Venues, events and social environments that demonstrate an inclusive understanding of trans and gender diverse (TGD) musicians, staff and patrons have the opportunity to be the most welcoming environments through using gender diverse practice.
Entertainment venues and events often have binary gendered spaces. What is not so understood is how this preferences traditional ideas around the male and female gender binary; how people are perceived by others.
Who should be in what space for what purpose based upon the appearance of gender, the reading of bodies, the language we use, is often subjective to one’s understanding of gender diversity. These perceptions of gender have direct effects on the participation, visibility and safety of trans and gender diverse people in public spaces.
What is Gender Diverse?
‘Gender Diverse’ is as an umbrella term used to represent the variety of ways people experience gender and how they can be respectfully recognised. It can encompass all gender identities; those who identify as trans/ transgender, genderqueer, non-binary, gender nonconforming and many more, including those who are cisgender who are questioning their gender. In this chapter the abbreviation ‘TGD’ will often be used to represent ‘transgender and gender diverse’.
What are the demographics of transgender and gender diverse people?
It’s estimated that of people who are transgender and gender diverse; around 35% live in Victoria, while 30% live in New South Wales, with 82% of TGD Australians living in major cities, and 18% in regional areas. Being able to organise inclusive and safer events is an important aspect of queer and trans community building in both our major cities and the regions as TGD people are heavily involved in music, performance and arts.
Why is gender diversity important for music venues?
The music industry is made up of people from a diverse range of backgrounds and identities; musicians, DJs, sound engineers, technicians, security, promoters, bar staff, photographers and patrons — all make up our musical communities. For Victoria’s music scene to be both thriving and enjoyable, it’s important that our music venues and events facilitate participation and safety by providing truly inclusive spaces for people of all genders and backgrounds.
What issues face trans and gender diverse people in music venues?
Music venues can be an intimidating and exclusionary environment for TGD people in a number of ways, yet they play a critical role in creative expression, building community and providing a safe workplace. TGD people experience perceived and actual discrimination on a daily basis in a variety of ways and at different intersections of race, ethnicity, sexuality, class and ability.
These can include;
- Violence — Intentional abuse, ridicule and violence of a transphobic nature, and victimisation;
- Misgendering — Publicly and/or professionally, incorrect use of pronouns (eg: she/her, he/him, they/them), assumptions of gender identity and referring to or addressing people by incorrect names;
- Inadequate spatial planning and facilities — Venue entry and exit, change and bathroom access, and provision of sanitary amenity;
- Security, body policing and surveillance — Unreasonable standards of identification, requests to disclose personal information;
- Censorship and exclusion — Censoring of music, performance, and associated marketing, erasure of gender diverse identity and language, exclusion from conversation and participation, and gender-centric understanding of artists;
- Commodification of gender identity — Tokenisation of inclusion or work, harvesting of intellectual property and knowledge.
Who’s responsible for gender diverse inclusion?
Venue operators, bar and door staff, security and promoters have a unique opportunity to serve TGD communities and individuals as allies. However it is not limited to core staff or employees; it extends to promoters, bands, engineers, and patrons. It’s important to understand that anyone in your venue can be responsible for one or all of these actions — as a perpetrator or as an ally. This guide explains how venues can educate and operate to prevent and mitigate these instances from occurring and make your venue a safer and more inclusive environment.
How do I apply gender diverse practice to my venue?
1. Familiarise yourself with terminology
Use language that is respectful and considerate of TGD identities of musicians, staff and patrons in your venue. It’s important to understand these terms are not definitive ways to identify people. Some TGD people identify within the intersections of these terms, while others identify specifically as one.
- Brotherboy, Sistergirl: used for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are transgender who have distinct cultural identities and roles in their community (Sisters and Brothers NT, 2015a). Please note these terms must be self-identified, not applied.
- Cisgender: a person whose gender identity or expression aligns with the sex they were assigned at birth.
- Cissexism: conduct or assumptions which privilege cisgender people, acting directly or indirectly to disadvantage and ignore the rights of TGD people.
- Drag: a person who dresses or acts out gender stereotypes as performance or entertainment; this includes ‘drag queens’ and ‘drag kings’.
- Gender Questioning: a person who is unsure or undecided which gender, if any, they identify with.
- Intersex: is the term used for people who are born with physical, hormonal or genetic features that don’t fit into medical or social binaries of gender. This is not a gender identity.
- Non-binary, Enby, Genderqueer: a person whose gender identity or expression is neither exclusively masculine or feminine; existing outside the male/female gender binary.
- Transgender, Trans: a person whose gender identity or expression differs from traditional notions of gender based upon the perceived sex they were assigned at birth.
2. Avoid misgendering, use the right pronouns and greetings
It’s important TGD people are referred to by their correct pronouns. It can really affect somebody’s night out, and can be embarrassing when done in front of an audience, friends or a family member. It can also have a detrimental effect on an artist’s performance. Encourage staff to ask what pronouns people use eg: she/her/hers, he/him/his, or they/them/their. Bar managers and sound technicians can take an active lead on this one as they are the personnel TGD artists most often deal with.
