Navigating the Field, Social Justice, Trans Stuff

How to Be the Squeaky Wheel: Targeted Tips for Change

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a rabble rouser. I like to push for change because we can all be better, always. Every day, I learn and grow as a person and a professional.

But that doesn’t mean that pushing for change is easy. People can be resistant to change. They don’t like having their power challenged or admitting that they could be wrong. Of course there will always be struggles for those who push for the new and radical.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about targeted strategies that we, as changemakers, can use. Some of these came from my adventures at MuseumCamp. Others came from other conferences or my past jobs. So here are four tips I’ve tried that can make the fight for change a little easier: pick your battle, find your allies, make it personal, and stick to your guns.

Pick Your Battle

It’s easy to want to do everything at once. In general, my goal is to push for inclusion for trans and queer people everywhere. But I know my limits! There’s no way I can fight every battle for trans folks. So I prioritize. I want to make my place of employment as trans friendly as possible.

It’s important to recognize when to step up as a leader and when to support from the background. Not every person can be a leader for every cause. Be strategic about where you put your energy.

As I’ve been searching for jobs, I’ve been very open about being trans. I include my pronouns in my email signatures and on my cover letter. I’m privileged in my ability to do this. I want to use that privilege to make things better for other people.

Find Your Allies

Find those around you who share your priorities. I’m lucky to work with stellar coworkers. My supervisor recognizes the importance of inclusion. When I got hired, I made it clear that my pronouns weren’t negotiable and are part of my identity. From the get-go, my supervisor respected me.

While I was comfortable wearing a button with my pronouns, I wanted a more inclusive option. That’s when we landed on adding pronouns to our name badges. We have “Docent” on some badges and “Women’s Board” on others. Why not pronouns? The move to pronouns on name badges also meant that I wouldn’t be singled out for my transness. Instead, the museum took steps to normalize everyone sharing their pronouns.

My supervisors and coworkers advocating with me made change happen.

Make It Personal

Pronouns matter because this is my life. I’m not a theory or a vague concept.

It’s easier to convince people that change matters when you make it personal. Most cisgender means people whose gender has always aligned with the gender they were assigned at birth. Most cisgender people don’t even think about pronouns or gender outside of the “I’m a girl, you’re a boy” conversations in kindergarten. But for trans folks, this is a daily fact of our existence. Being misgendered over and over again is draining. Exhausting. But it’s how we live.

By sharing my personal experience, I’ve been able to help others understand how to respect trans people and why it matters to respect us. I always say that I stand up because I can and so that other people don’t have to argue later. I can make the museum a safe space for one trans kid who comes in the museum and sees my pronouns on my badge. That’s why what I do matters.

Stick To Your Guns

Don’t give up when the fight for change gets hard. Sometimes it would be easier to let people use “she” for me. It’s exhausting to correct people all the time. For me though, it’s worse to be misgendered.

People generally have good intentions and try to use my pronouns. I give people the benefit of the doubt and let them try and fail. I know that this kind of change takes time. I just have to see that people are trying, and I’ll continue to hold them accountable.

I deserve respect and to bring my whole self as a trans person to work. That’s what I always come back to and what inspires me to keep fighting.

What tips do you have for making space for change?