which is my justification for pulling back from social media (the original reason for this Facebook post, which turned into a big long life affirming blog):
“To attain knowledge, add things everyday. To attain wisdom, remove things every day.”
The wisdom is already there. The truth is already there, if we can just be courageous enough and quiet enough to stand still and listen to it, in the midst of all the noise, “in the stillness between two waves of the sea…” I have to do this. My clients and colleagues inspire me to do this, and I aim to create a safe space for them to do the same. So now I am doing it. You mightn’t even notice I am doing it.
But I will 🙂

What happens at Confident Voices?

What do we actually do at Confident Voices? 

(c) TCM

(c) TCM

Understandably, there is often a curiosity, if not a scepticism, around what exactly it is that I do when I work with transgender clients on voice and communication. More often than not, it is expected that I will perform an overall assessment of someone’s masculinity or femininity, and prescribe a list of things to work on in order to achieve the desired effect. I often think of the classic book and film, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie – she is a fountain of womanly wisdom and is there to guide her charges through the complexities of female life. They trust her knowledge, she has all the answers. Some of my clients hope for this kind of guidance, others would reject it. The fact of the matter is this is not what happens when you work with me. This is not finishing school.

I am opposed to “prescriptivism”, which dictates that you have to behave in a certain way in order to be taken seriously as a particular gender. I don’t believe in universals – when people say that “women have better posture than men” or that “men interrupt more than women” I get really rankled! Which women? Which men? In what context? I also don’t believe that trans people should necessarily have to conform to rigid standards of beauty or presentation, nor indeed that passing should be assumed to be the top priority. It’s not that you shouldn’t or can’t, but I don’t think it’s my or anyone else’s right to dictate what your gender expression should look like, or what your life goals should be. Those are all your choices. That’s what self-determination is all about, and what the YOUR in Express YOUR Gender stands for!

EXPRESS YOUR GENDER

So in that case, what is it that we do together?

This group is about learning, primarily you learning about yourself, learning from each other, and learning from me. We often don’t take time to think about how we want to live, what our values are, who we identify with, what our passions are. My experience working with trans clients is that the pre-occupation with gaining acceptance, building up the courage to come out, or go out, or go shopping, and the pressure to meet diagnostic criteria and satisfy medical requirements for hormone treatment and so forth, means that just sitting in a non-judgemental space and asking, “what kind of woman, person, man, am I?” is a much needed activity. You have already got all the knowledge and expertise about yourself, and sometimes, just being asked the right questions and given space to answer them without fear is all you need. Hearing and sharing with others is a key learning and development resource too.

My own knowledge and expertise comes from four different areas: Linguistics, which is the scientific study of language and communication; Speech & Language Therapy, which relates to the clinical aspects of voice and also to motivation, psychology and achieving change; Gender Studies, which allows for a deeper understanding of gender in society; and 5 years experience working with transgender clients. Together we explore where it is we want to get to, acknowledging that those goals can change over time and individually. One person might want to develop more resilience and confidence when they go out with their friends on Saturday nights, and be able to chat to new people in a social setting. Someone else might be very conscious that their voice is especially masculine and they would like it to be more feminine. Yet another might want to perfect their professional presentation skills so they can speak at an upcoming conference or staff meeting. Your goals are very individual and all are important and legitimate.CV 4 Flier

We will all work on our voices together, so that the technique is known to you and you can return to it at a later stage if and when voice becomes a priority. We will observe how people in different “communities of practice” (your work place, gym, online gaming group, etc.) communicate and express gender. We find out what is worth trying out, we test it out, we figure out what’s right. We explore gender expression.

Something nice for YOU!

There is something special about sharing this space together. Taking time out on a Saturday afternoon and doing something constructive for yourself. How often do any of us do that? I have always been a fan of a holistic approach to voice and communication therapy. The upcoming course will be femme-oriented. While we will cover areas like voice feminisation, non-verbal communication (facial expression, gesture, posture etc.), conversation skills and so forth, I love to incorporate breathing work, stress-management, mindfulness, affirmations, and much more. I want you to feel a bit better about yourself and your journey through this course, and to know that you are loved, and valued, and worth spending this time on. You deserve it!

