An idea for a local program…

Let me run something by you.

You know that I believe that consciousness raising of trans identified people is the heart of activism, because the more we can become allies to each other the more we become self empowered.   When we can speak for a range of trans choices, even those we would never make for ourselves, we can more profoundly stand for change in the world.

I also know that the most popular events with transpeople are the events where we get to speak, to tell our story.   We each have something we want other people to hear, something profound we need to say.

What about a monthly event that flips the normal paradigm on it’s head?   Isn’t that a kind of very transqueer idea?

Bring in a person with some kind of authority every month — someone from the governor’s office, the head of LGBT organizations, the police chief, a noted doctor, a reporter, whoever — but instead of bringing them in to speak, we bring them in to listen.

The designated listener will come, and the first 15 people to arrive will each have 3 minutes to say anything they want to that person.   Whatever you think they need to hear about trans life, you can tell them.

The key benefit, of course, is to the group.   Everyone gets a chance to speak up on what they think is important, and everyone in the room gets to hear what others of different viewpoints and choices see as a priority.   The format asks for leadership and listening rather than asking for compliance and consensus, and that seems valuable, at least to me.

There is no crosstalk, no commenting on other presentations.  If you have something to say, even something contrary to another presentation, you have to get in line, stand up and speak for your own viewpoint.  The power of change isn’t destructive, just telling others where they are wrong, it’s constructive, telling others what you think is right and moving them towards your point of view.

It might change the mind of the designated listener, but that’s not the point.  We don’t come with any agenda to convey to them other than the fact it’s time to listen to the voices of trans identified people.  That simple.

With small, concentrated presentations, we ask people to prepare, to gain skills in public communications.  And because they are short bits, they can even be put on video for YouTube or other outlets.

When I did Uniting As Allies with CDGLCC (now Capital Pride Center) in 1997, I was in the big final exercise with the head of Sisters And Brothers In The Life, the organization for people of colour.  The question was about the exclusivity of organizations; should there be identity limits on membership?

I, as you can imagine, argued against identity boundaries.  And one question I asked that made a difference was “Is your goal to build strong black voices, or is it to build a strong black voice?”

I strongly believe that our goal has to build strong trans voices, not a strong trans voice.   We are a community of individuals, and our goal has to be to work to empower individuals to follow their own unique path, to claim their own unique expression, their own unique voice.

What about an event that is designed to showcase and hone those voices, where the expert is there to listen, and we are there to share?   Could that help raise consciousness and leadership?

Call it something like TransSpeak.   With work and luck, it feels like something that can develop over time, as people see others model speaking up, as people take the time to consider what they want to say.

It’s just a notion at this point.

What do you think?


2 thoughts on “TransSpeak?”

  1. There is only one way to find out if this will work, and that is to try it. Inviting one person at a time may have the guest feeling overwhelmed, and picked on. Inviting 3-5 people and calling them a panel might be an alternative approach. In any case I like the basic concept and think it deserves a go.

  2. While people think this seems an idea worthy of trying, there have been two concerns raised about this concept.

    The first is if you can get big enough names to draw people. I suggest that the key is getting representatives from significant organizations, even if they aren’t at the top. Sure, it would be good to get the police chief, but the community affairs officer will do, and if you can’t get the governor’s chief of staff, a policy assistant will suffice.

    The second concern is if these listeners will feel threatened.

    The ground rules have to be that the listener has no obligation to say anything other than “Thank you for sharing” to the speaker. That is important especially if they disagree violently with the speaker, because the event must never be allowed to degrade into a back-and-forth argument.

    If the listener wants to say something challenging back, they have the opportunity to make a closing comment, getting the last word.

    The listener just has to make notes, and listen. They have no obligation to be put on the spot for anything in this forum, and that is crucial to the success of the forum. We thank them for coming to listen, rather than demand that they apologize or implement changes immediately. This is a step in creating a dialog, not an opportunity to pick a fight.

    We learn to make change not by making demands, but by making our case so powerfully that other people are swayed. That includes all sorts of appeals, from intellectual to emotional, telling our stories so well that people can see, if even for an instant, through our eyes.

    If people who are gracious and open enough to come and listen to transvoices for an hour or so feel abused and threatened, we have failed and will continue to fail. We want them to feel moved and opened, having a perspective that they didn’t have before, something else to think about.

    Again, though, while the designated listener is a key part of this event, offering structure to the proceedings, they are NOT the focus of this event. The focus is always, always, always giving transpeople the experience of using their voices, and giving us the experience of listening to the voices, the concerns, stories and priorities of other trans identified people.

    Mr. Fred Rogers said “The gift of gracious receiving is one of the greatest gifts we can give anyone.” He was always there to just listen to children, to let them practice using their voice, to make them feel that their voice is valuable.

    This is the gift we ask of the designated listeners, that they just give the gift of gracious receiving.

    It’s our job to do to the growing. .

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