Tuesday, 19 October 2021

You can have a voice, but you will only use our words (International Pronouns Day)

 Hello everyone!

It's been a while huh?
Three and a half years to be precise!
I'm doing a lot better these days, you could almost call it 'doing well' by comparison to the last time I wrote in here.

I'll give you a quick catch up on the last 3 years before I get down to business;
-Got divorced

-Started with my Gender Identity Clinic

-Had a load of laser hair removal

-Legally changed my name

-Got HRT meds under supervision of GIC (2 years and counting)

-Got my letter that clears me for passport application and legal recognition of gender, and now on the long waiting list for vaginoplasty

-Had a massive mental breakdown and tried to off myself (obviously didn't) and subsequent hiatus from work for 14 months

-Got a lot of therapy and I'm getting ready for more.

-Returned to work in my authentic gender role, now living as a woman full time

TLDR; I'm up to my armpits in transition stuff.

And because I know it will get this post more attention, here is how I look when I glam it up a bit these days.

It's been a real period of highs and lows, and I know if it wasn't for my friends and family I would not be here to write this. I feel extremely fortunate to be so cared for at the same time as suspecting this whole thing is just a mean prank on my psychological integrity.
But I digress...

Today I'm writing something of a blog within a blog, for your reading pleasure. ...Yeah sure, a blog-ception...
As I just alluded to, I'm back in work now after a long period at home.
And this was a huge deal, not just for me as I'm now presenting myself authentically in work as I had been doing in all other aspects of my life, but also for the NHS hospital trust I work for, because I'm the first clinical member of staff they have had who is male to female transgender.
My Ward Manager, Matron, colleagues and old friends have all been hugely supportive, And I really feel indebted to them for the love and care they've shown me, it means so much more than they will ever know.
In the first few days of my phased return to work, my Matron approached me with a request from the trust's Inclusion, Equality and Diversity lead, we'll call her Tanya here (yes I still use pseudonyms) to write a blog piece for International Pronouns Day (which as I write this is tomorrow, 20/10/21) to communicate to all staff within out hospital trust about the significance and importance of pronouns from a trans-person's perspective.

So I got to work on it immediately and began to liase with Tanya  directly.
She was really pleased I was so keen, I explained that I used to keep this blog fairly frequent and I was used to blogs and creative writing, and frankly she seemed thrilled to have me on board.
I eventually finished at an 1800 word piece I felt proud of, so I sent it to Tanya from Inclusion, Equality and Diversity.
And once again, she seemed really keen, saying she loved it and would send it to our trust's communication managers...

And this is where the problems began.
The following is an email chain between myself, Tanya, and the communications manager... What to call her?

Karen! Yes, I think in the circumstances, that's more than appropriate!
...Myself, Tanya and Karen.
On my midweek return to the hospital, Tanya had forwarded this email from Karen to me.


Hi Tanya


I’ve just been having a chat with the team and yes absolutely we can add something to the newsletter. We do advise, however, that blogs are limited to 750 words. If Samantha would like to send the completed document across, we can look at maybe splitting it down into a couple of instalments, if that’s easier than reducing the word count.


Kind regards


Bear in mind before we continue, I had put 10 hours of my own time crafting a blog, to use my voice. There was a beginning, a middle and an end.
There was cadence and continuity, and a deadline of (by this point) 1 week.

Hi Tanya

Only got back into work today and saw this email.

Unfortunately, I’m not going to have time to edit my work by 50 or 60%, nor will I be able to whilst still making the points I am aiming to make, I am basically certain that is will not be my voice.
Furthermore, I’m not overly keen on it being split over multiple releases because I don’t foresee it being read with the same cadence or tone as it would if published as one written piece. And frankly I don’t feel like anyone is going to care too much after the 20th has passed.

Due to this I would prefer you didn’t run the piece at all than run it in multiple parts. To think of something in that word count would not be an edit, it would be a total re-write, and I don’t have the time for that this week.

I would prefer not to speak at all than lose the spirit of what I have written.

Apologies for any inconvenience to yourself




I agree it wouldn’t be ideal over 2 parts. I’m sorry that the note RE word limit didn’t reach you until after you’d written the piece.


I don’t want to lose this piece – I’m certain it is very valuable and therefore I’m liaising with Karen about how we may be able to use this piece in its entirety over a different communication medium as I think (The trust's) news word limits are pretty strict.  I will of course check with you before any decisions are made.


Hope this is OK?


Thank you for understanding Tanya

I got quite upset about this whole thing yesterday, because a 750 word limit feels quite arbitrary in the context of something so important, more-so due to it’s alignment with the alteration of my presentation at work.

