Celebrating International Trans Day of Visibility and Autism Awareness Week

by Hatty Taylor and Nozomi Tolworthy, Diversity and Inclusion Advisors at the University of Reading

 

 

International Trans Day of Visibility is an annual event, occurring on 31st March that is dedicated to celebrating trans people and raising awareness of discrimination faced globally by people whose gender does not align with that which was assigned to them at birth.  

World Autism Awareness Week (29th March – 4th April) is an opportunity to celebrate individuals with autism as well as encouraging awareness and education of challenges faced by those individuals.  

You may think these two events are unconnected, but we would like to shine a light on the unique experiences of people with autism, who also identify as trans or non-binary. 

Recent data suggests that trans and nonbinary people are ‘three to six times as likely to be autistic as cisgender people are. According to the largest study yet to examine the connection, gender-diverse people are also more likely to report autism traits and to suspect they have undiagnosed autism.’  An analysis of five unrelated databases that all include information about autism, mental health and gender has led to these conclusions. You can read more about it here – Largest study to date confirms overlap between autism and gender diversity.
 

 

The National Autistic society also highlights this intersection of identities, and shares some personal stories which can really help us to understand the unique experiences of those who identify as trans, non-binary and as a person with autism:

 

Sophie Gribbena non-binary autistic person, talks about celebrating Pride Month. They said: 

“One of the things I have difficulty with is attending Pride festivities. I am sensitive to noise, and crowds, but if I am properly accommodated then I really enjoy myself!”

 

Dr Wenn Lawsonautistic advocate, researcher, and psychologist, said: 

 ”The non-autistic world is governed by social and traditional expectations, but we may not notice these or fail to see them as important. This frees us up to connect more readily with our true gender.”

 

Researchers across several Universities contributed to a paper – Autism and transgender identity: Implications for depression and anxietywhich looks into this connection, and also highlights the increased risk of common mental health issues for people with these intersecting characteristics.  

 

In addition to the increased risk of mental health issues, trans people who also have autism often face barriers from health care professionals, who can undermine their trans identity, as explained in this article – The link between autism and trans identity It also highlights the ways in which the implications of this correlation are proving problematic and sometimes tragic for trans, autistic communitiesPlease be advised that the article relates to Kayden Clarke, a trans autistic man who was killed by police in the US, and therefore contains some upsetting content that you may not want to read.  

 

 

Intersectionality  

Intersectionality – This word has been used a lot more recentlyHere is short video where Kimberlé Crenshaw talking about what intersectionality means and the origin of the term.

It is crucial that we understand that people do not have protected characteristics in isolation, that marginalised groups exist within marginalised groups, and by beginning to hold these conversations, we create space for learning about each other, networking, supporting one another.  Multiple protected characteristics can also influence each other, exacerbate challenges and make barriers even taller than they would be without additional considerations. By talking about identities within marginalised groups, we can make steps in starting to see each other as the complex, multi-faceted beings that we are, with unique experiences and identities.  

It is important to note that though there may be a higher correlation of autistic individuals in the trans community this in no way suggests that the majority of trans individuals should be assumed to have autism, or that the majority of individuals with autism are trans. It’s important to recognise that larger more comprehensive studies need to be conducted on the topic which better reflect trans and autistic people’s views and experiences and how these experiences overlap. 

 

 

Events  

We have collated several external online events which you can attend in the coming days/weeks to learn more about autism, and trans identitiesJoin celebrations and even watch a film screening. Lockdown has never looked so exciting!   

 

  • Thinking Differently about Autism at Work

Employers Network for Equality & Inclusion (ENEI)

Wed, 31 March 2021, 09:30 – 12:30 BST

UoR are members of ENEI, and all staff and students can register for FREE using their ‘@reading.ac.uk’ email address via this link

 

 

  • Bi, Trans & Non-Binary Intersectionality: a Parallel Journey to Acceptance

Global Butterflies, The London Bisexual Network and the Law Society

Wed, 31 March 2021, 12:30 – 13:30 BST

To mark Trans Day of Visibility 2021, Global Butterflies, the London Bisexual Network and the Law Society are partnering to host a panel on the intersectionality between being Trans or Non-Binary and Bisexual.

Register for FREE via this link

 

 

  • Spring Feast 2021: Virtual LGBTQ2S Family Celebration

The 519 EarlyON Child and Family Centre

Wed, March 31, 2021, 15:30 – 16:30 BST

Register for FREE via this link

 

 

  • Trans Day of Visibility – Screening of Disclosure

University College Dublin Students Union

Wed, 31 March 2021, 18:30 – 20:00 BST 

Register for FREE via this link

 

 

  • 2021 Transgender Day of Visibility

Transgender Health and Wellness Center

Wed, Mar 31, 2021 23:00 – Thurs, Apr 1, 2021 01:00 BST 

Register for FREE via this link

 

 

  • Trans Presence: Beyond Visibility Panel

Play Out Apparel and SelectHealth  Thurs, April 1, 2021, 01:00 – 02:30 BST

Live stories & music, a raw unfiltered panel discussion about trans diverse experiences, & more! On Transgender Day of Visibility, this event is going beyond visibility by sharing inspiring, informative, and diverse trans stories, spotlighting artists, and presenting important information about accessing health services.

