At the 2103 Gender Odyssey Conference in Seattle, I had the privilege of attending a workshop on leadership, with Jamison Green as the facilitator.
Green is a veteran activist, acclaimed author and the president-elect of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH), an international multidisciplinary professional organization committed to promoting evidence based care, education, research, advocacy, public policy and respect in transgender health. Healthcare professionals across the globe look to WPATH’s guidelines to inform the way they treat their transgender clients.
The conference workshop was an open format discussion, with an audience of trans leaders of varying capacities. Many of those present talked about the difficulty of raising funds for anything related to trans issues. First of all, only not-for-profits are eligible for grants and funders want data to inform their decision. But you can only collect data on a population if you already have funding in place.
The only way we’re going to make headway as a community, Green explained, is to institutionalize the various spaces that impact us. E.g. insurance, healthcare, HR policies, government, education, to name only a few key ones. We need to do the research, get the data, and use the data to get the funding we need to provide better services for our community. No use waiting for others to do it for us.
He called upon each of us to lead by influencing and to not underestimate the power of disseminating information to those who don’t have it. One of the workshop participants talked about speaking with authority, even when you feel like you don’t really know what you’re talking about. That’s what he had to do when he became a de facto expert on all things trans after starting an online resource hub that drew questions from parents and trans people far and wide. Find the resources you need, suggested Jamison, and claim your space. With the internet, resources are more accessible than ever before.
I especially liked when Green said leadership is about empowering others. You lead by sharing your skills and knowledge with other people; but leadership is not about making yourself indispensable. Many would-be leaders make the mistake of wanting to do too much themselves or don’t know how to ask for help. Ultimately, though, we are only as strong as the people who support us. And that means allowing others to step up to the plate; trying to do everything yourself is a recipe for burnout.
Green acknowledged that it is tough to lead, that it is easy to get worn down, and that there really isn’t any money in it. But he does it because he doesn’t want to see people suffer anymore. That struck a nerve for me.
If I can do something, no matter how small, to make transitioning a little less painful for the next person, then I want to do it. No better time to start than now.