Transgender Day of Visibility
Transgender Day of Visibility is dedicated to celebrating transgender people and raising awareness of discrimination faced by transgender people worldwide, Kally Mabe, an employee at Vodacom shares their thoughts with us.
Transgender Day of Visibility is dedicated to celebrating transgender people and raising awareness of the discrimination they face worldwide. Vodacom staff member Kally Mabe shares their thoughts and answers our questions.
From the second a child is born, or even still in the womb, they’re assigned a gender – male or female. And with that, society imposes on them a rigid template of how they’re supposed to behave and present themselves, and what roles they will fulfil. Those who grow up feeling uncomfortable about fitting into these gender expectations, particularly in terms of how they present and define themselves, are misunderstood, shamed, and discriminated against.
Over the past decade and more, transgender activists have been working to change this, and the first annual World Transgender Day of Visibility was held on 31 March 2009.
One key point is that we’re generally unconscious of how powerful the words are that we use to connect, characterise, and describe everything around us – and nothing is more personal than the words used to refer to us through our names and pronouns. But thankfully now we have more opportunities to encounter a wider range of gender identities and expressions in society and the workplace.
Why do gender pronouns matter and which do you identify with?
I identify with the pronouns They/Them/You and the title Mx. Using the correct pronouns or using a gender-neutral pronoun if not indicated or unsure is an easy way to show respect. Whether intentional or unintentional, using the wrong pronouns can be hurtful, angering, triggering (making someone suicidal or depressed), and even distracting. It’s like saying, "You don't matter to me, and I don’t respect you as a person." Having your identity invalidated puts a strain on how you function in society and interact with others. While many transgender people identify on a binary scale – as either male or female – some do not. They may refer to themselves as "genderqueer," "gender fluid," or "non-binary"+. These gender-expansive identities are generally considered part of the greater transgender community.
Why do you think we should talk about gender identity in society?
We need to talk about gender identity because it helps us confront many of the issues we’re dealing with in society, such as gender-based-violence. We need to talk about this so we don’t continue to raise broken children with childhoods that they need to heal from. Our children should be able to grow up playing with any toy they want without being labelled or bullied by other kids because of their parents’ mindsets. The world is also moving towards a genderless society that isn't controlled by stressful and unhealthy gender systems and stereotypes. Gender isn't sexuality and sexuality isn’t gender. Humans are individuals – it’s wrong to define someone through their genitalia or biological sex and then dictate who they are, who they love, what they wear, how they live, which career they pursue, and even which colour they’re supposed to like!
What’s the difference between sex and gender and why does it matter so much?
Gender is different from sex, it has nothing to do with biology or chromosomes. It's all about a profile we’ve built of behaviours and social traits. Society has created so many rules around these labels of masculinity and femininity. By moving past this, we’ll release future generations from unhealthy and stressful stereotypes. Eventually there won’t be a need for attitudes like “a man has to bottle up their emotions and be strong” or “a woman must sit back and look pretty”. Nobody – whether they identify as male, female or anything in between – should have to conform to a stereotype.
What does Transgender Day of Visibility mean to you?
This day carries a lot of weight in our community. We take this time to remember those who passed on because of being who they were and trying to live their truth in a world where that wasn’t an option. It’s a sombre day because you remember that you’re a walking target, you remember the history and you think about the trans suicide rate. We are a minority, but our suicide rates are twice the normal rate because of what society puts us through. Simply being respectful to someone who’s different from you can save a life, it's literally that simple. Who wouldn’t want to save a life?
What are some of the struggles transgender people face daily?
When people in the larger society come across things that are different to what they’ve been taught or told or that don’t fit the norm or seem logical, they often react with hate. And that is why society doesn’t understand why transgender and trans-nonbinary don’t fit into the traditional binary categories. Even if everything I’ve said so far hasn’t made sense to you, the most important thing is respect. As long as we make an effort to make society a better place for all people with all our differences, we will be okay. We shouldn’t be defined by gender; we should define gender. These are some of our daily struggles:
Loss of income
Social limitations – we cannot go to many places in the world, our continent, our country, certain social settings, and even parts of our own neighbourhoods.
What are things you shouldn’t say to transgender people?
I’d rather not answer this as it might be triggering to others reading this. Here is an article you can read if you want to know more.
How long have you been working for Vodacom and what do you do?
Several months. I’m a Cyber Security Specialist (CSO) in the Secure-by-Design team.
How can corporates make life easier for transgender employees?
They can make efforts to be inclusive and create a safe environment that fully enables people to be themselves. Internal policies, standards, and procedures should be lived through the organisation’s core values. Business can collaborate with the community in different ways to send a message out to society.
Any highlights since joining Vodacom?
Well, my onboarding process was the best onboarding process I’ve ever had in my life! I think we are doing our best to redefine being the best employer.
At Vodacom it is our mission to build an inclusive culture where everyone is respected, can be themselves and strives to be their best. Click here for more information about the benefits of working at Vodacom.