The best way is to start when we meet or greet people. Greeting a crowd formally as ‘ladies and gentlemen’ is not inclusive of non-binary people, while referring to TGD people as ’sir’, ‘ma’am’, or informally as ‘man’, ‘dude’ or ‘bro’ are common ways to misgender somebody. There are many alternatives; consider ‘folks’, ‘friends’, ‘guests’, ‘people’, ‘team’ or simply — ‘everyone’.
Honest mistakes can happen. If a person corrects you in such a situation, fully accept that, apologise and remember the correct pronouns for future interaction. If someone else misgenders a person, as soon as you have a quiet moment, take the person in error aside and correct them.
3. Consider bathrooms and retreat spaces by the amenity they provide, not by gender
Most existing bathroom configurations are built and signed as male, female and accessible. However this does not reflect the diverse experience of gender in our communities who attend our venues or events. It is important that we provide all people, including those who are trans and gender diverse, the right to use a bathroom safely and without discrimination.
Venue and event operators should consider bathroom and retreat space strategies which are best for all their patrons, staff and musicians. While there is not one blanket strategy for every instance, consider providing permanent spaces beyond the strict male/female gender binary.
At a minimum provide an all-gender bathroom, always. Make sanitary bins and tampon dispensers (if applicable) available across all toilet facilities.
It is important to apply principles of equitable access to all people in your venue. For example, providing an all-gender bathroom at a much further distance than that of male/female facilities, or located in an unsafe part of your premises, can be inconvenient or considered discriminatory against trans or gender diverse users. Replacing male and female signage with ‘toilet’ or ‘urinal’ is often used as the most effective way to retrofit existing facilities. This extends to representations as symbols and in Braille.
Where space is available, ensure performers have separate and operational bathroom and change amenity. Additionally, quiet rest areas provide places for retreat from noise and crowded activity — not only for gender nonconforming people but all patrons with different needs.
4. Educate your staff and security contractors on gender diverse safety
Venues can reduce the occurrences and impacts of transphobia enacted as abuse, ridicule, violence, intimidation and victimisation. Security and staff should always believe reports of harassment, abuse and violence and act immediately to centre the proximal safety of victims and eject perpetrators from the venue— not just move them into another space. Respect should not only apply to TGD musicians and patrons, but also extend to crew, guests, friends, crowds and fans of musicians and bands.
5. How safe is your point of entry and egress?
Making your immediate entry and exit spaces free from harassment, intimidation and violence is something all venues strive for, however it should always extend to the experiences of TGD people. Trans and gender diverse people are more likely to experience harassment in the street or public realm. Often getting into a venue for trans and gender diverse people can be a difficult experience. Once inside, the club or venue can provide a safe haven from the stigma and prejudice of the street. Advise your security contractors not to place unreasonable standards of identification on TGD patrons and artists. Make sure they can get in quickly, and if they are being harassed by anyone on the street, let them into the venue safely. Don’t make somebody queue up if they are being harassed on the street. Do not eject a transphobic patron into an area with TGD people — it can be dangerous and only exacerbate existing dangerous situations.
6. Avoid censorship, commodification, harvesting and tokenisation
Venues and security should understand performers and their audiences often challenge creatively and politically the social constructs or norms of gender and sexuality through music, performance and events. This should not be met with the policing of bodies and language that might censor critical aspects of expression for trans narratives and personal identities. Encourage TDG artists and patrons in your musical community participate; include them in the conversation where appropriate. Avoid harvesting of intellectual property and knowledge of TGD people. If you are engaging a trans or gender diverse person or organisation to assist in venue education, pay or reimburse them for their time, experience and knowledge. Avoid only seeing TGD artists for their gender; while being trans or non-binary is important to identity and community, it doesn’t solely define any individual as an artists or musician. TGD people do not serve to educate, nor perform to demonstrate your venue’s diversity.
7. Have an induction sheet for promoters, staff and security
Use this guide to formulate your venue policy as part of your induction for promoters, staff and security. It’s the best way to cultivate a great relationship with TGD artists and patrons and to implement your policy — making your space safer and more inclusive.
8. Transphobia: This Venue Says NO
Tell your patrons and artists your venue has a gender diversity policy:
‘All Gender, Always: Transphobia: This Venue Says NO’
Download Music Victoria’s posters and signage for your venue.
Display these posters to declare that your venue or event is inclusive of TGD people. Post them up on your door, behind the bar, around bathrooms, in smoking areas and on your social media. It’s the best way to let people know trans and gender diverse people are welcome and should not be subject to transphobic conduct. Venues have the unique opportunity to play a role as a critical ally in wider community acceptance of TGD people.
- Transgender Victoria – TGV is Victoria’s leading body for trans and gender diverse advocacy. https://transgendervictoria.com
- Minus18 – Australia’s youth driven network for LGBTIQ youth. https://www.minus18.org.au
- Queerspace – A safe and supportive space to obtain information and access services aimed at improving the health and wellbeing of the queer and gender diverse community. https://ds.org.au/our-services/queerspace
- ‘All Gender, Always: Transphobia: This Venue Says NO’ posters and signage for your venue and toilets