This coming on the back of Pride month 2020 when the trust flew the Pride flag upside down for the duration of the month.
Honestly, I began to question whether the request for a trans voice was sincere, or just to tick a box to advertise the trust’s inclusion and progressivity.
I’m sure you can see my perspective.

Thank you for flattering me in not wanting to lose my work, it means a lot ๐Ÿ˜Š






I can assure you that the reason I approached (Matron) about this was because I want to start amplifying diverse voices in the Trust – this is something that is going to be written into the new EDI Strategy. One of the ways we will be doing this is by creating strong staff diversity networks, including an LGBTQIA+ network. In my last role I was EDI manager but also started and Chaired the LGBTQIA+ network for 3 years.  I am a lesbian and although I am a cis woman, I do count myself as an active ally to the trans community. You have my full support and I hope that (The trust) can become more actively inclusive going forwards.  Although I wasn’t in post in 2020, I’m sorry that the pride flag was flown upside down.  I hope to purchase the progress pride flag for next year and can assure you that it will be the right way up!


I think the limit is for all articles and must be for reasons that are beyond my expertise (not being a Comms specialist) but I appreciate that your article wouldn’t work split up, as it is.  I am still waiting to hear from Karen – I will nudge her today to see what has been discussed.



Hi Sam,

Please take a look at the attached and below and let me know by 2pm today if you want it to be published this way tomorrow. 

I hope this is ok?  It would be fantastic for staff in our Trust to hear about pronouns from someone with the lived experience of the importance of them – I hope we can do this together. Let me know.

Best wishes



Hi Tanya


Based on feedback from the team we have made a couple of slight amendments (just removing “for me sins” and both comments about “bigots”).


We can add the blog in its entirety in Wednesday’s newsletter but because of the length, would you mind drafting a short piece about Pronouns Day and then we can add a link to the blog?


If you and Samantha are both happy with the minor changes and when you’ve drafted the item for the newsletter, we will just need to get (Trust manager) to approve it for inclusion in the newsletter.


Kind regards


(Don't worry all of this will become clear shortly - I'm including the full blog piece that I wrote for my hospital trust after we've discussed this whole ordeal a bit. Just bear in mind "Both comments about bigots".

Hi Tanya

I’ll be honest, I’m not happy about the bigotry parts being removed.
That was kind of the prompt for people to take a look at themselves, and it tied up the ending with a call back.
Again, this feels very “You can do it your own way, if it’s done just how we say”, and I cant sign off on it because my voice has been taken away.

If the trust wants a trans voice, they can have it, but they can’t censor my frustration and rage at the hate we receive, because?
They don’t want to offend bigots?
I definitely can’t sign off on that.

Please withdraw the piece.
I know it isn’t your fault, and I thank you for your encouragement and support.
Glad to have you as an ally and the support goes both ways.



And that, dear friends is where it stands as I left work today.

I've spent the day furious at Karen. She has wasted my time and effort and has provided zero rationale for her decisions.
As you will see in the blog-ception piece below, the edits described that her and her team made to my work, not only make the ending appear from nowhere like a film that ran out of money, but they completely destroy the whole thread of the work. 
They make my words completely benign.
When you ask a trans person for their voice, you are asking for the lived experience and view point of what it is to be trans. This includes the parts you would rather weren't true, like verbal abuse from strangers in the street, being pointed and laughed at... hell, getting spat at (yeah - that happened to me).
You ask this person to use their voice, they're going to give you the realest version they know how to.

Why ask me to use my voice if it's going to be censored and redacted?
Why even have a policy on protection and inclusion of trans staff if entire teams are more worried about offending hateful bigots by calling them hateful bigots.

  1. a person who is obstinately or unreasonably attached to a belief, opinion, or faction, especially one who is prejudiced against or antagonistic towards a person or people on the basis of their membership of a particular group.

Last time I checked, transphobia was bigotry. (Or did I miss a meeting where we agreed that transphobia is okay now?)

So why would a progressive organisation seek to censor someone under a protected characteristic, calling out the hate they have experienced simply for living as they see fit?

I'm not going to suggest that Karen might be a bigot.
And that she redacted "the comments about bigots" because she had her own transphobia prodded and didn't like being called a bigot.
I just don't have that kind of information, and therefore I could never infer that I accidentally pissed off a transphobe without trying.

But it makes you think...

As promised, ladies, gents, boys, girls, enbys, queers, queens and kings.

Tomorrow, the 20th of October is International Pronouns Day, and to mark this occasion, I have written a nice bit of bloggage about Pronouns.
My hospital trust will never use it, but that doesn't mean it wont get read.

Well done for sticking with me this far.
My love to you all for reading xx

Hello all.

