How To Make Your Folk Event Trans Inclusive by Seren Thomas
Before we can show what we are capable of as musicians, trans artists have to jump countless hurdles in order to be even a tiny bit accepted within the folk scene. Today, some incredible musicians, promoters, agents and technicians are shaking up folk’s male, pale and stale persona. They are building spaces for those who are and have historically been excluded, spaces that are inclusive, joyful and inspiring. As a trans folk musician I bring you my perspective on how you can begin to create such a space. Cèilidh or concert, here are some things organisers can do to make trans musicians and audience members feel more welcome at digital and face-to-face events.
Prepare yourself and your team
If you are not trans and/or non-binary and a trans person is due to be involved in your event, make sure to read up about trans inclusion beforehand, even if you believe you are very knowledgeable about these issues. I would advise that you strongly encourage all of the team to do the same. Trans people are not the only ones excluded from the folk scene. By further researching best inclusion practices in relation to other intersections of identity, including race and disability, you can attempt to make the event more accessible and inclusive for all.
While pronouns may not seem like a big deal to many non-trans people, they are actually extremely important for everyone, as we all use them every single day to talk about ourselves and others. Using a trans person’s correct pronouns signals that you respect and see them. Making sure that you and everyone involved in the event is aware of people’s correct pronouns is therefore a top necessity. Here are some tips on how you can centre correct pronoun use at your event:
● When requesting artist bios to promote your event, ask for performers to include their
pronouns. You can write pronouns into an advert or line-up like so:
7.30-9.00pm, Ellis Elna
Ellis (he/him) is a singer-songwriter from Yorkshire (etc…)
9.15-11pm, Roll the Dice
Dee (she/her), Courtney (they/them) and Jem (she/her) formed their folk trio after meeting round the campfire at a friend’s party (etc…)
● It is worthwhile asking all crew members to read the artist bios carefully before the gig so that everyone is aware of each others’ pronouns. Previously I have been misgendered in front of the crowd by other performers or technicians who have assumed my pronouns without asking. This could have been avoided if they had made sure to read my bio. Not only does including pronouns in artist bios make trans and non-binary artists feel more included, but other trans people might decide to attend your events after seeing you book, promote and support trans artists.
● If you are hosting the event, you should introduce yourself with your pronouns. This normalises the idea of introducing yourself with pronouns, warns against assuming others’ gender identities without asking and ensures that pronouns are therefore used. You can do this by saying, “Hello, everyone, great to see you. My name is Seren, I use they/them pronouns, and I will be your host for tonight”.
● You can also use artists’ pronouns frequently while introducing them in order to cement their pronouns within the audience’s mind. This can be especially useful for musicians who use less widely used pronouns (ie perhaps they/them or xe/xem rather than he/him or she/her).
● Finally, you can include your pronouns in your Zoom name if you are holding the event online and encourage others to do the same when opening the event and/or in pre-event communications.
Gender neutral spaces and language
In general, avoid using overly gendered language in all aspects of the event. For instance, instead of greeting the room by saying, “Hello ladies and gentleman”, opt for one of the many gender neutral alternatives such as “Evening everyone”, “Welcome friends”, “Hi folks”.
It is important to ensure that your venue provides gender neutral toilets. Even if the venue does not officially have gender neutral toilets, you can ask to put up new signage for the evening. Make sure to tell your audience, performers and team that there are gender neutral toilets on site.
Shout for trans rights
Make your support for trans people clear and your disgust for transphobia heard. If audience members are discriminatory, ask them to leave. If you hear someone using the wrong pronouns for someone, correct them. Advertise your zero tolerance policy for transphobia, racism, homophobia, ableism and discrimination of any kind within your communications and on your social media. State your stance and then act on it.
This is not an exhaustive list. There are so many things that need to change beyond the folk scene in order to give trans musicians, trans people, the rights we deserve. There is always more to be done, things that we will get wrong and have to try again, but this is what I can recommend as a start. I hope that the number of trans musicians playing in folk gigs will continue to grow. Ultimately, we just want to play music. I hope you will listen to us.
Seren Thomas (they/them) is a singer-songwriter and folk musician. Their songs reflect what it means to belong, to be different, to be loved, to lose, and to fight for what's important. Their music can be found under the name of Seren the Heron on Youtube and Soundcloud and their Twitter is @SerenThomas_.