Kit Rackley (they/them)
I grew up in an Essex ‘London New Town’ during the 80’s and 90’s. It was a childhood of ignorant bliss, punctured by too many moments of insecurity and lack of self-esteem. I never truly knew who I was, and worked too hard to fit in. I never really let my guard down, and when I did, I was quite often teased and bullied. There was nothing in my life to suggest that being queer was normal, nor were there any visible examples that I could identify with. Discovering my identity (the cliché ‘penny dropping’ moment) much later finally gave everything clarity and perspective. Memories stretching back to when I was five years old in Reception Class, when I wasn’t allowed to choose a fairy costume for dress-up, started to make sense. I have always been transgender and queer, just I was ubiquitous caterpillar. Going to UEA as a student in the early 2000’s was my chrysalis stage. I started to discover myself and find my place. But it wasn’t until very recently and years later that I emerged from the cocoon. A person’s identity is formed through their life’s experiences, which can be on a spectrum anywhere between totally positive, euphoric experiences to negative and crushing. Underpinning those experiences are memories and mental anchors – a smell, a piece of music, a word or phrase…
Working at UEA
The University of East Anglia is an integral part of my identity. I have always found UEA to be welcoming and inclusive. Not once, neither as a student (Environmental Sciences then Education PGCE) or a member of staff did I feel that I was out-of-place. Quite the opposite. Incidences which can be described as queerphobic or transphobic are the rare exception and to me feel totally out-of-place, and I’ve not felt unsupported when they happen. Members of the UEA Alumni team know me very well – I’m a bit of a pest who is always buzzing around willing to help, with pride, with outreach and support activities. I’ve also helped out with the hard-working peeps in AQO as invigilator, reader and scribe. That is noteworthy because a couple of years ago that was the first paid-job I did after coming out publicly as trans and started socially transitioning. The AQO team were just awesome and accepting without question. All this, and being a member of UEA Staff Pride truly makes me feel like a member of one big loving family.
I’m now in Admissions, Recruitment and Marketing working in outreach, being a very visible representative of UEA through working with children and high schools. The fact that I got this job being a very visible trans person is, in itself, a statement of UEA’s inclusiveness. Connecting back to my point about ‘identity’ earlier, I’m thrilled to hear that the UEA are taking a progressive stance on pronouns. A person’s name and their pronouns are gateways to identity. Combining these things, when someone uses the wrong pronoun for me there is a likelihood that my brain, nervous system and body reacts instinctively to a memory where being treated as the assumed gender was a harmful, crushing experience. This is one symptom of gender dysphoria. On the other side of the coin, using the correct pronoun affirms my identity – acknowledges I am ok, I am human. I never want to deliberately or inadvertently trigger a negative response in any one. Knowing their pronouns helps me to do that, but also tells me that the other person appreciates that too. I feel that there are allies everywhere at UEA. Allyship is so important. I really like think of it as being someone who is willing to ‘stand behind’ someone in support, and being willing to ‘stand alongside’ when called for. An ally would know it is not ok to speak for a group, and therefore would never ‘stand in front’. A good example of this would be to listen to, and believe, marginalised voices and then act accordingly. For instance, the feverish ‘debate’ currently taking place about trans rights, identification and healthcare has done little to include the trans community itself, with many platforms giving too much or even simply any weighting to non-trans voices. An ally wouldn’t say “I think” without consent, they would say “what I think doesn’t matter, you should listen to what they think”. This leads me to finish back on ‘visibility’. On the back of my teaching career, I also maintain an educational blog for educators, writing articles, performing poetry and producing YouTube videos – so my visibility extends into the virtual world and internationally too (I’m not hard to find via a Google search!). Being visible is exceptionally important to me. I have the privilege to be so, including working for an institution that genuinely allows me to be my true self. I hope this provides strength and hope to those who feel they either can’t or don’t feel ready to be visible themselves.