In anticipation for London Pride this weekend, King’s Chaplain, Tim Ditchfield, has penned a blog reflecting on his experience at the Stonewall Open Trans Ally Programme..
In recent years I have met several trans people and have heard their stories of challenges and struggle, a desire to be fully themselves and a pressure to deny themselves. And painful stories of being victimised and on the receiving end of abuse and aggression.
As someone who identifies as a straight cis Christian man (I guess you’d expect the Christian bit from the College Chaplain!) I am aware of two key things. Firstly, that God is a God of love who welcomes all people and has a special concern for those who are treated badly by other people, often those on the margins; and secondly that the church has, sadly, failed to live up to this standard in so many ways, but especially in relation to LGBTQ+ people.
I have also realised how I have sat on the fence about this. Recognising a desire for equality but doing little about it as it doesn’t affect me personally. Which is why over the past year I have started to be more proactive. I went to the Stonewall Workplace conference in April which was inspirational seeing so many impressive people speaking. And so many of the speakers identified as people of faith.
Ruth Hunt, the amazing CEO of Stonewall, spoke of her faith. Also people like Nour Shaker, the Trans Advisor for Vodaphone UK, and Shaan Knan, a Liberal Jewish trans man, who is working on a PhD exploring the intersection of trans and faith. All of these people and many others during the day spoke of their faith in a positive way and how it has shaped and encouraged them to be who they are.
As a result of this, I went on the Stonewall OPEN Trans Allies Programme two weeks ago. This was a day-long programme described as follows:
The Stonewall Trans Allies Programme is for individuals at all levels in an organisation. It is designed to empower individuals to actively create more trans-inclusive workplaces and communities. It’s designed to give participants a deeper understanding of the impact of common transphobic narratives on the trans community, and help participants create a clear action plan to actively tackle them, and to give participants access to a network of other trans allies to help create positive change.
The starting point for the day grew out of this statement of intent: though Stonewall encourages an open and honest environment, debating people’s identities is not acceptable. Trans women are women, trans men are men, and non-binary people exist. All identities are valid.
It was a useful day as we explored terminology, identity & privilege as well as the current legal position. It was painful to hear people’s stories of abuse and the reality of transphobia. It was challenging to work through what we as allies can do to respond proactively to this.
We had to leave with an action plan: what we’d do immediately, within a month and within a year. My immediate one was to use my pronouns in emails and on name labels at events, which I’m now doing. (I found this blog really helpful when asking why I should do this.)
Within a month, I planned to write a blog post about the day. Here it is.
Within a year I want to ensure the chaplaincy is a place where trans people feel fully welcome and included, and also a place where we are encouraging all people to explore the intersections of trans and faith in a safe environment.
Work in progress.