Confident Voices group sessions will start on Saturday 8th October 2016 at 3.oo-5.00pm in Mountjoy Square and run for 6 weeks. You will have a private session before and after the course, included in the course fee of €500.00*.

*A sliding fee is available for those who find the full fee a barrier. Just let me know what you can afford between €200.00 and €500.00.

Download the Confident Voices Flyer here.

Read more about Confident Voices here.

Express Your Gender Strawberry

#TDoV 2016

So today, on Trans Day of Visibility, I started to reflect on my work over the past 5 or so years, which has primarily been with the transgender community in Ireland. I have worked with dozens of members of this diverse community, all of whom are experiencing and pursuing their own unique gender journey and authentic life.
 
What has been the purpose of my work if not to facilitate that journey, to make it easier somehow? Whether it’s assisting someone to have a voice that they are comfortable using in public, or to have the confidence to correct someone who mis-genders them, or to believe that they have something of value to offer the working world – the whole world – my job is to support gender diversity and help make authentic lives more liveable. It’s an honour!
 
The thing is, I find it hard to say that this is completely altruistic. It’s not. I am getting something from this work too. The trans community has given me the gift of truth. How can I, in earnest, do anything except pursue and embrace my own truth, my own authenticity, when this is what I advocate for and encourage every day? I have come to value truth, honesty, authenticity and love, above everything else in life. My new catch phrase is “Truth is Catching” – when you pursue your truth, when you discover it and value it, LIVE it somehow, you inspire other people do the same, it catches on and gradually the world becomes a better place. No journey towards authenticity is easy, and the journeys which rock major social norms to the core are most difficult. I’m not convinced we ever even arrive, but so long as we are on track, we are ok! The Journey’s the thing!
 
I am encouraged to keep on pursuing my own truth every morning when I read my newsfeed, good and bad, from trans websites around the world; on Saturdays when I meet my clients for voice work and gender exploratory discussions; on the last Wednesday of the month when I sit with a small group of jobseekers navigating the oppressive working world as gender outlaw. It’s an honour to be part of such a journey. The talent, self-awareness, empathy, determination and resilience I see whenever I engage with the Irish transgender community is awe-inspiring. 
 
I sense another blog post coming soon – what my work with the trans community has taught me – but for now, to all the transgender people, families and allies I have met and worked with, and those I have yet to meet, I just want to say thank you for the privilege. 
 
Love and Truth,
 
Rachel x

Gender Exhibition @ Fumbally Exchange

This Summer, Express YOUR Gender hosted an exhibition at the Fumbally Exchange, in Dame Lane, Dublin 2. The goal was to make some of the exciting conversations about gender that are commonplace in transgender, feminist and academic communities, accessible to people who otherwise wouldn’t engage with the topic. It also served as a (very fun) launch party for Express YOUR Gender, a social enterprise set up by me (Rachel Moore) in 2014. I had spent a wonderfully inspiring Summer as a High Potential Start Up at Fumbally, meeting creative innovators and exploring where I could take xYg. I decided an exhibition/party would be a great end to my 3 month HPSU stint, although of course, like many, once I got a taste of what is was like to be a Fumballier, I couldn’t leave and am still here 2 days a week. I launched a short Fundit campaign to raise funds for the exhibition, raised €1,000, and then it was all systems go!

 

Gender literacy on Dame Lane

 

The plan was simple – take some really strong statements made by various gender warriors (well known and not well known), illustrate them with some eye catching graphic design, print them real big and put them up on the walls of the Fumbally Pop-up shop, a great street-level space in the city centre.

 

The works

 

Each piece had a more detailed write-up to allow deeper exploration of ideas by visitors, if desired, without pressure to do so. I had also been doing some great work since earlier this year with two linguists, Jennifer Martyn and Sophia Pollaro, at University College Dublin, reviewing research about gendered communication. We’d been having some great conversations in the process, so why not invite others in?

I suppose ultimately, the goal of the exhibition can be summarised by the first piece, which was taken from a piece of writing by Sass Rogando Sasot, titled “Reclaiming the Wronged Body“. I wanted to help with changing people’s beliefs about gender, and about transgender people, even just a little bit.

