8 December 2015

A foot in the door at the New Statesman

Blogged by Octavian Starr, community advocate and trainer

I have volunteered with All About Trans on their media interactions a few times now. Each meeting is as diverse as the people that attend them and leaves me feeling different each time, which I think definitely meets one of the goals of any interaction. I found the interaction at the New Statesman engaging and thought-provoking. We all had questions – some I think were too big to tackle in just an hour and a half, but sometimes the start of a discussion is more important than no discussion at all. I was aware that trans issues were not something often discussed amongst staff at the New Statesman but there really seemed to be a desire to change that from quite a few people. This has left me very hopeful for the future, both in terms of trans representation in future New Statesman articles but moving forward, having more trans contribution beyond just focusing on trans issues.

Media care, toilets and bullying

  • Meeting with the New Statesman

    Romario with the New Statesman

    Care from the media: We talked about the impact the media’s incorrect reporting can have on minority groups in society and in particular, the personal effect of this on trans people. Minority groups are often concerned about talking with journalists for fear of misrepresentation. There is a trust issue here, and it’s important to get language right and provide care to people engaging with the media despite pressures in newsrooms.

  • Toilets: Yo Zushi and Octavian Starr spoke about toilet usage. Octavian told the group that people can’t tell you which specific toilet to use. As soon as a person shares with someone that they are transgender, it becomes discriminatory to prevent them in their choice of toilet. Also, a workplace or school can’t make a trans person use a disabled toilet unless they are disabled. This was decided in the Equalities Act 2010. Octavian said that it’s clear that the toilet issue is the biggest problem faced by kids (mainly in school, but also public spaces). One volunteer reinforced this, talking about being bullied as an 8 year old, as he was seen as a lesbian or something “different”. A teacher at his school let him use the teacher’s toilet for a year which helped him tremendously. This also came up in our discussions with the Department for Education.
  • Sahra at the New Statesman

    Sahra at the New Statesman

    Bullying: The group (journalists as well as volunteers) offered their personal experiences of bullying in school. Several from the trans community also talked about facing family rejection. Attempted suicide amongst trans people in the UK is 48%, far higher than the average much of this can be down to gender-based or transphobic bullying in school. The group talked about the need for young people to be supported by their family, teachers and their peers in school.

3 things we learned from our interaction

  1. The New Statesman are keen for trans people to write for them on topical issues in general, not just trans issues, and are welcoming contributions.

    Group chats between staff and volunteers

    Group chats between staff and volunteers

  2. Helen Lewis spoke about putting together a style guide at the New Statesman to look at language, pronouns and why “cis” explanations and usage is important. One volunteer highlighted how important it is to use the word “cis” (Latin-derived, meaning “on this side of”) to describe non-trans people instead of “normal”. They said it’s important for people to hear it used commonly, and for cis people to understand the term.
  3. A New Statesman writer commented on the importance of being given an explanation when something is wrong, and to be corrected not attacked, because normally mistakes stem from ignorance. It’s easy to underestimate how powerful it can be – just meeting someone on a friendly level.

Listen to volunteers ask the New Statesman participants how they found the interaction on Audioboom.

If you are interested in coming on an interaction or hearing more about the project, please get in touch.

Keep following @AllAboutTrans for updates.

On Road,

Project Manager for On Road.