The Filipino LGBT Europe collaborates with Workplace Pride in “Gender Euphoria: What is Trans Joy?”
by: Maui Miranda
We value diversity and inclusion, but how can we put these ideals into practice? How can we work together to build a welcoming community where everyone feels a sense of belonging? How can we share our experiences, knowledge, and best practices with one another and with other organizations? These were the questions that were raised during the “Doing and Learning Diversity at ESSB” event at Erasmus University Rotterdam on 30th March 2023 in which the Filipino LGBT Europe team actively participated in.
In his keynote speech, Dr. Rolando Vasquez Melken, a decolonial thinker and an Associate Professor of Sociology at Utrecht University, proposed possible answers to the questions above. Dr. Melken’s talk focused on fostering meaningful institutions and what “to decolonize” actually means. He said that diversity is not only about discourse and representation but also about how things are done in academia, and how people relate to each other, to society, and to Earth. He emphasized that diversity is a practice and that it heeds the call for change and starts from recognizing our own positionality with respect to the intersecting axes of oppression race, gender, ableness, class, ecocide, etc. Dr. Melken also illustrated how we can harness the power of diversity through the lens of decoloniality. He explained that decoloniality is interrogating our ways of sensing, knowing, and teaching.
Following the keynote speech was a roundtable discussion with diversity officers and diversity and inclusion (D&I) practitioners from different institutions. In the discussion, the panelists shared and reflected on what practices work best, what challenges they faced, and what they have done to overcome them. They also discussed concrete instruments and practices, such as the Cultural Diversity Barometer and reverse mentoring, and how the participants in the seminar can connect with partners and stakeholders in society.
A more interactive part of the event was the parallel sessions and networking. There were six workshops and panel discussions about different topics related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. A featured session, in partnership with Workplace Pride – an international platform for LGBTIQ+ inclusion at work, was on “Gender Euphoria: What is Trans Joy?” Savannah Fischer, a trans woman from the United States and vice president of Fischer Solutions for Europe, moderated the panel discussion. The panelists were Kaye Candaza, Trans Committee Head of the Filipino LGBT Europe, Dylan Drenk, an American trans man and psychosocial expert, and Sophie Jeckmans, a Dutch trans woman and Chair of the Trans+@Workplace Pride network. The goal of this hybrid session was to draw extra attention to the International Transgender Day of Visibility which is celebrated every 31st of March.
The aim of the panel discussion is to shift the narrative about trans individuals’ experiences and how they are presented in the media, medical community, pop culture, and academia from negative to positive. While it is true that this focus is necessary to draw attention to and assist with urgent issues, there is a risk that the community could allow this negative sentiment to define it. However, for many people, living authentically brings great satisfaction. Gender euphoria might be a better word to describe this optimistic, forward-looking perspective. Similar to how cis people confirm their identities, the trans community can do so through bodily experience, physical appearance, social interactions, inclusion, and cultural representation.
After all the obstacles and struggles she faced, Candaza described how she had “trans joy” when her “personhood” was finally acknowledged and when she received legal documents that reflected her gender identity. She also discussed how her activism and advocacy efforts allow her to spread her “joy” to others. Kaye has helped countless migrants of different nationalities and regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, expression, and sexual characteristics (SOGIESC). Many of the people she has helped have come to think of her as their mother because of her unceasing efforts and dedication. Candaza noted during the panel discussion “There’s a ‘mother’ in all of us maybe you just don’t know it yet.”
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW
‘Transgender’ (often abbreviated to ‘trans’) is used as an inclusive umbrella term to describe anyone who feels that the gender assigned to them at birth based on their genitalia fails to describe them.
This umbrella includes (but is not limited to!) the following identities:
- Non-binary – a person who identifies as neither a man nor a woman;
- Transsexual – an older term, now considered offensive by some, which some choose to identify with. These are usually people who have permanently changed or seek to change their bodies through medical procedures
- Intersex people – those born with a physical sex anatomy that does not fit medical norms for female or male bodies – are often included under the trans umbrella, although often face different forms of marginalisation that are not always fully represented within the general trans community. Some intersex people identify as trans while others do not because they feel that their condition does not relate to gender but rather to physical sex.
It should be noted that transgender is a very broad term, and it encompasses many different experiences with distinct (though often overlapping) sets of issues. Whether or not an individual subscribes to the term transgender is subject to self-definition. There is no “right” way to be trans.
By “Trans / Transgender” we are referring to all people who consider themselves to fall under the trans / transgender and gender variant umbrella. This includes, but is not limited to: trans women, trans men, transsexual men and transsexual women, non-binary, androgyne, polygender, agender, genderqueer, gender non-conforming, genderless, gender questioning, gender diverse, cross-dressing and transvestite people, and anyone who feels that the gender assigned to them at birth incompletely describes or does not at all describe their own personal (a)gender identity. We also include those who reject the western division of cis/trans labels who are gender non-conforming.
OXFORD UNIVERSITY LGBTQ+ SOCIETY (no date) “What does ‘Trans’ mean?” Available at: https://www.oulgbtq.org/what-does-trans-mean.html#:~:text=%27Transgender%27%20%28often%20abbreviated%20to%20%E2%80%98trans%E2%80%99%29%20is%20used%20as,identifies%20as%20neither%20a%20man%20nor%20a%20woman%3B (Accessed: April 1, 2023).