 

2015-08-29 15.03.12

 

In preparing for the exhibition, I had the idea of presenting some “trans vocab” – words like genderqueer and non-binary words like nibling.  I thought it would be cool to present a list of definitions for people to learn, people who wouldn’t have heard of these ideas, let alone words, before. I felt that as a gender warrior, I had come to take for granted the knowledge and lexicon I had acquired through years of working with trans clients and engaging with the subject of gender. As a Speech & Language Therapist, I also have a passion for developing language and narrative skills. However, the more I worked on devising this list, the more I realised that words have very fluid and situationally variable meanings. For me to claim authority over the actual meaning of a word would not be appropriate.

 

So with the kind support of Kay Cairns, a journalist with a special interest in human rights, a presentation of simply words was created. People could just look at a word, wonder what it means, with no pressure to learn it and remember it. That can be overwhelming. Language learning can be really difficult and I wanted this exhibition to be accessible, not exclusionary. Visitors were encouraged to understand why language matters and to take home a new word to think about. The presentation also featured short 3 second videos submited by xYg supporters, posing the question, “How do you Identify?” How many people are asked to answer that, or even think about it?

 

Binary breaking cinema

 

A street level window of gender vocabulary, including non-binary familial and relational terminology, created by Helen McCormack, another Fumballier, was added to by visitors over the weekend. It was fun to see passers by stop and scratch their heads as they looked at words like genderfuck in bold letters on the window. Who knows, they may go home and hear that word again and not be perturbed by it. Their grandchild might announce that they are a demi-girl and they might think, ‘Oh, I’ve heard about that!’ Who knows?!

 

Gender literacy window 3

 

Gender neutral children’s books from Swedish author, Jesper Lundqvist, were on display on the coffee table in our gender liberating living room. I’m a firm believer in the power of conversation in bringing about social change, and the cosy living room proved a great spot for this to happen.

 

Gender neutral kids books

 

Most wonderfully, Sex & Gender Educator, Dr. Leslie Sherlock and her team of talented sculptors produced a centrepiece of fruity and beautifully diverse genitalia. All participants in Leslie’s workshop reported a great, empowering and enjoyable experience.

 

Genital Diversity

 

All of the graphic design was done by the wonderful Fumballier, Martyna Lebryk. Words were taken from writers and gender warriors like Sass Rogando Sasot (“I am not trapped in a wrong body”), Kris Nelson (“I like to imagine gender as a cosmos”), Jesper Lundqvist (“Monsterhund”), and Kate Bornstein (“Sex is fucking, gender is everything else”). Kay Cairns inspired the simple but powerful “It’s they” and linguist Jennifer Martyn provided content for an infographic outlining the changing bias in sociolinguistic research and “Vocal Fryyyyyyy: It’s like, totally, not a new thing”.

                        express-your-genderiam-iamnotcosmosmonsterhund

sex-genderitstheythrough-the-yearsvocal-fryyyyy

 

It was a great event, attended by more than 70 people from a variety of backgrounds. Massive thanks to the Fumbally Exchange for their support, including the many Fumballiers who rallied to help with furniture moving, picture hanging, projector setting-upping, and prosecco drinking. Thanks to the many pledgers who gave generously to the Fundit campaign. And, seriously, thanks to the team of runners who made it actually come to life on the day: Sophia, Philip, Clodagh, Aisling, Ben, Martin… I will remember others in the middle of the night and add them in accordingly!

If you or your organisation is interested in running a gender liberating exhibition or similar, maybe as part of diversity week at work, or in tandem with another awareness campaign or educational focus, please feel free to contact Rachel here.

First Authentic Careers Networking Event

 

xYg and Linked in are teaming up to bring you the first Authentic Careers networking event for the trans community in Ireland. We aim to make this a monthly meet up where transgender job seekers, employees, employers and entrepreneurs can gather, exchange experiences, learn from each other and gain support from expert speakers. logo-tm

The first meeting will be in Outhouse​, Capel Street, Dublin 1, on Tuesday 27th October, from 6.00-8.30 p.m.

