Sunday, 12 February 2017

Vision for Change - why I'm #ByTheirSide

In summer 2016, Stonewall launched their #ByYourSide campaign, encouraging consideration of solidarity and support, particularly within LGBT networks.  That year I experienced the meaning of that simple phrase and how it works both ways.  Not only are Stonewall by my side, but I am also by theirs.

Six months earlier, Stonewall recruited for their Trans Advisory Group – a group of 18 individuals, each identifying as transgender in their own way.  I was delighted to be one of those individuals.  Quite an unlikely bunch, as many teams are, we came from very different backgrounds and experiences, all shapes and sizes.  That I now feel incredibly close to each of them (as they, I hope, also do!) is testament to the amount of work we’ve done together in the past year.

We have produced a vision, but we are just 18 individuals.  This is a starting point, and we now need your input and your critical analysis to make sure this is also your vision.

We need you to be critical if you can.  It's worth stating that it feels unnatural to me being in the position of 'accepting' feedback from people who are far more knowledgeable than I am in many subjects. The point of the Stonewall Trans Advisory Group though, is to listen to and interpret an extremely diverse community, not to pretend to have all the answers already.

Getting to this stage, from a blank sheet of paper, has been as challenging as it has been rewarding for all of us.  But this was just a warm-up.  Its value will come from this most critical phase of consultation.  To capture and get right as much as we can, directly from the trans community and formulate that into something coherent we can use.  If just 18 people had got this right first time around, with no gaps or need for amendment, would be near-impossible.  What have we missed?  What should we change?  How can this help Stonewall help you better?  That's precisely why we need this phase.

Stonewall have been of huge assistance with facilitating, but they were adamant that they wouldn't just do it for us (at times, when it felt like wading through treacle, I think all of us had moments of wishing they would!).  In that, Stonewall have kept their word.  What's in this document, including any errors and gaps, are ours to take ownership of and to remedy.

At this stage, for this vision, we need to have the right balance of addressing pertinent issues, while being both accessible and meaningful to a wide range of people.  With so much content, we have felt it is important to retain a level of brevity for the sake of clarity.  By nature therefore, this may feel like a 'shallow dive' into these subjects - the detail coming in the form of focused projects, engagements and collaborations in the months and years to come.

I can’t lie, I like Stonewall.  A lot.  Their no-nonsense style, their reach, and from what I have consistently witnessed, their honesty in their mission – Acceptance without exception.  That Stonewall were late – in relative terms – to the trans-party was telling of their history on the subject, but also signaled to me that there was a conscious choice to not simply wade in and appropriate an entire community’s struggles.  Stonewall and Ruth Hunt in particular, have written extensively on this and I do thank them for the process they took to begin trans-related work.  I’m young (don’t laugh) and na├»ve perhaps and so wasn’t alert personally to the Stonewall-related issues of the past, but I am acutely aware of them and the echoes of this still heard and felt today.  Out of respect for history and those affected in this time, I retain a level of caution over Stonewall making even subconscious errors of judgement; though they have consistently proven to me that I (and we) can trust their judgement.  This process could have been easy for them, but was deliberately not so.  That would have been wrong, and destined to fail.  Given their commitment to the process, I’m committed to helping them.

I was asked in an interview recently what I loved most in life and the first thing that jumped to mind was a love of seeing complex systems truly working, to beautiful effect.  Whether that is the complexity of physics and engineering which allows my helicopter to fly as it does, or Space X’s Falcon 9 rocket to land vertically on a boat.  Or trying to understand how many tiny and seemingly chance interactions and events lead to the evolution of a species or the functioning of an entire ecosystem.  Tiny discrete inputs can create wondrous things.


People though, and politics are something I struggle with.  An effect of growing up on a farm with goats and Harris’ Hawks as my most immediate friends, perhaps?  I recognise this limit, so ask for help where I can.

Combining these things together, in a tenuous way, I find myself where I am.  Proudly stood with a group of 18 others, trying to empower many inputs from an amazing and complex community.  All with the goal of forming lasting foundations together for our future generations.

Individual inputs can lead to wondrous things...

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