To continue our theme celebrating allyship, we spoke to Gail Hardy from the Major Injury Claims Team about her experience as a parent to a trans child.
Gail felt motivated to share her and her son Evan’s story after listening to Jackson Hayes’ podcast on drafting RSA’s Trans Inclusive Policy, and reading this article by former Chief Risk Officer William McDonnell.
"In his article, William talks about being set a lot of homework by his transitioning son, even being given a reading and watching list – that really does resonate with me. The whole interview does actually. Supporting a child through transition is a big learning curve for the whole family and a journey that is totally guided by your child, which can feel like a bit of a parent-child role reversal at first!
Funnily enough, in William’s article, he says that his son Conrad let him know by letter, and I was just the same. Evan wrote me a little note, only a couple of sentences, then just peered his head around the door and said: “Mum there’s something for you,” promptly running off. I said, “What is it?” and by the time I’d said it, he’d already gone upstairs. I picked it up from the edge of the table, read it then I literally ran upstairs and gave him a hug saying, “That’s amazing, we’re all going to be OK and I love you."
Ever since then we’ve both been on the learning curve. I do research bits and pieces myself and whenever I find new things I should be doing or saying, I’ll ask him if that’s right. He’s 14 now and it’s his normality to talk really openly about things, which I think is amazing. I’m really proud. Not every child is like that and we’re very lucky in that respect.
But maybe children open up a bit more once they have come out to you, you know? When you’re being your authentic self then I do truly think you are more comfortable being open, and I know with Evan that definitely is the case. He was quite shy before and that does sort of click into place with hindsight.
I’m conscious that we are benefitting from a generational change in understanding what 'normal' encompasses. I’m straight cis-gendered and so is my sister. My mum was a single parent. I know thinking back to our childhood being a single parent at that time, growing up in the 70s and 80s that was a stigma, as was having free school meals. It seemed very much out of the ordinary and not the norm. So, I’ve had some experience of feeling outside of things and looking in.
Over the years and over the generations I feel much more like everything is ‘normal’ and which I think is a testament to society’s desire to be inclusive – to accept someone simply for who they are, which is absolutely brilliant. Maybe I have felt that more since 2005 when I first became a parent. With two teenagers now I’ve just grown with everything – or gone with the flow may be a better phrase.
For example, my eldest son thinks he is bisexual, but then he has also said to me he’s not sure, and then he’s come back and said he is sure after all. So, he's clearly on a journey of exploration and as their parent, I just roll with it. If my child is happy then so am I.
I’m getting to grips with the challenges that Evan is going to face in the future because the wider your circle is the more likely that you are going to encounter someone who has those really negative and extreme views (views which I think are often quite baseless, as in that person may never have met a trans person or been around a trans person and their ideas are likely pieced together from different news articles and not from real-life experiences).
At the moment Evan’s in a little bubble I guess. There have been some incidents, don’t get me wrong. He’s had one incident where he said “F you” to somebody at school who said something very offensive to him. That’s not like Evan at all, he’s quite polite, but I thought good on you my lad for standing up for yourself!
His school has been amazing, the way they have swiftly dealt with issues and supported Evan, it really feels like they’re a great ally. His circle of friends also. He’s kept most of the same circle from pre-transition and made a lot of new friends now with the lads, so he’s done really well. He’s got two more years in school but if he decides to go to a separate college for sixth form he’ll then start as Evan, whereas he started as his pre-transition self in this current school.
Because he’s fourteen, his voice is quite high at the moment, as he’s not on testosterone or anything. So in a couple of years, it might be more evident that he has not gone through male puberty, and we may face a bit more unsettlement. I think each stage of life will bring a new transition itself. I’m a bit of a realist, I don’t worry about the future or stress about the past, just deal with each stage of life as it comes. But I do know there will be challenges ahead. We think we have an idea of what those challenges will be, but I know they will be totally different when we actually have to face them.
I work in our Motability business and deal regularly with people with disabilities; cognitive, psychological or degenerative conditions. You don’t know when you are speaking to someone what their condition could be. It’s all about listening to them and being led by them to see what their needs are and what we can provide to them through RSA. It’s taught me that everyone is an individual. Evan has definitely strengthened my skills in this area.
I said to Evan, this is hard to imagine, but if you were working for RSA what would you like to think would be the most important things for you as a trans person in an organisation?
He gave me these answers:
- It’s important to get my name right and my pronouns right
- It’s important to always give a sincere apology if you get something wrong accidentally
- You shouldn’t assume anyone’s pronouns
- It’s important to treat everyone as normal people
- It’s important to include us in things.
I thought that was not bad for a 14-year-old!
For me, that RSA has a clear policy, a dedicated Employee Resource Group (ERG), and a company ethos that is wholly inclusive is very good to know. I feel supported in knowing that there are companies out there to whom it really matters – and RSA is leading the way by example.
The Building Pride ERG, our employee resource group dedicated to the equality, respect, and acceptance of LGBTQ+ colleagues, is incredibly important on so many levels. To see employees coming together to celebrate Pride is a fantastic thing. I even took part in my first Pride Parade this year and it was absolutely brilliant!!
I heard about the Liverpool Pride march through a colleague and as soon as I mentioned this to Evan he 100% wanted to go. (Me too!) It was on 30 July in Liverpool’s city centre, everyone congregating at St George’s Plateau which was a fantastic experience seeing such large numbers of people in one place. The energy, music, and vibe were so exciting and I knew this would be something to remember for Evan and me.
Evan also decided to bring a friend from school who is non-binary and had only recently come out, so this was great for them both to experience – particularly as their own parents did not feel comfortable bringing them to a Pride event.
An amazing day. I was exhilarated, and on a high for a long time afterward!"