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Transgender Day of Visibility

Lisa Cordery 30 Mar 2022

My story as a cis gender trans ally and nurse.

Firstly, it is important to say that my story is not the important one. the stories which matter are those of our trans and non-binary patients, colleagues, friends, and family members. I am sharing my experience in the hope that I can reach other cis gender health care staff who may be thinking ‘what does trans day of visibility have to do with me?’.

I had always considered myself as an inclusive practitioner and vivid memories of arguing with bigoted viewpoints even as a child. I had worked with a trans woman when I was 20 years old, and thought nothing of it, although when I look back, I am ashamed to say that I also did not really challenge some of the attitudes held by colleagues at the time. I didn’t laugh at the jokes, but I also did not confront the sources of them. I also remember films such as Ace Ventura which openly mocked a trans woman and accepted it as a cruel cultural norm, albeit one I did not agree with. *As an aside, if anyone is interested in the affects which film and media have had on trans lives and societal attitudes I would highly recommend watching ‘Disclosure’ on Netflix.

My education began when I met a trans young person and as a School Nurse. I was asked to help them navigate some of the complex systems which existed in health, at the time when there was no Gender Identity Service in Wales. I simply did not know where to start. The young person sat in front of me needed the support and guidance of a School Nurse at a time when every door which they knocked on was closed and they were directed to another one. The young person had more than one need and each need made it impossible to get help. They could not access gender services because of their alcohol use but they could not get help with their addiction whilst they were having therapy for PTSD. I was lost so could only imagine was it was like for the young person, who did not have any family support since coming out as trans.

As a nurse I attempted to navigate the systems for the young person. Nothing was easy and my lack of even the most basic knowledge did not help. During that time, I misgendered the young person and was guilty of asking unnecessary questions out of curiosity and a need to learn. It was not for this young person in distress to teach me.

We muddled through together and got the needed help, but I promised the young person and myself that I would learn, grow, and never feel so unprepared and useless ever again. Since then, I have tried to read as much as I can, from the ever-growing high-quality library of books available written by people like Juno Roche and Shon Faye. I follow trans influencers on Twitter and YouTube and I volunteer for Pride Cymru. Most importantly I have listened to trans, and non-binary people of all ages and I never ever assume that I have finished learning. I am honoured to have some amazing trans friends and colleagues and am grateful every day for the trust trans and non-binary young people and their families put in me when they ask for support. 

There are some key things which I have learned from the young people I have listened to, which I hope will be valuable to others reading this. The most important thing is individuality. One young person might be truly clear about their gender, they might have known who they were from an early age, but others are on a journey and might never fit (and nor should they feel the need to) into binary terms of gender. In short, they are who they say they are when they say it and it is not for anyone to question that. Another thing I learned is the importance of having a Children’s Rights respecting approach. All Children have the right to a name (Article 7 of the UNCRC) and that name should be respected, all children have the right to healthcare (Article 24) and all children have the right to be heard (Article 12). The most significant thing which children and young people have taught me is that the future is promising in their hands. The joy of seeing trans and non-binary young people flourish and grow in confidence gives me the best job satisfaction imaginable but seeing how they lift others gives me hope for future generations. 

The world can be a cruel place for trans and non-binary children and young people (and adults). Twitter is great for learning, but it can be painfully toxic for trans and all LGBTQ+ communities and the inaccuracies which are presented as fact in mainstream media outlets is very disturbing. Our visible allyship and compassion is important, especially if we are caring for people at their most vulnerable. A young person once told me that having their correct pronouns used and seeing a trans flag behind the reception of an outpatient clinic absolutely made his day and put him instantly at ease. A lanyard with the LGBTQ+ progress flag on or pronouns on your I.D badge can signify a safe space and create an opportunity for people to feel relaxed. 

Our roles in health are to care for, support and empower the population with compassion and respect. Our values align with a respectful approach to all protected characteristics and most of us joined the caring workforce because we want to help people. Trans day of visibility is one occasion to demonstrate our values and tell our trans and non-binary communities that health settings are a safe space and that our trans and non-binary colleagues can bring their authentic selves to work without any discrimination.

Lisa Cordery

Lisa Cordery

RCN Wales Nurse of the Year 2019 Innovation in Nursing Runner up

Lisa has been a nurse since 2000, working in medicine, sexual health, HIV nursing and School Nursing. Lisa is also a midwife.

She has spent the last ten years leading a multi-agency team working with children and young people to empower them through education to avoid the harms associated with substance use. Lisa is as an Emotional Wellbeing Specialist Nurse (for children and young people)and is undertaking a Professional Doctorate in Advanced Healthcare at Cardiff University.

Page last updated - 27/05/2022