Have you heard of the position of trans advisor?
That’s Claire Millar’s role with Boundless Belly Dance, ensuring the local dance group is inclusive of the LGBTQ+ community in its language and communication. Millar said she was involved as a dancer with the group before taking on the position in December 2018.
“My role is just to help with internal and external communications, to make sure the language is inclusionary and there were no issues,” said Millar. “It’s a good fit for me because I was involved with Boundless Belly in the first place and it was very serendipitous. I come from a very low-income background so for me, it was a flow from being sponsored for my classes to being able to help pay for my classes so to speak.”
Millar identifies as part of the LGBTQ+ community and knows the power words can have, especially for groups that have long faced abuse from derogatory terms such as ‘faggot’.
“I think back to my youth and there was no evidence or reason for people to call me that, but I was called a faggot over and over and over,” said Millar. “And that hurt, that hurts to this day. From the time when I was a little kid until now, and I’ve been scarred by that.
“So words like that will carry their weight for as long as you remember them.”
While the position is still formative, Millar says she’d like to see more companies embracing a role that has someone analyzing messaging through an inclusive LGBTQ+ lens. Eventually she’d like to expand her services to help other local companies identify gaps in their messaging and provide a secondary perspective.
“It’s to make sure that nobody is overlooked,” said Millar. “With Boundless I really don’t see that because Keisha McLean (founder) is very socially conscious herself. But I think she wanted another lens to look through to make sure she wasn’t missing anything.”
Millar said she can see companies are trying to better identify with their customers and referenced the recent Gillette commercial that address toxic masculinity.
“It of course had a huge uproar – but they were kind of on that good side. But there are so many companies that only represent the nuclear families, like husband and wife and two and a half kids,” said Millar. “It’s still very prevalent, and in today’s day and age how many people even get married anymore? We don’t have that nuclear family so much.
“(For example) there are gay couples adopting children or having children naturally through in vitro fertilization or surrogacy. There’s just so many other ways to include the title family.”
Millar said it’s important for everyone to see themselves represented in the media, as it helps shape a person’s identity.
“For example in television media or fictional media that we consume, it’s okay now to have a gay character. But generally, they suffer from the trope of dying by the end so it’s this tragic kind of heroic figure that doesn’t get to have a happy ending,” said Millar. “We’re still seeing that even 30 or 40 years after it’s okay to have gay folk on television, let alone trans folk.
“We’re still seeing cases of (trans people) being misrepresented that way where you have male actors playing trans women for very high profile roles, and they win Oscars, but that opportunity would not be afforded to a trans actor.”
Millar said people can take a few simple steps to ensure they are being inclusive when creating content or even in their everyday life. In a lot of cases, it’s taking a second look at language that has become common place in our society and using empathy to put yourself in another’s shoes.
“It sounds so simple, but a big thing is referring to gender-mixed folks as guys or dudes. And everybody does it but when it’s a group of all girls people still say ‘Hey guys’ when there isn’t one amongst us,” said Millar. “Yet if there was one guy, we’d still all be called guys and that can be problematic.
“If you turn that around, there’s always one person who says they call everybody dude and it’s like ‘Oh really, how many dudes have you slept with?’. So turn it around and ask the question if you were being asked the reverse of this, would it offend me?”
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