To who it may concern,
In light of a complaint that was made towards one of the performers I booked for Words on the Terrace in June, namely that they had behaved in a way which was transphobic and trans exclusionary, I’ve decided to make some changes to the way I will respond to complaints towards events I run in the future.
Since dealing with this, I’ve been doing a lot of listening and a lot of thinking and it’s clear the way I handled the complaint was wrong. Because of this, I’m going to be making the following changes.
- No more neutral language
I now know that by using neutral language in the statements I made, I left people in doubt about my standing on trans rights. I understand that this has made members of the trans community feel even more unsafe than they already did and I want to say that I am deeply, genuinely sorry for this. It was never my intention to create fear or leave my standing on this issue in any doubt.
In the interests of clearing that up right now, I would like to make the following statement:
I believe that trans people and non-binary people should be treated with the exact same amount of respect, tolerance and protection as any other person in our society. It therefore follows that trans people and non-binary people should have access to all the same facilities as any other person in this country. This includes, but is not limited to, trans women having access to women’s only bathrooms, women’s only hospitals and any other single gender public facilities.
If any performer I have booked for one of my events ever expresses a belief that goes against the above, they will be immediately removed from the line-up. Any performer who expresses views which go against this while on stage will have their performance stopped immediately, and will be removed from the stage.
This isn’t a conclusion I’ve come to recently. It has been a part of my beliefs and has informed particular decisions in my professional career for the best part of a decade. That said, this is the first time I have ever put this down in writing, which has been a real oversight. I am sorry for leaving the above out of my original statement and for creating doubt on the matter.
- I will contact a neutral third party in the trans community
It has been mentioned many times by people since I made the decision to take no further action that I should have contacted a third party from the trans community as soon as the complaint was raised. I understand now how vital this was to fully resolving the issue. At the time, I saw this as a dispute between one individual and another. It felt like it was my place to try and mediate between the two sides, to hear what both had to say and to then make a decision on whether or not to remove the performer from the bill.
What I did not fully consider at the time was the fact that, without consulting with someone from the trans community, I was only ever going to be making this decision from a position of privilege. I do not understand what it is like to be transgender or to suffer the persecution that trans people can and do suffer on a daily basis. Therefore, I am not best placed to decide the way to ensure safety for trans people at my events.
The responsibility for this mistake lies with me and me alone, and I am really, truly sorry for that. At the time, it seemed there was only one choice here, to either leave the performer on the bill or to take them off. It has been rightly pointed out to me since then that there were a great many other considerations to make to ensure trans people would feel safe at this event. I feel really disappointed in myself for not understanding this, and I will not let it happen again.
[N.B It also follows that if a complaint is made regarding prejudice towards another marginalised group, I will consult with a third party who is part of that group also i.e. an ethnic minority, a member of a certain religion etc.]
I hope this has gone some way to explaining how I will be making improvements to the way I run events in the future. On a personal level, I am aware that the mistakes I’ve made have led to people I have known and respected for a long time no longer trusting me or feeling safe working with me. This was never my intention and it saddens me greatly that it’s come to this.
I understand that the damage is now done. But I want to say that I am listening and working to address mistakes and make any necessary changes. I have recently attended a webinar on the subject of becoming a better ally to the LGBTQ+ community. I have started to build links with poetry networks specifically set up for helping promoters in situations such as this. Also, I will be drafting a more general policy that outlines what I expect from any performer who I book in the future. This includes but is not limited to, making it clear to performers that any material shared which is transphobic, homophobic, racist etc will not be tolerated.
My hope is that this will be the first step in a process towards building some bridges and trying to make a positive change.
If anybody would like to discuss this further, please feel free to contact me, either on social media or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org