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DEAR WAM – DON’T JUST TALK, ACT (BELONG COMMIT)

Trans flag
Trans flag

Yesterday, I received an email from the WA Music Industry Association (WAM). It was addressed to, Dear <insert deadname here>. I subsequently screenshot the email and my reply and posted them on the Around The Sound Facebook page with the accompanying text:

“I’ve called out WAM for not being inclusive in the past. Check out the screenshots to see just how thin their veneer of inclusivity really is.”

Deadnaming a trans person is an act that questions the validity of their existence. I can’t think of a comparison that cis people would understand, because there likely isn’t one, but it would be something akin to saying that the person should never have been born and does not exist in the eyes of the one doing the deadnaming.

I did this because, as an organisation that claims to create safe spaces and messages about mental health as part of a sponsorship deal with Act Belong Commit, my personal experience is that WAM has a very poor track record of walking the walk. Over the years, I have been excluded, bullied, shunned and outright ridiculed by some WAM employees and Board members. This latest incident, an act of lazy transphobia, may have been an administrative oversight, but it was unacceptable for an organisation that so vigorously claims leadership in the music industry and yet is so consistently incapable of enacting that leadership.

I updated my details with WAM’s membership officer when I first came out in public. They have my legal name in their database. To choose to not use it was inexcusable and deeply hurtful.

It is this hurt that I want to address in this article.

First, my name has never been, <insert deadname here>. I have always been Andrea, I have always been a woman. So, to the snide transphobe, Dylan Symonds, who popped by the Around The Sound Facebook page and littered it with a series of transphobic comments, including repeatedly deadnaming me, which he then attempted to pass off as a joke; tried a ‘sorry if you felt hurt’ non-apology; then switched to gaslighting; and when he obviously realised the extent and illegality of his public vilification of me, deleted all of his comments, I have this to say.

Dylan, your hate speech is out of step with the vast majority of people in our society. Had you directed your comments at someone else, you may very well have caused significant mental or physical injury, even loss of life. Please have a think about your attitudes and your willingness to hide behind a keyboard spending a significant portion of your day attempting to deliberately cause harm. I think you could probably do better.

Deadnaming a trans person is an act that questions the validity of that person’s existence. I can’t think of a comparison that cis people would understand, because there likely isn’t one, but it would be something akin to saying that the person should never have been born and does not exist in the eyes of the one doing the deadnaming. It’s far more than a case of ‘sticks and stones’, although it is my understanding that, as a society, we have gone far beyond such truisms in developing our understanding of what it means to be human.

To the other main commenter on the post, Matt Hickinbotham, who brought his cis male privilege to the discussion to basically tell me that he ‘gets it’ and question whether he has to be trans to be able to understand trans people’s lived experience, I have this to say.

You are not the voice of reason in this instance. I have no respect whatsoever for your views. Your insertion into the discussion merely served to compound the damage caused. Next time, get your hand off the keyboard, or at least check your privilege at the door. Maybe ask instead of telling and you may get a better reception. Finally, it is not my responsibility to enlighten you, that is yours alone.

To Geraldine Rey, Vice President of the WAM Board, who apologised on WAM’s behalf, thank you for taking steps to repair the damage your organisation caused. Such organisational incompetence is unacceptable, particularly because, as you said yourself, WAM know who I am. Perhaps our conversation can be the start of repairing the connection between myself and WAM. I am open to this, the next move is up to you and your colleagues. However, I am still waiting for a reply to my email sent to hello@wam.com.au. Your organisation does rather have a track record of not responding to my correspondence.

To the many musicians, including those I have spoken to very recently, who will say in private that they are dissatisfied with how WAM represents their interests, but are too afraid to say anything in public, what will it take for you to act? In your own interests and, in this case in the interests of someone you claim is a valued colleague. Are you happy to stand by and ‘tut tut’ in private while WAM vilify me in this way? Your lack of overt support concerns me greatly.

Transphobia comes in many forms. I experience it every single day of my life. It does not have to be perpetrated on a grand scale to be harmful. Organisations like WAM set themselves up as leaders in the field of inclusivity. It is time that WAM now started to enact their words instead of just sucking up sponsorship dollars and publishing vacuous social media posts.

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