Register for FREE via this link

 

 

  • Trans Inclusion Training

University of Reading

Mon, 17 May 2021, 10:30 AM – 12:30 PM BST

This is FREE to attend

Staff can register on UoRLearn via this link

Students can email diversity@reading.ac.uk to register 

 

 

 

 

Further Resources 

Autism and Gender Identity | National Autistic Society 
https://www.autism.org.uk/advice-and-guidance/what-is-autism/autism-and-gender-identity
 

Trans Day of Visibility | LGBT Foundation 
https://lgbt.foundation/who-we-help/trans-people/trans-day-of-visibility
 

The urgency of intersectionality | Kimberlé Crenshaw
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=akOe5-UsQ2o 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Matters Most

by Rory Williams-Burrell, Trainee Technician, School of Archaeology, Geography, and Environmental Science (SAGES) 

 

The Year 2020 has been a challenging one for our staff and students here at the University. Significant changes had to be made regarding the way we work and the way that we live. The world stage has not only highlighted the stresses surrounding Covid-19, but also that deep change is needed in our thinking around ‘race and gender’. This need for change was clearly highlighted in May this year due to the abhorrent behaviour and murderous act that led to the death of George Floyd. This act of racial hatred sparked rallies and marches across the world to show how racism is still prevalent today and that it needs to stop.

The extent to which racism and sexism is present in our everyday lives needs to be addressed, as well as the detrimental effect discrimination can have on our wellbeing. The term ‘race’ is often misunderstood. It derives from France and Italy in the 15th century, and the meaning behind the term translates as kind, breed, and lineage. This also incorporates the physical characteristics of skin colour, eye colour and facial form. This crosses over when we look at ‘gender’ which can be defined as having three aspects, each with an association spectrum. These three aspects are ‘gender identity’, which is how a person identifies themselves, ‘gender expression’, which relates to their behaviour, dress and how others perceive their gender, and ‘biological sex’, which depends on a person’s mostly physical characteristics, for example, these include a person’s genitalia, body shape, body shape, voice, body / facial hair, hormone balance etc.

Deep change is also needed in the ‘disability’ sector, surrounding physical and mental health. One definition could be that being disabled takes away the elements from you that make you able. For example, this could relate to a wheelchair user who requires more space for social distancing purposes than others. In another instance someone may not be able to wear a mask due to asthma and therefore keeping more than two meters away is important for their health and well-being.

 

I am a member of the Well-being Peer Support team here at the University of Reading. Our members consist of staff volunteers (not counsellors or mental-health advisors) who are trained to recognise the signs and symptoms of mental health issues, whatever the cause, and can guide you to the right support. The Well-being Peer Support network is primarily geared towards staff members where we provide a space for listening and conversation with strict confidentiality in place. You can contact the network through: https://www.reading.ac.uk/human-resources/policies-and-procedures/health-and-wellbeing/wellbeing-peer-support#. Through the link above you will be able to see a list of our volunteers and be able to choose who to approach and speak to.

If you are a student at the university, there is a wide range of support and guidance available for you including being able to access links to professional counsellors and mental health advisors who can be reached 24/7: https://www.reading.ac.uk/essentials/Support-And-Wellbeing

There is also an excellent Wellbeing Toolkit produced by Student Services, with lots of useful advice and helpful links: https://www.reading.ac.uk/essentials/-/media/essentials/files/wellbeing-toolkit-nov.pdf

A particularly helpful resource presents five steps to well-being and shows how making small changes in our daily lives can result in a range of positive outcomes: https://www.reading.ac.uk/human-resources/working-at-reading/health-and-wellbeing/5-steps-to-wellbeing

 

There are of course many more steps to maintaining one’s wellbeing, particularly at this challenging time, and I have tried to focus my attention on implementing changes in my own life. Over the years I have been researching and finding ways to help myself through episodes of depression that started during childhood. When I was a toddler, I suffered a head injury when I was hit by a car and I was placed in intensive care for over three months. I was lucky to survive and I am forever grateful to have had the support over the years that have got me to where I am today. I would never have imagined that I would get through, school, college and then a university degree. So, I urge you, please, not suffer in silence but to seek support when needed. It is important that our University looks out for everyone, especially at this time of uncertainty.

 

There is a great podcast I recommend hosted by a British physician, Dr. Rangan Chatterjee, entitled ‘Feel better live more’. Dr. Chatterjee talks of four pillars of health; these pillars are nutrition, exercise, sleep, and meditation. I have tried and am still trying to create habits surrounding these four pillars. These actions have helped me reflect and change my perspective and outlook on life and I hope that they will be able to help others too.

LGBT+ intersectionality with race and disability

Guest blog by Debi Linton (Student Recruitment and Outreach) and Allán Laville (School of Psychology and Clinical Language Science).

Earlier this year, on 26 April, four members of the University’s LGBT+ Action Plan Group, Yasmin Ahmed (the Diversity and Inclusion Advisor in HR),  David Ashmore (from Procurement), Al Laville (from SPCLS and Co-Chair of the LGBT+ staff and PhD network),  and Debi Linton  (from Student Recruitment and Outreach), attended the Stonewall Workplace Conference 2019, Europe’s leading conference on lesbian, gay, bi and trans (LGBT) inclusion in the workplace that takes place annually in London.

This is one of several blogs (see also here and here) reflecting on the sessions that this group attended and the discussions had at this meeting. This particular blog focuses on learning from the session at the conference on workplaces that are inclusive of LGBT people who are also Black, Asian, or Minority Ethnic (BAME), and the session on understanding the experiences of LGBT disabled people.

Creating workplaces that are inclusive of BAME LGBT people

The Stonewall Work Report 2018 (https://www.stonewall.org.uk/lgbt-britain-work-report) gives clear examples of how being BAME LGBT is different from being white LGBT. For example, 1 in 8 BAME LGBT employees have lost their job in the last year because of being LGBT, compared to 1 in 25 of white LGBT staff. One potential reason for this difference could be the barriers that BAME LGBT people face in being able to perform to the best of their ability at work. In the BAME LGBT workshop [that was part of the Stonewall workplace Conference], it was shared that one reason could be lack of wider support and that 1 in 2 BAME LGBT individuals do not feel part of the wider LGBT community. This in turn could affect wellbeing and the ability to perform well at work. Other points were the role of unconscious bias and racial harassment. In relation to combating this at Reading, unconscious bias training is delivered as part of recruitment training and via online modules, and the University has clear policies and reporting processes around harassment and bullying.

In relation to improving practice, it was stated that it is important for BAME LGBT individuals to feel able to contribute in meetings, be praised for work ethic, and to have visible role models. It can be argued that these points apply across Diversity and Inclusion and protected characteristics (Equality Act, 2010). Exploring this further, the first two points strongly rely on the dynamic within meetings, those you work with and the approach taken by the line manager. These points should be consciously considered by leaders/managers to make all staff feel able to contribute in meetings and to acknowledge work that has been completed well.

In relation to visible role models, Stonewall run a BAME LGBTQ role-model programme, which is free to attend. The next programme is in Manchester on the 29th August 2019 (https://www.stonewall.org.uk/get-involved/get-involved-individuals-communities/bamepoc-lgbtq-role-models-programmes). In the videos provided on this webpage, the speakers discuss the benefits of sharing experiences with others to realise that you are not alone in the difficulties faced. At Reading, we promote role models through the ‘Faces of Reading’ project. This project shows the diversity of our staff by considering LGBT+, disability, parental or family leave etc. If you would like to put yourself forward for this project, please contact diversity@reading.ac.uk.

A final area of good practice was cross-network discussions to target as many considerations for BAME LGBT people as possible. At Reading, we have both a Cultural Diversity Staff Group and the LGBT+ Staff Network (https://www.reading.ac.uk/diversity/diversity-networks.aspx), and are looking at setting up cross-network discussions and events. If you have any ideas for how we could approach this, please contact Al Laville at a.laville@reading.ac.uk.

 

Experiences of LGBT+ disabled people

Disabled LGBT+ also reported feeling excluded from the wider LGBT+ community. Part of this is the accessibility of the community itself; meetings in inaccessible places and a lack of support for the individual needs create barriers that prevent any interaction with the rest of the community. As a specific example, much NHS literature on the transition process is presented in ways that is inaccessible to blind people.

It also emerged that, because of the effects disability has on quality of life, sometimes disabled people can come out to themselves or their family later in life, as their disabled identity takes precedence. The effects of inaccessibility can often be more impactful and more stressful than any lack of LGBT+ inclusion, though of course they can exacerbate each other. LGBT+ people are more likely than others to lack any familial support outside the workplace, and this can have a massive impact for disabled people.

However, there are many ways in which the LGBT+ and disabled communities can work together. As with the Cultural Diversity Staff Group, we also have a Staff Disability Network, which is open to both disabled and non-disabled staff. At the Workplace Conference, we were reminded of the Social Model of Disability: the idea that “disability” isn’t a thing a person has, but rather, they are “disabled” by society’s lack of accessibility. This was brought up as a comparison to diverse LGBT+ identities, who are often brought together by a shared experience of oppression, despite varied experiences across the spectrum (touched on in an earlier blog).

When thinking about best practice, it is important to recognise that accessible work practices benefit all of us: many people undergo periods of being temporarily disabled, through acute injuries, or become disabled during adulthood, so having practices and infrastructure in place can save stress and harm later on. We are required by law to make reasonable adjustments (https://www.gov.uk/reasonable-adjustments-for-disabled-workers) and if there are any needs required for specific disabled employees that aren’t covered, Access to Work (https://www.gov.uk/access-to-work) can fund any additional requirements.