Rosel reflects on the recent trans feminist panel, why it hasn’t happened before now and what cis people can do to support trans communities.
November the 14th saw Bristol’s feminist societies first ever trans feminist panel. I know. Why the fuck hasn’t it happened before now? Oh yes, because the world caters to us and by us, I mean fellow cis people. With this in mind, I think it’s worth spending some time thinking about how we move through trans spaces and what our role is going forward. The event was entitled ‘Pro Trans Memes for Intersectional Feminist Teens – Trans Feminist Panel’ and featured three panellist Evan Amekuedi, Syirah Ami and Sage Brice including hosts Frankie Gluščević and Charlotte Buchanan. Panellists talked about their experiences of trans online spaces and culture that reaffirmed their identities and called out cis-sexism. The panel discussed these topics using memes, giving the audience a medium they were familiar with through the lens of an identity most of them didn’t share.
You could tell this event was a first. We, the audience, were handed a glossary of all the terms our environments had failed to teach us and encourage to use them; an invitation to respect the space we were in. The seminar room seemed to buzz with this tension like someone was going to burst in on us at any moment. This panel was disruptive because it was held at a university that routinely ignores the needs of trans and non-binary people. This panel was held in universities whose Women’s Networks plans ‘Reclaim The Night’ the same day as Trans Pride South West. I don’t think I need to spell out the irony of that last one.
The audience consisted mostly of other cis people and panellists participated not knowing how their experiences would be received. When the floor was opened up for questions, an overwhelming amount of them asked how to be a good ally. It’s a good question to be asking, just not to those who already do the work of labouring under cisnormative society. Frankie, being the boss that they are, decided not to answer these questions because that was not what the event was for. I’ve included some resources at the bottom of this article for those of you who want to learn more, but here are a few points I’ve learned along the way through making mistakes – big ones.
The first is that we, as cis people, have to understand that the conversation is not about or for us. This can be uncomfortable but that is for us to deal with, to understand that it’s a small taste of what trans people are made to feel every day. The second is to remember that our role in this context is simply to listen, amplify and educate ourselves. It will be easy to let the discomfort disengage you from the conversation or even just to forget. We become wrapped up in our own lives, god knows university is stressful enough, and tell ourselves that there’s nothing we can do. Neglect and passivity are tools we use if we actively do not choose to do otherwise. That’s why I urge you to call out transphobia and talk to your cis friends about it. The third is to learn when we inevitably make mistakes.
As pointed out, but I think this deserves reiterating, this panel was disruptive. It was also engaging and valuable; a unique opportunity for so-called feminists to put their bodies where their politics are. For this, I would like to thank the organisers on behalf of That’s What She Said. They put in their own time and effort, none of which they owe us, into giving us an event cis people needed.
Resources for those who want to be better trans allies:
- Bustle ran a brilliant listicle about allyship for an easy breakdown.
- Ash Hardell is a writer and YouTuber who does lots of educational videos on trans identity. This is her video on how to be a good ally.
- I mean everything that Kat Blaque writes or creates needs to be on your radar.
- Similarly, Riley Dennis’ is trans and nonbinary YouTuber whose channel provides lots of clear and insightful analysis of feminism and gender.
- This essay is about allyship towards people of colour, but it brings up key ideas about being a good ally in general.