Don’t call me that

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.

Cat.

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Where are their support groups?

If you’re like me, you ignore most of Facebook’s suggested groups as being of no interest to you. Tonight though, I noticed one I have no intention of joining, but couldn’t ignore either. It was called “The Caitlyn Jenner Support Group”. Now I agree that we could all use support when we begin this journey, so my objection isn’t to the existence of the group. I just wonder if this group was started from an honest desire to support Caitlyn or from some hope to perhaps share the Jenner/Kardashian spotlight in some small way because of her former life? I just hope for her sake that anything Caitlyn gets involved in doesn’t degenerate into a typical Kardashian media circus but that hope may already be misplaced.

But my real question is this: What of those other people who chose the day Caitlyn made her debut to decide they could no longer live the lie and took their first steps into this strange new world called Trans without all the television interviews and magazine covers? Where are their Facebook support groups? No, I’m not bitter or jealous for I’ve been Cat for 19 years now and am doing quite well, thank you for asking. We’ve read recently of people committing suicide, Leelah Alcorn comes to mind, because they had no support systems and didn’t feel they could cope on their own. There may be some support groups out there, but how easy are they to find? I know of none in my town or the two towns on either side of mine.

I recently changed doctors and this new doctor is very trans-friendly. One of the first questions she asked was “who’s in your village?”, meaning “who supports you on your journey?”. If asked that question, how many people can put a number to the people who they can rely on as they go through this? I’m fortunate in that I not only have some close friends in my village, but two of my three sons also support me.

As I asked in the title though, where are the support groups for these other people who aren’t athletes or reality television personalities? They are just as deserving as Caitlyn Jenner, if not more so since they probably don’t have the same financial backing.

Cat.