My name is Samantha Eccles, My pronouns are she & her. But more on that in a minute.
I’ve been working at
the hospital as a Staff Nurse since 2008 (...for me sins).

I recently returned to work in SDEC after a long absence, and I did so presenting as what us trans-folk call our “Authentic Self” for the first time. That is to say, I am Transgender.
For me, as a Transgender Woman (Trans-woman) this meant altering my appearance and outward presentation from a typically masculine appearance to a more feminine one.
And so far (*touches wood*) it has been a positive move for me. I’m still in the very early days of my transition in terms of my overall goals, and I’m still a little rough around the edges, but I’m getting there and I’m feeling better in myself than I ever have.

Why am I sharing this?
Because Wednesday the 20th of October is National Pronouns Day, and I’d like to tell you about why that matters, not just to me, but for literally everyone. Both in the workplace and in the world outside the hospital doors.

You thought pronouns are just a fad, the things that teenagers put in their Instagram Bio?
Well, yes. They are! But also, it’s a lot more than that.

 We all use pronouns for many things every single day.

And rightly, or wrongly (that’s a whole other discussion) we ascribe gender significance to these words. Like “He did this”, “She’s been there”… Everyone is familiar with these. You know which pronouns to use because of people’s genders. And this is the message we are fed from a very early age, ‘he/him’ for boys, ‘she/her’ for girls, and that’s all you need to know, right?
Well, Kinda… For the most part… But no…
I used to get this wrong myself, in a past life, back when I was still trying to convince myself that I was a cisgender man (To be cisgender is to have the absence of gender dysphoria, the state of congruence between the body and the gender role a person feels comfortable in. Gender Dysphoria is what Transgender people suffer with, a distress or discontent with one’s gender – this can be at a psychological, social, physical or sexual level. Or a combination of any, or all of these components).
It wasn’t my fault, it’s just how I was raised, the town I grew up in, the people around me. There was no way I could have known how to get it right. Confusion and/or ignorance to this subject is common. Because it is new language and concepts born of the very latest understandings of gender. Younger generations are much more attuned
to this, being raised in the age of information, by way of the internet.
Gender is a massive subject,
massive… Too big to even scratch the surface here. And that’s without going into the realm of gender non-conforming identities (Transgender and Non-Binary people).

But I am going to try to give you a comprehensive crash course in first impressions and self introductions that are inclusive of transgender and gender non-conforming people, that if used effectively and appropriately can help the LGBTQ+ community reach wider acceptance throughout society.

(I’m sorry for all these big words, I promise, I’m going to do my best to explain them all as I go, so bear with me).

For Trans and Non-Binary (NB) people, their natal bodies are at odds with the gender they feel best suited to, and this means it’s very easy for their bodies to betray their hearts, their minds
and their pronouns. Using correct pronouns is especially important for us, because unlike cis-people, we have often had to fight for our gender identities.
Whether intentional or accidental, we are often misgendered, and this can trigger our gender dysphoria, which in turn usually brings on the ‘less pleasant’ aspects of ill mental health.
To use myself as an example of what I’m getting at;
am a woman who is 200cm (6’6”) tall with a fairly deep voice (if my constant effort to raise my pitch lapses). If you look closer you will see my hands and feet are bigger than most women’s and that my face is somewhat angular with a prominent nose, brow and chin. And if you look really close you might even catch some stubble on the lower half of my face and neck.
So, does this observation give people freedom to talk about me or to me using masculine pronouns (He/Him instead of She/her)?
I mean, the first four words in the example were “I am a woman”.
And yet 4 years of personal real-world experience tells me that a whole lot of people absolutely do not understand this, or they refuse to listen and dig deeper into their hate and prejudice.
Fortunately, most of this confusion is passive ignorance and is effectively harmless, but sadly the rest of it is unchecked trans-phobia.

Using the incorrect pronouns for trans and Non-Binary (NB) people can be accidental. Honestly, it’s understandable, not least if people knew and spent a lot of time with the trans person in their ‘First-Draft Gender’ prior to their transition. Big changes require big adjustment, and most trans people know and respect this. We don’t like telling people they have misgendered us, because it causes us to acknowledge a misgendering.
If you’ve ever been misgendered yourself, you will know that awkward feeling when someone refers to you in the wrong pronouns.
(Side note, my mind has just been on a tangent in “Wallace & Gromitt – The Wrong Pronouns” where Wallace invents a robotic pair of legs that wear heels and a skirt with hilarious results…)

Mistakes are easy to spot, because people will apologise for a mistake.

