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During Dr Helen Webberley’s hearing we’re bringing you Transitions, a new mini-series from the GenderGP podcast. GenderGP team member, Cleo Madeleine, will be joined by members of the community to talk about the journeys they have been on, the transitions they have been through and the moments that changed everything.

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The GenderGP Podcast

Transitions: Rhy

 

Hi there. My name is Cleo Madeleine from GenderGP, and I’m stepping in for Dr. Helen Webberley for a special new mini-series of the GenderGP Podcast. Over the next few weeks, we’ll hear firsthand accounts from members of the community about the journeys they’ve been on the transitions they’ve been through and the moments that changed everything.

 

Cleo Madeleine:
Hi everybody, and welcome back to the show. My name is Cleo Madeleine, and my pronouns are she/her, and today in the studio with us, we’ve got Rhy Brignell. Rhy, could you tell us a bit about who you are and why you’re here today?

Rhy Brignell:
Hello, my name is Rhy, my pronouns are they/them, I am the Quality Assurance Officer at GenderGP, which basically means I look at things that are going right, and identify why and how we can do that more, and things that aren’t going so well and why that’s happening and how we can change it and improve it. So, yeah, I’m looking at auditing and monitoring feedback and things like that.

Cleo Madeleine:
So in a sense, you’ve got like the keys to the kingdom really.

Rhy Brignell:
I see everything.

Cleo Madeleine:
Most of us are just responsible for doing our own jobs right. Whereas, you’re responsible for all of us doing our jobs right. No, it’s really cool. So I, you and I have a relationship that extends beyond GenderGP, and you’re the only person I’m speaking to for this series where that’s the case. And so I’ve had the privilege of seeing your kind of meteoric rise to a QA. No, it’s been really, it’s been really cool to see. I suppose there’s two questions following this. How did you get to the point? Cause you basically built the QA department within GenderGP from scratch, right?

Rhy Brignell:
Yeah. Yeah. It wasn’t entirely on my own back, definitely had a lot of very knowledgeable people helping me along the way, but yeah, the QA department is a relatively recent endeavor for GGP. And so I’ve been working on putting together a framework for how it’s going to operate and what it looks like. And yeah, it’s definitely a work in progress.

Cleo Madeleine:
There are two questions from this, I suppose. What was it that, when you were at GenderGP steered you towards thinking about quality assurance, and what was it when you weren’t at GenderGP that steered you towards this line of work?

Rhy Brignell:
The questions? For the first question, when I first started working as a pathway advisor, I had a three month review after I’d started working and our Chief Operations Officer, Katie, said that she had, had observed something about me, which was I’m not satisfied with knowing the ‘what’, I also have to know the ‘why’. And I think she meant it as a compliment, but yeah, it was, I think it was that sort of, I have that, like, I’m not satisfied until I know how everything works and why, and I’m very much happy to sort of share my opinion on whether I think that’s the right way of doing it and what we could do differently. And I think that,

Cleo Madeleine:
You’re the person out there who’s like, I actually do want to know how the sausage is made.

Rhy Brignell:
Exactly, yeah I do. So yeah, I think that that aspect of my style of work was picked up on and I was quite suitable for the job in terms of what brought me to GenderGP, I have come from academia. So I was a postgraduate student at UEA in Norwich. And I spent a couple of years on campus doing sort of trans advocacy work in one capacity or another, and that was quite frustrating. Academia is a very slow moving beast, lots of people that are quite resistant to change. And so, yeah, I think that my, just my sort of patience and capacity for academia was already wearing a bit thin. And that was kind of the thing that I thought, you know, this career path isn’t really for me anymore and looked for something that, where I could make a bit more of a direct impact, a bit more direct change to help trans people.

Cleo Madeleine:
For context, the academic context is where Rhy and I know each other from previously. Previously, that’s our kind of dark history together. When you talk about academia being a slow environment, cause you and I have always been trans people, but we weren’t always trans activists. Talk to me about how, how that happened.