  • There will be time for chats and discussion, where we can decide as a group what the priorities are and how best xYg can work to support trans careers.
  • Then there will be a presentation from Linked in about how to best use your online profile to support your career
  • You will receive 1:1 input from a Linked in-er, so you can polish up your Linked In profiles on the spot
  • Lastly, there will be a photographer for anyone who wants a more professional looking mugshot for their Linked in and other online profiles
  • Light refreshments will be provided, courtesy of Linked in.

 

This event is FREE but it is necessary to register to attend. We can accommodate a max of 20 people.

Please email info@expressyourgender.com to register or use the contact form here.

How did I get into this - Express Your Gender

Why are we doing this? 

Earlier this year, and again this Summer, xYg, in collaboration with Transgender Equality Network Ireland, ran two Career Development Programmes for trans people. The goal was to support trans job-seekers and employees in developing more authentic careers through practical skills and resilience building. One of the main benefits of the programme was the opportunity to discuss work related issues that are specific to trans people, such as:

  • Explaining your non-binary gender to colleagues or recruiters
  • Coming out at work
  • Valuing LGBTQI+ related work experience (advocacy, volunteering, group facilitation…)
  • Dealing with inappropriate questions during interviews without losing the chance of the job
  • Appreciating the awesome transferable skills that you have, just because you are trans
  • Handling anxiety and nerves before and during interviews
  • A LOT more!!

 

We aim to run more Career Development Programmes for Trans people (now called “Authentic Careers”), and in more locations around Ireland. The monthly meet up also aims to address some of the challenges experienced by trans people in the workplace. This is a very grassroots initative and we endeavour to be responsive as opposed to prescriptive in our offering.

Don’t forget to register for this free event! We can accommodate a max of 20 people.

Email info@expressyourgender.com to register or use the contact form here.

 

 

One small but huge way that the Gender Recognition Bill will impact trans job-seekers - Express Your Gender

One small but huge way that the Gender Recognition Bill will impact trans job-seekers

Today the Irish transgender community will celebrate the passing of the Gender Recognition Bill into law. Trans adults will now be able to determine what gender appears on their legal documentation, albeit within a binary framework where there are only two options to select from (a disappointment for those of us who are intersex or who do not identify as male or female), with younger trans people aged 16 and 17 left navigating a legal obstacle course and those under 16 with no legal options at all. But still, it’s massively progressive and a major achievement for those who campaigned tirelessly to bring it to this stage.

What makes this bill progressive is that this process of having your true gender recognised legally can be undertaken without a medical evaluation or surgical intervention. No-one else need vouch for your gender, only you (the actual expert). Self-determination is critical to human rights and the Bill recognises this. The practical implications of the GRB are immense and will make many everyday activities that many of us take for granted, a whole lot easier. This is particularly true when it comes to job seeking.

 

Birth cert

Recently I facilitated two Career Development Programmes for Trans* People, hosted and funded by Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI), with support from Dublin City Council. The idea was to provide trans folk with opportunities to develop resilience and self-esteem as employees or workers and to gain the necessary moral and professional support to move forward in their careers. The need for this programme arose from my own clinical experience and from a survey carried out by TENI, which highlighted employment as an area in need of attention and support in the trans community in Ireland. As reported in Speaking from the Margins (TENI, 2013), 49% of respondents were not in employment and of the 51% who were, much of this work was low paid or part-time. The figures are reflected in a similar study carried out in the UK. One of the potential reasons for these elevated unemployment rates was prior negative experiences of being trans at work, with 14% feeling they had been turned down at recruitment stage because they were trans.

The Career Development Programme gave participants the opportunity to discuss and problem solve around the many barriers to gaining work or to progressing their careers. Dealing with being mis-gendered is a consistent cause of anxiety, whether at interview stage, at work, or during important networking events. How do you correct someone who has mis-gendered you (e.g. referred to you as “he” instead of “she” and vice versa, or assumed you to have a binary gender when in fact you are non-binary), particularly an interviewer or potential boss, without making an “issue” of it?  For many, fear and experience of being ‘outed’ during the recruitment process is a major barrier to gaining work, because of the discrimination that is expected to follow, and because for many, it’s personal information, not for sharing with complete strangers. Human resources departments at a minimum, will generally require a copy of some legal form of identification, a birth cert or passport, for example, at some point during recruitment or on-boarding. Other aspects of the recruitment process, such as background checks and requesting copies of academic parchments or certificates which may be in the applicant’s previous names, are also causes for concern.