But the intentional or ignorant misuse of pronouns is a practice that I would rejoice in seeing an end to.
Intentional misgendering is trans-phobia, it is hate. Ignorant misgendering 
can be trans-phobic but can also be benign ignorance, and completely absent of hate.
I love ignorance because it’s very easy to remedy. Transphobia, however, is much the same as homophobia, xenophobia, sexism, racism, classism, ablism… There is no simple fix. They are all morally
flawed, bigoted conditions, and they all need mass societal change and evolution to be able to move past them.
Ignorance just needs information to fix it. I know that many of you are just politely ignorant, no hate, just uninformed. And that’s why I’m writing all of this, to help as many of you as I can.
But I couldn’t fix a bigot with a blog post.


For the most part, people gender me correctly these days, which is a huge improvement to my self-esteem and self-worth. Part of this is to do with the hard work I put in with my appearance, mannerisms, speech… And all praise to whoever invented HRT! Also, people have gotten to know me a little bit in the context of my new gender identity.

My parents, however, are of the boomer generation, their memory is in decline, these are new and complex concepts to them. But they have known me my whole life, including the 34 years I spent presenting in public as a boy/man, so they make mistakes a lot when addressing me, but bless them, they are trying, and they correct themselves as soon as they realise, they made a mistake. Sometimes, they miss their mistake and I need to point out to them;
“Actually, I’m a ‘she’, not a ‘he’, thanks Mum”.

For me, it’s not a matter of calling people out in these situations, a mistake is a mistake. But equally, everyone should remain mindful of pronouns, and get out of the habit of ‘running on auto pilot’ when using them.

If you feel embarrassed or awkward at being corrected for misgendering a person, then… (there’s not really another way to say) Good!

Because that means you’re learning a lesson. And you’re unlearning a whole bunch of societal programming and formed habits that will take a long time to master.
So good on you for acknowledging your awkwardness, it means you care, and for that I am forever thankful.

Alright, but what about when someone looks a bit like a man, but also a bit like a woman? Or what about people who look like both? Or their gender is difficult to guess?”

Ah yes! Non-Binary identities (Or Enby, like NB - Non Binary). There are a lot of these. I mean like… a lot. Too many for me to explore here (This article has a good starter-pack glossary of terms if you want to go deeper).
NB people are a kind of transgender person, in that, they might experience gender dysphoria, but equally, they might not. They might  use non-gendered or plural pronouns (They/Them/Theirs). They might even use a mix of pronouns (She/They).
Some of you may have seen the honorific title ‘Mx’ instead of ‘Mr’ or ‘Ms’ before someone’s name, for example.
(Late edit: I will be the first to admit I don't know enough about the Enby experience to really go into much detail because it isnt my experience. What if I told you there are more genders than you have fingers and toes? I don't have the space for that right now, but please comment below if you know a good resource xx)
Some people find it confusing to use plural pronouns for singular beings, but they seem to forget that this already happens commonly in language;

They are sitting” works for one person, or many.

By this point, you may be completely baffled and have zero idea which pronouns to use for people, and because you’re a good person you don’t want to offend
anyone with the wrong pronouns.
The way round all of this is very simple my friends…
Politely, somewhere private
ask the person.

Or better yet, introduce yourself to that person with your pronouns

has the right and the freedom to choose their own pronouns that they feel comfortable in. And normalising the sharing of pronouns when you meet someone (especially people who are visually giving you mixed signals or confusion) not only gains you huge social brownie points with the new people, but it opens the door for gender non-conforming people of all kinds to share theirs.
Let’s try it now;
-“Hi, I’m (
your name), my pronouns are (your pronouns)”
Feels weird saying that doesn’t it? Hell,
I feel weird saying it, and I stand to benefit the most from doing this.
My friends, it is one thing to be trans, but it is a whole other thing to be the trans crusader that makes everything about gender and pronouns
(I mean, basically, everything is about gender, but I’m not qualified to teach you all of that) and frankly, my life has enough going on without leading this fight.
Trans and NB people need cis people to be on board with this.
Earlier, I mentioned that Transphobia needs mass societal change and evolution to counter it.
That little self-introduction you just practiced is the keystone of that very change.
We (the transfolk) don’t want special treatment. We just want everyone to be treated fairly, free from assumption, unbound by prejudice… We want to be included.
If you consider yourself an ally of the LGBTQ+ community, if you personally know anyone who is gender non-conforming, transgender, gender-queer, non-binary or any other marginalised group in our culture, then I challenge you…
If only for one day in October, but I hope for longer, please try introducing yourself with your pronouns, add your pronouns to your email signature, put them in your Facebook/ Instagram biography like the teenagers!!
You, the cis people, you have the power to normalise acceptance and support of the trans community, you have the power to speak out against transphobia. Be the voice we need.

You can’t fix a bigot with a blog… but you can give one a cause to think by using pronouns.


1 comment: