A celebration of exceptional ordinariness
Dr Rachael Townend, Senior Consultant, Historic Environment
November is Transgender Awareness Month. Unlike most internationally observed periods of awareness-raising, for the transgender community this culminates not in celebration but in a day of remembrance; In a day of collective mourning for the transgender individuals who have been killed across the globe, and the statistics are staggering.
It’s a rather grim way to start a blog post, but I make no apologies for it. You see, I’m a trans woman and I consider myself lucky to be alive. Actually, ‘lucky’ doesn’t even come close. I have fantastic friends, a wonderful family, I live in a country where the rights of people like me are enshrined in law and I live in a liberal democracy where openness and tolerance are an integral part of our society.
All that being true, on a day-to-day basis, there is one thing that makes the biggest difference to my freedom to be myself and that is that I have an employer and colleagues who respect me for my talents, not my gender identity. I can’t overstate how important this is. For many older trans people like myself, who grew up in the 1970 and 1980s, or earlier, deligitimisation of our identities is a major issue. To feel that every hour of every working day, while everyone else is going about the business of being who they are and doing what they do, I too have a place in a working environment where my expression of my gender identity is taken without question as a projection of my true self. I can just be me. Just like everyone else. Amazing. No, really, it is. Ten years ago, that would just not have happened except in exceptional circumstances. So hooray for ‘so what’! Hooray for ‘meh...’! At work, I am entirely unremarkable, and for non-cis passing trans women like me, ordinariness literally saves lives.
About the blogger
Rachael is a Senior Historic Environment consultant based in Shrewsbury, Shropshire. She has worked at Amec Foster Wheeler since 2007, having previously worked as a field archaeologist in and around London. Like so many of her former field colleagues her body is ruined from digging holes so she now mostly tells other people where to dig holes instead. When she’s not doing that, she plays bass guitar in a couple of bands, feeds wild birds and buys too many shoes (and too many guitars).
On Cis and Trans:
Cis is a truncation Cisgender. In Latin Cis means ‘on this side of’ and is the antonym of Trans, which means ‘on the other side of’. Its use in relation to gender identity draws on this etymology and also its use in chemistry where the orientation of substituent groups can be said to align (Cis) or to oppose (Trans). So if a transgender person is someone whose gender identity doesn’t align with their assignment at birth then a Cisgender person is someone whose does.