Having legal identification which reflects and recognises one’s true gender will ease a little of the anxiety that many trans job-seekers experience at the early stages of the recruitment process, allowing many to disclose or not disclose their trans status if or when they want to. It seems small, but it’s huge.

I am a sister to some and a brother to others - Express Your Gender

I am a sister to some and a brother to others

Clodagh Leonard is a gender warrior, among many things. She has been contributing to the work of xYg since January 2015, supporting Rachel with business development, social media strategy and positivity-generating goodness. So it seemed natural that we ask her what we have been asking a lot of people as part of our gender expression series: What does gender expression mean to you? Here’s what she said.

Clodagh Leonard
Clodagh Leonard

 

I am Clodagh Leonard. I am a trans rights activist and a gender warrior. At the moment I identify as female; I am also 24 but neither is forever.

I believe that everybody has the ability to contribute something wonderful to the world. Sometimes when we look at society, or see the way it looks at us we can lose sight of this and forget our power. Society has rules that don’t help this. The rule that you should be one of anything is a particularly jarring one for me. I am not ‘just’ a girl; I am not ‘just’ an activist, or a writer. We are all capable of a plethora of different identities. I am a sister to some and a brother to others. I connect differently to different people. My identity is constantly in flux. All of me is up for grabs – if it wasn’t how could I experience the endless possibilities of growth?

When I think of the person I was at 17 I can feel a weight on my chest. I wanted so much to be loved so I squeezed and squeezed into a box that would never fit. I cried in bathtubs and I shaved my legs. I straightened hair and just couldn’t figure it out. I screamed and freaked out and why? To be a girl.

What does that even mean? Surely if it was that natural, and I was just ‘born that way’ I wouldn’t have to work so hard at it. If I was just a girl and that was that, fact. Where did all the rules come from?

Be a good little girl!

Put that dress on!

Girls don’t spit.

You can’t climb in that dress!

That’s not the way a lady behaves!

Sit like a girl and put your legs together.

Surely, I thought, if boys where just meant to be boys, and girls were just meant to be girls they would just be. We could let go of the rules.

If all this is natural then any type of girl or boy is the right one.

The right type of girl for me to be right now is a loud one; one who wears boxers, and loves to dance; one who is maternal and nourishing and who skateboards.

This is me – this is my flavour of gender. But that doesn’t mean it has to fit anybody else. The way you see yourself and the world is completely unique from anybody else. This is the gift we can bring. Showing the world what that looks like is opening a door to knowledge we never knew we needed.

When I meet people who express their gender in a way that society has never even thought about I know we are standing at the door to a way better tomorrow.

It’s all so exciting.

Help xYg Make it Happen in March - Express Your Gender

Help xYg Make it Happen in March!

Express YOUR Gender is committed to achieving gender diversity and equity through the provision of evidence-based, professional services.

As a new start-up and a social enterprise, one of the biggest challenges we face is financing our work. We have so many ambitions for 2015 and beyond and the ultimate goal is to be self-sustaining, with our apps and web-based services, as well as our organisational services, subsidising our Voice & Communication Group Programmes for trans people in Ireland.

Right now, we need YOUR help to get us off the ground so we can run our Pilot Voice & Communication Group Programme this Summer. This will allow 6 – 8 trans women develop a confident voice and communication style so they can live better lives.

When a person is afraid to speak for fear of being found out, ridiculed, discriminated against or abused, opportunities for living a full and happy life are greatly reduced. Phone calls, job interviews, paying bus fare, laughing out loud, all become out of reach.

Express YOUR Gender wants professional Speech & Language Therapy to be accessible to whoever needs it. You can help.

Please support our March challenge to sell 300 T-Shirts and 200 Shopping Bags.

There are two ways you can help.