Rhy Brignell:
So it was one summer’s day in July 2018, I think. Yeah, that sounds about right. And I woke up in the morning and saw that a professor at UEA had signed this kind of transphobic dog-whistle-y open letter in the Sunday Times. And this professor had like not only put their name next to it, but had also signed it as University of East Anglia. And that was really gutting. I didn’t really know what to do with it. And I remember sending it to you and we were both quite devastated by it. I think it’s fair to say. And then we started to sort of put some plans in action, started to like reach out to our network, started penning our own open letter, got in touch with the Students’ Union and started trying to organize as a response to it. And we were met with yeah, limited success, I would say. The Students’ Union were very helpful as I suppose they should be. And we made some really good connections there and they took it very seriously and really understood the sort of scope of the issue, not just our university, but more generally in academia, but it also became something that we ended up sort of getting stuck in this cycle of, we’ll have a meeting about having a meeting about having a meeting and not actually managing to effect any measurable change. And that was those kinds of meetings about meetings were the most positive outcomes that we could get to. Whereas the sort of the most negative ones were being invited to a meeting with actual transphobic professors and sort of having to justify our existence to them when they were, on a sort of power level, our seniors. And so, yeah, that was very frustrating. So it was very ready to look for a different avenue where my time and effort could be yeah, better applied. And I certainly found that with GenderGP, because we’re always moving and changing and it’s like, it feels very dynamic, very different to academia in the, in the best way.

Cleo Madeleine:
Absolutely. I remember saying to my boss, let’s be honest it might have even been in my job interview, I was going to say not long after I started, but I was so keen to follow in your footsteps that by that point it might’ve just been busting it out in the interview, day one. Yeah. I remember saying just like, I’m so impressed by the fact that like who you are and it is, it’s just like assumed at this company. It’s not just because they’re a company in trans healthcare it’s because they are a company populated by trans people. Right. Like I don’t think that that kind of workplace culture, as much as I want to use this podcast to be like, big ups GenderGP, like number one company, this workplace culture isn’t because this company is so great in like a unique way, although it is, it’s something that anywhere can have if they just employ transgender people and like just treat them with respect on like a very basic level.

Rhy Brignell:
Yeah. That’s it like, it’s just a really basic level of like respect and dignity. That’s very easy to implement, but so many places just aren’t able to do it or even aren’t able, just aren’t willing to do it.

Cleo Madeleine:
I think that’s just it. Right. Like one of the things that makes it easy at GGP is that there’s this long history of working with trans people, because all you need is to listen to what we’re saying. And it’s the same, I think with, with any marginalized group, listen to what they’re saying. And suddenly it’s really, really easy to treat people well. Yeah.

Rhy Brignell:
Yeah. I agree with that.

Cleo Madeleine:
So, we’ve got this amazing journey going from like working against a pretty unsympathetic system in academia, to coming to GenderGP and devising the system that will help other trans people, thousands of trans people get the best treatment that they can, which is a pretty substantial term. On this podcast, we’ve been talking about journeys or transitions or whatever you want to call it. I actually said on the last one I recorded, I feel like there’s this idea of the like coherent trans journey that doesn’t really exist in the trans community. With that caveat, talk to me about a moment or some moments, whether it’s in this journey from academia or somewhere else entirely that have just really changed things for you.

Rhy Brignell:
Yeah. I have two moments. So the first moment was day three, I think, of my PhD, where I met you for the first time. Don’t want to get too soppy, but yeah, you were the first like trans person, or openly trans person, that I had met and developed a good relationship with, and I think that was really, really formative for me. And the second one is maybe about a year after that point. Not very good with time, cause it’s not real, it doesn’t exist, where my friendship group, including you essentially crowdfunded a suit for me, where I had been really struggling to find like a formal attire that fit me properly and didn’t make me feel dysphoric or scruffy because I was really struggling because I was finding that, you know, quote unquote women’s suits were very tight fitting or they sort of hugged me in the wrong places that I didn’t want to accentuate, but men’s stuff just didn’t fit properly. It hung in the wrong places and didn’t fit in the places that it needed to fit. And this was, yeah, quite a struggle for me. It was around the time as well. I really needed formal attire to attend conferences and give papers and teach and things like that. And for my birthday as a complete surprise to me all of my friends sort of pitched in a little pot and paid for a like tailor-made suit for me at an LGBT friendly tailor’s in London called King and Allen.

