Thursday, June 02, 2011

I have given two speeches in the past few days. The first one last week was to a group of National Health Service managers. They needed to see a living trans person to give meaning to the administrative work they do for gender equality.

So the meeting was mostly about legislation.

These things are very abstract, very dry, but putting them in a human context helps them make sense.

At one stage I spoke about my experience of being admitted to hospital as an emergency with a heart condition. It just so happened that I had gone through the process of changing the gender on my health service card a few weeks before: so when I got the identity wristband it said "F" after my name.

I was still in the relatively urges of transition, was quite unshaven, and being referred to as a woman and having my gender treated with respect made the hugest difference to me.

A woman rushed up to me afterwards and said she worked in the NHS card division and had been responsible for introducing the procedure that allowed patients to change the gender on their card and how happy and excited what I said made her feel. She was going to rush back, she said, and tell all her colleagues.

I don't know if what i said yesterday had quite the same impact. I hope it did. I was speaking to a group of mostly first year students at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. Not really about gender issues at all: about my ideas of theatre and what I try to achieve in my work in it.

But being a transwoman mattered greatly if only because in simply being myself I was also trying to communicate that, yes, we do exist, and can be so proud of who we are.

It was in the same theatre in the building, the Chandler Studio, where my "Great Expectations" opened in 1988. I was living as "John" then, and so painfully shy.


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