1. Buy an Express YOUR Gender Shopping Bag (€10.00) or T-Shirt (€30.00)

2. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Linked In and share with your friends, family and colleagues. Let people know what we are doing and how they can help.

xYg Cotton Shopper

xYg Cotton Shopper €10 inc P&P

How did I get into this - Express Your Gender

How did I get into this?

One Speech & Language Therapist working with trans clients

When I talk about my work and what I want to achieve with Express YOUR Gender, I am often met with curiosity and the question, “What made you get in to this area?” or “Why are you so passionate about transgender issues?” Some wonder if I am trans myself, or if I have a family member who is trans. There must be a deeply personal reason why someone would “get into this,” right? Not really.

It was during my final year clinical placement, as part of my degree in Clinical Speech and Language Studies at Trinity College Dublin, when I first heard about the need for Speech & Language Therapy (SLT) services for the transgender community. The dominant conversation throughout that final year among my peers at college was about our job prospects once we qualified. The recession was here and the Irish Health Service Executive had introduced a recruitment embargo a year or two prior, and most of us were not hopeful about getting a job in Speech & Language Therapy in Ireland. Some of my classmates went on to further study, some took up jobs in the UK or Singapore, some volunteered as SLTs with the hopes of eventually gaining employment, some actually got a full-time job straight away, and some, like me, went into private practice.

So, there I was on my final clinical placement at a community project in Tallaght West (The Childhood Development Initiative by An Cosán, recent winner of the Social Entrepreneurs Ireland Impact Award). We provided early intervention SLT services to children at nine different pre-schools. It was at one of those pre-schools that I met Dr. James Kelly, an inspired Clinical Psychologist who was working as a Parent/Carer Facilitator there. He told me about the private work he did with the transgender community and was interested in my work as a Speech & Language Therapist as he was looking for one to join him at what was then Diamond Therapy, a clinical service for people with gender and sexuality concerns. He had found it very difficult up until then to refer his clients for voice and communication therapy within existing public and private Speech & Language Therapy services.

New logoI was instantly intrigued. I had studied modules around gender, power, identity, equality, throughout my primary degree and in my clinical degree I had a special interest in voice disorders and mental health. I had worked, before going to college, on an EU project around gender equality in the workplace. This was my thing. Could it really be possible that, during a time when prospects were so low for graduating Speech & Language Therapists (SLTs) to get any sort of relevant employment, an opportunity had come along that literally married all of my clinical, academic and personal interests and was going to allow me to do what I was qualified to do?

I started researching. I read journal article after journal article about how SLTs help transgender clients to modify (feminise/masculinise) their voices, about the impact of voice on quality of life. I read about a group voice therapy programme for trans women in Vancouver. I dove in to websites written by trans people for trans people. I wanted to really get a feel for what life was like for this under-represented and under-served community, in particular the current situation in Ireland. I told Dr. Kelly that I would be in touch as soon as I qualified, that this was what I wanted to do. I asked one of my college lecturers who had expertise in voice disorders and experience working with transgender clients, to be my clinical supervisor, and she agreed. It all lined up.

Once the exams were over I started making arrangements to meet members and representatives of the trans community in Ireland. I needed to let people know that I was here and what my service included, but I also wanted to hear real-life stories and experiences from trans people. I knew that there was only so much I could learn from reading, and many of the books and articles I had accessed were based on experiences in other countries. What was Ireland like? I was lucky to be welcomed to a peer support meeting for trans people in Dublin – in that hour alone I learned more than I could have from any number of books. I met with staff from TENI (Transgender Equality Network Ireland) who have been wonderful colleagues in the years since.

In June 2011 I welcomed my first trans client to my tiny office above a pub in Smithfield, Dublin 7.

This was to be the start of a most inspiring, challenging and rewarding career path and I don’t think I ever looked back.

 

xYg T-shirts - Express Your Gender

xYg T-shirts

Did you happen to catch Ivan Fahy, androgynous model and gender activist, at Galway Pride this year? If you did you might have admired his fabulous Express YOUR Gender T-Shirt…

Ivan Galway Pride

Or maybe it was at London Fashion Week that your saw it and thought, “Wow! I wish I could have one of those T-Shirts…!”