Cleo Madeleine:
I want to be like, that’s beautiful. I was there for things. And so that seems a little self-aggrandizing. I want you to know that I genuinely had no idea what you were going to say in the minute you were like, the day I met you, I instantly burst into tears. I’m going to have to take it back out, I’ll be at it. It’s like, no, I think that’s really important partially because it illustrates how, and I said this with Clark about how like, no one’s journey is the same. And when we talk about the moment that changes everything, I think there are people out there who even trans people as much as cis people who think that it’s, you know, like a haircut or like clothes, or, I mean, I guess this one was clothes, but you know what I mean? It’s like, you know, the trying on the dress in front of the mirror or the yeah, cutting your hair short for the first time or something. And these are all totally acceptable moments, but they’re tied to our ideas of what gender looks like and what we think gender feels like. And actually there’s so much more, that’s tied to just odd little moments in our lives. Coincidence is the people we meet the things they do for us,

Rhy Brignell:
For me personally, like my transition is never over. It’s like still ongoing and it always will be, I don’t have like a fixed point in time or a fixed goal that I’m aiming towards. I kind of just see my gender as a part of who I am as an ever-changing person more generally. And I expect it will change along with me if that makes,

Cleo Madeleine:
I think that’s really important. And I’m so glad that you’ve said it because you know, there’ll be people out there listening to this podcast who are on their own gender journeys at varying points. And I think it’s really important to know. It’s certainly something I’ve learned from you, that there are therapies and medications and surgeries and all sorts of social changes, and those are really important milestones. You don’t ever need to feel like your gender journey is over. Like you can always learn new things about yourself and that’s okay. And that’s healthy. Yeah. So we’re going to run out of time, but to wrap up, I just wanted to say, when we look at the future of QA at GenderGP, the future of Rhy Brignell, do you think that the experiences, not that none of those have to be the same thing. You’re just QA now.

Rhy Brignell:
Yeah, the future of Rhy only happens if QA continues. If QA continues, then that’s it, on thin ice.

Cleo Madeleine:
No, I, I, I guess what I mean is here’s where we are now and looking forwards, do you think that, or the, these experiences you’ve described have, like, help you with this going forwards or, or in what ways do they help you with this going forwards?

Rhy Brignell:
I think that my experiences as a non-binary trans person, I actually can’t divorce them from my role as, in QA. And I don’t think I should, because I just think that like bringing a trans perspective to this company only ever helps it rather than hinders it, if that makes sense? It’s a company where I feel that my transness is of benefit to my colleagues and to the company more generally, which isn’t something that you can say about a lot of places, a lot of workplaces. And so I’m grateful for that.

Cleo Madeleine:
Yeah, absolutely. There are certainly loads of places out there that not only wouldn’t like, respect and validate your identity, our identities, but also wouldn’t take advantage of what stands to be gained from having such a diverse range of identities.

Rhy Brignell:
Yeah, absolutely.

Cleo Madeleine:
I‘ll always remember what you said when you first started the QA job, about like what it was that drove you to it, and you were talking about how we have like various other friends who’ve worked in QA, or complaints handling myself included, but for different lines of work, and you said like, this isn’t car insurance, like this is someone’s life that we are dealing with. This is like, something that is so important. And you know, we have to hold ourselves to a high standard because we owe it to these people.

Rhy Brignell:
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. And I think that my identity doesn’t allow me to forget that.

Cleo Madeleine:
Well, that’s about all we’ve got time for, but thank you so much for joining us, for speaking so candidly, and for making me cry.

Rhy Brignell:
You’re welcome. Thank you for having me.

 

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