Australia’s small business sector includes almost 900,000 businesses and employs 44% of the Australian Workforce. This is significant.

As a small business, I believe it is part of our job to make the world a better place. We can play a role in tackling issues like racism, sexism, domestic violence, homophobia, as well as supporting folks with differently-abled people and people with disabilities. We can also play a role in bringing awareness to important issues.

This week is Trans Awareness Week (13- 19 November) and the Iscariot team lends their support to this important week. We still have much to learn – this week was not our radar until well into the week, but our dear friend Professor Sandy O’Sullivan continues to provide guidance and opportunities for learning. 

With permission and in solidarity, we reproduce their words here: 

“The colonial project of gender tells us to exist in the gender assigned to us at birth, regardless of how wrong this is, or the incompleteness that we feel. In a week focused on awareness of how to challenge this as ourselves and as allies, here are some abridged notes (complete stuff on Twitter).

One job in #TransAwarenessWeek is for cis people to learn more, not just assume that they already know because they are supportive or good people. I have a lot of good people in my life that talk about being supportive of trans folks, but awareness is about you taking yourself on a learning journey so that you aren’t making assumptions. 

1. Learning more about our complexities will mean a safer and better world for people who are transgender. It could give us space to breathe.

2. Being trans is often defined by the idea of being ‘assigned the wrong gender at birth’. Historically in the recent ‘West’, this was often translated as a woman assigned ‘male at birth’, and their binary opposite of a man ‘assigned female at birth’.  Of course, non-binary and agender people are also assigned the wrong gender at birth. Increasingly many non-binary or agender folks also describe themselves as transgender, challenge their birth assignation, and engage in gender affirmation/transition.

3. Don’t out us. Some of us will tell you that we’re trans, others won’t. If we disclose to you, don’t assume you can tell others. The number of times a cis person has told me that someone is trans, but not out, is heartbreaking. It’s not your inside gossip to disclose. If you learn nothing else this week, learn this.

4. Gender and sexuality are not the same thing. Don’t assume that someone who is trans is gay, lesbian, bisexual, straight, pansexual, or any other sexuality.

5. If we provide pronouns, use them. Do not challenge them, ‘forget’ them, or assume them. If we don’t provide pronouns, there could be a reason – a solution is to use they/them, but I urge you not to use they/them if someone provides different pronouns.

6. On deadnaming: use the name we provide, not one we may have used in the past. Many of us (myself included) select a different name to our birth name to better align with our gender. You don’t have to critique it or ponder it, your only job is to use it. What you shouldn’t do is use a previous name (a deadname) as a gossipy way to describe who that person is to another. People deadname other people to me with a surprising level of frequency.

7. I cannot say this often enough: a woman who is transgender is a woman. A man who is transgender is a man. A person who is transgender is a person. These are not difficult concepts.

8. For someone to ‘be’ trans, they do not have to have medical or surgical interventions. Also, that’s none of your business. People who are trans may be affirmed in their gender through these means, any or none may be a part of their gender affirmation.

On the other hand, understanding the complexities of medical and surgical possibilities (sometimes impossibilities) for trans people is incredibly important. Read what we share. Don’t ask us about ourselves, unsolicited. Our bodies are our own business.

9. Speculating on how our bodies matches our gender might seem like it’s similar to speculating in the same way on a cis person.  Two things: both are really awful, and it can be incredibly damaging to have someone basically act as gender-determiner.  Also, did I mention that commenting on others’ bodies for any reason, regardless of gender is really creepy?

10. It’s never too late or too early. Know this when you come to understand gender affirmation (sometimes known as transition).  We can feel this, and even express it, but it is never too late. Do your part by not spreading the idea it’s only younger people.

11. Be a good colleague. Affirmation is an ongoing process for people who are transgender. It can involve some pragmatic things in the workplace (toilets, access to leave, informed announcements, pronoun/name checks and more), it requires support. Find out what your co-worker needs. Do they want you to call out others if they are misgendered or misnamed (when they’re present or not), do they need support in accessing a public restroom? What do they need from you?

12. Be a good boss. I have a boss (who doesn’t like me to call her ‘boss’, Prof Bronwyn Carlson) who is supportive, understanding, and informed (as a cis co-worker, she reads EVERYTHING on affirmation measures). In doing so, she makes our workplace supportive for trans folks. She writes in a way that’s inclusive and that considers trans people in their actual gender.

13. On being a good cis union member/leader: fight for the rights of trans people to be affirmed in their gender. This might mean ‘affirmation/transition leave’ or signage /access to single stall toilets.  Find out what workers who are trans need, not what has been provided elsewhere or what you imagine they need.

14. Don’t make jokes about our gender. Deciding that those in the binary don’t look like your idea of a man or a woman, probably reflects your own insecurities. Deciding that those of us outside of the binary need to be sorted back into it, is not a thing.  Shows like Drag Race can add to this because there is a confusion of gender and performance, and in particular they can add to the idea that others can talk about our bodies. I’ve done a lot of drag, which I now have extremely mixed reactions about. It’s complex for many of us. It often reflects our first forays into understanding our gender. But being trans isn’t a drag performance. And a lot of cis people are incredibly confused by this.

15. I mentioned this earlier, but here’s a reinforcement: Commenting on trans bodies can be extremely triggering.  Also, what a shitty thing to do to anyone for any reason. We are frequently subjected to external commentaries, and they often reinforce our own internal fears. Aim to allay our fears, not feed them.

16. Affirmation or Transition? I say ‘gender affirmation’ myself. Some use transition, some both. I like affirmation, makes it hard for transphobes to trot out the ‘horrors of detransition’ when a ‘reversal’ of affirmation would…um… also be affirmation! People will use both terms or other terms. Whether you call it gender affirmation or transition, cis people have a role to play in supporting us. People may feel uncomfortable with some language being used. Some people don’t like to say ‘queer’ to describe themselves, or ‘trans’ for that matter.

17. On trans history. Yes, we’ve always existed. Evidence is potted cos that happens when erasures are homicidal. Instead I ask you for the evidence that people were only cis through our deep shared history. Genital check on everyone who ever lived, much? You know that figure from history that you always loved. How do you know they weren’t trans?  That actor from the golden age of Hollywood, how do you know they weren’t trans?  Assumptions of cis-ness is strong. It’s the colonial project of gender.

18. If you see people who are trans being attacked on social media for… you know… being trans or something that they said in relation to being trans, jump in.

19. First Assignment: trans surgeries cost a lot, as do hormones. Rather than telling you how much and why, I’m setting an assignment where you google it one time, then google it again (the first costs you’ll come to are a gross underestimation), then cry.

20. Another assignment: I get a lot of messages from parents of kids who are trans or who are going through a process of  understanding their gender. I’m not a medical or kid expert, so I redirect to available trusted resources local to them. If someone asked you for help, what would you say?

21.  Bonus: Have you gone back through the history of your culture and found ancestors who are trans?  Why not?  Do that; we’ll meet back here and discuss.


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