Ivan at #lfw in xYg T Shirt

Well, YOU CAN!!

We are delighted to announce that our empowering and awareness-raising Express YOUR Gender T-Shirts are for sale. You can buy one here, and the best thing is, all profits from the sales of our T-Shirts will go towards our group programmes here in Ireland. So not only are you creating #positivevisibility for the trans community and showing the world and your trans loved ones that you are a #transALOUD ally, you are also supporting a cause that will help and support others to express their gender freely and confidently. At xYg we think our T-shirts would make a great gift too – don’t forget, Christmas is around the corner!

xYg Tshirts

 

Buy a cool xYg T-shirt

 

The Masculine Potential - Express Your Gender

The Masculine Potential

For this month’s guest blog, xYg asked artist Peter Bradley to talk about what gender expression means to him and how he explores it in his work. Here’s what he said. Useful explanations of some of the terminology used by Peter can be found at the end of the post.

‘The Masculine Potential’  Image courtesy of RDS,  Photographed by  Roland Paschhoff
‘The Masculine Potential’
Image courtesy of RDS,
Photographed by
Roland Paschhoff

I have been obsessed with gender appropriation from a young age. For one reason or another growing up I never felt entirely comfortable expressing myself freely and to a certain point there was an element of shame associated with identifying more with stereotypical femininity than masculinity. My artistic research and practice has helped me to gain a much deeper understanding of identity and gender expression has come to be very important to me. Having my eyes opened to the fact that everything I once knew to be true about what is expected from me as a man is a fabrication that has been handed down to me through generations has been a significant turning point and development for me both as an artist and an individual.

My first exploration of gender through portraiture was with a project called ‘Sugar, Spice, and puppy dogs’ tails…..’ which involved an investigation of androgyny and gender ambiguity. The view of gender as a personal compilation of ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ attributes is something that I have always found fascinating and empowering. At the RDS student art awards 2013 I won the R.C. Lewis Crosby award for painting with ‘The Warrior’.

'The Warrior'
‘The Warrior’

The painting features an androgynous, long haired figure which perfectly symbolises the exploration of alternative gender presentations that had been central to my practice for the previous few years. The fact that an image like this was appreciated not only by a panel of judges at the RDS but by the public has been pivotal in my development as an artist and incentive to further research a topic I find so interesting and important.

While my practice is still very much an analysis of alternative gender expression, I have more recently become interested in exploring ways in which everybody expresses their gender identity. I have come to think of one’s gender identity as their ‘soul’. Not in the religious sense, more so that while your physical sex is represented by your body, your gender is who you are on the inside. How we dress, how we do our hair, make-up, tattoos, and piercings are all ways in which we alter our outward selves in order to reflect who we really are. My most recent collection ‘Praxis’, which I presented for my degree show is an amalgamation of all these questions I have had about gender or my own gender identity. It is an examination of the diversity of gender as a practiced and performed social construct while also confronting our habitual conflation of sex, gender, and sexuality.

Having engaged extensively with a number of subjects through conversation, photography, drawing, and painting the result has been a more profound insight into the complexity of gender presentation which in turn has supported the physical and psychological fabrication of a series of gender identity portraits. This collection is an analysis of gender appropriation, an investigation into identity presentation between and beyond the gender binary. Particular attention is paid to the evolution of modern masculinity and the increasingly widespread acceptance that what makes you male is not what makes you a man. While this project is a celebration of those who have the courage to express who they are in one way or another without inhibition, it is at the same time an investigation of self-expression.

'Personal Honesty'
‘Personal Honesty’

“every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter. The sitter is merely the accident, the occasion. It is not he who is revealed by the painter; it is rather the painter who, on the coloured canvas, reveals himself.”

~ Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

I don’t necessarily think people will immediately consider that the work is about gender when they first see it. All I hope is that conversations around gender identity and gender appropriation may evolve after people view these works, questioning their own ideas of gender. Apart from my need to physically work with paint, that is my main motivation for doing what I do.

