I did not set out intending to become a spokeswoman for anything or anyone. But over the past couple of months I’ve been involved in two separate events in which I’ve been called an advocate.
In both cases, my doctor asked me to take part in these events, and I agreed, so I knew what was coming. The first of these was a “health equity boot camp” put on by St Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. My doctor thought I’d be perfect for this one since I am both a senior and trans. As usual at these things, everyone wears a name tag. Mine also contained the notation “patient advocate”. The second, again through St Mike’s, was a study on cancer detection in trans people. I met with them and was once again identified as an advocate.
Here’s the thing: I don’t consider myself an advocate of any kind. In each case I made it clear at the outset that I spoke only for myself and did not represent any group or organisation. I’m in my mid-seventies, trans as I said above, and have strong opinions which I don’t mind sharing, usually in my blogs. But how can one person speaking strictly from a personal perspective be considered an advocate?
Here’s the definition of “advocate” from the Oxford University Press dictionary: advocate >noun 1 a person who publicly supports or recommends a particular cause or policy. 2 a person who pleads a case on someone else’s behalf. 3 Scottish term for barrister. Obviously that third definition is not me. As for the other two, I suppose if you squint really, really hard, you could fit my participation in those two events into one or both of those definitions. Even if you could, you’d have a hard time convincing me.
I’m reasonably intelligent and keep up with events in general and especially those that affect the trans community for they could, and often do, affect me. But the only policy I support or recommend is one that will make my life easier (I know, that sounds selfish of me.). Did I plead on behalf of someone else? Not intentionally, but if something I said in either of these events can benefit someone else, great.
Perhaps I’m being wilfully blind, but I fail to see how speaking up for myself can be considered being an advocate. Yes, my doctor recommended me for these two events because, to use her words, I hold strong opinions and I’m well-spoken. And yes, my best friend tells me I’m an advocate because I’m not afraid to speak out and she wishes I’d do it more often.
If my actions make me an advocate, well that’s your opinion. But please, please, don’t call me that. I’ll probably laugh at you.
Enjoy your day and remember to hug an artist – we need love too.