Rachel Moore is the founder of Express YOUR Gender, an Irish social enterprise focused on helping trans people find their voice. Read more about the awesome work she’s doing!
1. What’s the mission of Express YOUR Gender?
Express YOUR Gender’s mission is twofold: Foremost it is to make social and economic life accessible to the transgender community through the provision of professional, affordable services. Secondly it is to create a more gender diverse society by engaging the wider public with the topic of gender, through creative, educational events and good old fashioned conversation.
2. What inspired you to start Express YOUR Gender?
I had been providing a private speech & language therapy service to trans clients for three years and had become very aware of the struggles faced within the community. Many people wanted access to my service but couldn’t afford it – unemployment rates are elevated in the trans community and even for those with jobs, transitions of any kind are costly. I decided that in order for me to reach more people and also have a sustainable practice, I needed to approach things differently. I set up Express YOUR Gender, or xYg, as a social enterprise so that I could access other sources of income to subsidise my services for those who couldn’t afford them.
3. Can you explain the importance of helping trans people find their voice and how you work to accomplish this?
Communication is something that tethers us to our community. For many trans people, speaking in public can often pose a risk to safety as the sound of the voice is ‘at odds’ with the desired gender expression, and causes them to be ‘outed’. This can have negative consequences like discrimination, abuse, attack even. Many trans people avoid speaking in public – that includes every day activities like ordering a coffee or paying bus fare – in order to protect themselves. As you can imagine, this is a very isolating experience. I work with my clients on a number of levels, my approach is very holistic. Voice work involves specific, targeted exercises, but also an examination of old habits, of different vocal styles, and of repressed emotions that often come to the surface once the voice is freed. It’s a very deep and liberating process.
I try to encourage my clients to also look beyond the voice, to all aspects of communication, including non-verbal communication, posture, facial expression and so on. We examine what is really meant by words like ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ and we deconstruct everything we have learned since birth, sort of rebuilding our communication style in a manner that more authentically expresses our gender or genders, in a given time and situation. We have to remember that gender is like a negotiation – it’s not just about what we put out but also what is perceived by others, and that varies, person by person. Different linguistic tools are available to us, although we are socialised to only use some of them, so I try to help my clients expand their toolbox and explore what’s most useful and authentic for them. My clients are therefore central and indeed the leaders in this process – I don’t dictate what someone should or shouldn’t do because I am not the expert. Self-determination is really important to me, particularly when it comes to gender expression.
4. Ideally, what would you Express YOUR Gender to be like in 5 years?
I would like for xYg to be a self-sustaining service where the products I create and paid services I provide, subsidise the two community services I provide (the group voice programme, ‘Confident Voices’ and the career development programme ‘Authentic Careers’). Even when a service is available in Dublin, the cost of train fare and a half day off work can be prohibitive for many, so I would like to be able to reach people all over the country. I would like the website to be a really useful source of information for the entire population and I would like to have expanded my range of services, in response to new and emerging needs, both within the community and the wider population. There is much work to do and I believe I and xYg are uniquely placed to help further the conversation around gender and support a more progressive dialogue across our institutions, from workplaces to schools to homes.
5. How has the climate around LGBT issues changed since gay marriage was legalized in Ireland?
I think marriage equality has in some ways normalised same sex relationships, which is wonderful and I have definitely seem more and more LGBT couples holding hands in public since the referendum. It’s so sad to think that so many people were afraid to do so before. However, while equality in the eyes of the law and of the people is certainly a positive thing worthy of celebration, I believe diversity needs to be celebrated equally as much. Difference, not sameness. We have a long way to go, across all of our institutions, to make sure we create more diverse environments where difference is not just tolerated and accepted, but supported, valued and celebrated.
6. What are the biggest roadblocks facing LGBT organizations like yours in Ireland?
I don’t know if I can speak for all LGBT organisations, but resources are a big issue, especially at the start up stage, which is where xYg is. Learning how to use the resources available to us, accessing support, and then having the person-power to implement action.
7. How has the LGBT community in Ireland impacted you? How would you like to impact it?
I’m inspired every day by the people I work with and the community I serve. Being different takes bravery, especially when being your different self is a high-risk thing to do. I’ve been pushed to question my own privilege and indeed how the gender binary has impacted on my life’s journey so far. I hope to empower as many trans people as possible, from across the gender cosmos, to believe in their worth and be their authentic selves.
8. Why are you excited about this event?
I’m really excited to connect with and learn from other organisations. While I believe I have good skill in connecting with people in person, my online skills leave a lot to be desired. I know social media and SEO are excellent tools for engaging my target audience, but I really am in the dark about how best to utilise them, so it’s really perfect timing for this event to be happening. Especially given where we are as a society. It will allow us all to come together and to strike while the iron is hot!
Follow Rachel on twitter and make sure to check out Express YOUR Gender to learn more about the awesome work they are doing! If you live in Ireland, you can also meet Rachel in person on September 17th at our Dublin Event.