– Peter Bradley, Artist

Connect with Peter on Facebook

Visit Peter’s Website

Glossary of terminology

Gender appropriation: The idea that the gender you are born with determines the person you should become, including interests and attributes which are appropriate for your gender. For example when a baby is born it is either wrapped in a blue or pink blanket. The blue babies grow to play with trucks, enjoy sports, and rarely show emotion while the pink babies grow up to play with dolls and enjoy flowers and pretty dresses.

Androgyny: The strong presence of both masculine and feminine attributes. Stemming from the Greek (anér, andr-, meaning man) and γυνή (gunē, gyné, meaning woman).

Gender Ambiguity: An individual who appears as either a mix of both male or female, or neither.

Social Construct: An idea or notion that appears to be natural and is accepted by society but in reality it is an invention of society passed down through generations, reinforced by repetition.

 

Your Gender Expression Is YOURS - Express Your Gender

Your Gender Expression Is YOURS!!!

For our inaugural post, we asked Ivan Fahy, an androgynous model and gender activist from Galway, Ireland, to tell us what gender expression means to him. This is what he told us in reply. Helpful explanations of terminology used by Ivan can be found at the end.

Ivan
Ivan Fahy, Androgynous Model

Gender expression is very important. Your gender is a beautiful part of you. The term ‘gender expression’ is often erroneously associated exclusively with transgender people. Cisgender people express their gender too, though this expression isn’t seen as an expression, and it isn’t often noticed, for it is heterocisnormative and conformative. It is important, in my opinion, to understand gender expression holistically, and not as something only transgender people engage in. I work to free gender, gender identity and gender expression. I want everyone’s gender to be expressed freely and proudly. Just like sex positivity, I believe in gender positivity.

Gender is a positive and beautiful aspect of a person and their life and it shouldn’t be shamed, hated or hidden, it should be embraced, celebrated and loved. I strive for this in my androgynous modelling work. I aim to create images that are beautiful under many different gender perspectives; male, female, trans*, androgynous, gender non-binary, and more. I am human and I am a multitude of things. Gender liberates me, it does not limit me – society and gender norms do. My gender expression is gender non-normative and non-conformative. I identify as male and dress in typically male attire the majority of the time, for this is how I feel most comfortable. However, I love dressing androgynously and in a unisex manner too. I love high heels and skinny jeans. I love dressing up and dressing down.

Gender expression exists along spectrums, ranging from male to female and everything within, outside and other to that, along with different frequencies of such gender expressions. I express the femininity within myself through my androgynous modelling work, a space where it is acceptable and expected. I am safe expressing this part of my overall gender expression here. Society has so strictly gendered objects that to wear an object assigned normative to only one gender when you are not that gender (biologically, psychologically, aesthetically, etc.) is difficult. High heels are gendered as being ‘female’ only. But shoes don’t have gender. We assign gender to shoes. We gender shoes. We socially construct such gendering. We socially construct gender. We are the inventors of gender, but we didn’t all have a say in the making of such an invention. This invention is sexist, transphobic and genderphobic. Shoes are, objectively, gender neutral, agendered.

As I say, if the shoe fits, no matter what kind of shoe it is, wear it and wear it proudly. It’s your shoe, no one else’s. You paid for it, you own it. Society does not own it. You do. And you also own your gender expression. It is yours. It is forever yours. It is yours to engage with, and not to engage with. It is yours to change, design, discover and rediscover. It is yours! My gender expression is mine. My gender expression is me. I am my gender expression. Be proud to be you and be proud of your gender expression. Express YOUR gender!

– Ivan Fahy, Androgynous Model

Join Ivan on Facebook

Glossary of terminology

Normative reflects norms in society. These norms are socially constructed and reinforced; they don’t convey actual human truths. They serve the majority and the privileged. Norms tend to be seen by society as standards or ideals, which results in anyone who differs from the standard being seen as ‘less-than’ and ‘deviant’.

Heterocisnormative means that being heterosexual (straight) and cisgender (identifying with how one was assigned at birth) is the norm, fully accepted and valued by society. This results in assumptions and perceptions that are heterocisnormative or heterosexual and cisgender biased. It renders any sexual or gender variant people invisible, non-normative and less-than.