You can’t help people overcome barriers that you don’t perceive.
Award winning composer and multi-instrumentalist Cee Haines (CHAINES) explains that the struggles of minority communities are not always obvious to outsiders. It can be easy to listen once, but understanding is an ongoing process and not an individual achievement. Bringing equity to your organisation is about committing to that long-term relationship of listening and demonstrating understanding.
In November 2019, people working across music education gathered for the Unheard Voices conference.
Organised by Brighter Sound and More Music as part of the Reaching Out Network, the day asked ‘whose voices aren’t being heard?’
Key speakers responded to Youth Music's HEARD model which summarises how to create musical experiences with inclusivity at the heart. Watch or read Cee's take on 'Equitable' - people facing the biggest barriers receive the most support.
My name is Cee Haines. I’m a composer, musician, artist, and a transmasculine, non binary person.
My first name, Cee, spelled C, double E, recently enjoyed its second anniversary of being legally official. A cosmetic change, sure, but also really important for my mental health and wellbeing. Being dead named super sucks. It turns what should be unextraordinary parts of your life into needlessly painful events. And it’s something that just about every trans person will need to do at some point in time. Surely then, it wouldn’t be that difficult.
First came the Deed Poll. That part was easy and quite fun. A friend of mine printed, in triplicate, Deed Polls onto fancy faux parchment paper, and sealed them with shiny vinyl stickers. She and another friend of mine witnessed me signing these Deed Polls in a very nice cafe in Chorlton. I bought everyone coffee and cake. Easy, nice. A little celebration.
Secondly came the passport. Because, unfortunately, the Deed Pollisn’t enough evidence on its own. You need a bunch of paperwork that proves that you’ve been using your name. Plus you need a new passport photograph, signed by somebody you've known for 5 years, who also has a job from a list of recognised professions. So, unless you’ve known a doctor, nurse, airline pilot, funeral director, an MBE, an OBE for half a decade, I guess I’m not sure what you're supposed to do.
Finally, you get to pay about £80 to have this all processed, send off all this paperwork, and hopefully you get your new passport in a few weeks. As long as you've done it all correctly. They keep your money either way.
So, after jumping through all those hoops, spending all that money, I get myself a passport that is almost entirely correct. The UK government, on passports, doesn’t recognise any gender other than male or female. So, yeah. I paid all that money for a passport that’s almost right. It's incredibly galling.
So, what’s the point of me telling you about this little slice of my life? I guess it’s because I would like you to think about whether it’s something that would have occurred to you to think about. Have you ever thought about the potentially restrictive costs of a name change for a trans individual? The struggles of minority communities aren't always obvious to outsiders. I was well past 20 years old before I considered racial issues in any meaningful depth. It was prompted by a friend of mine, having concerns about raising mixed race kids in a predominantly white area of Manchester. How do you connect those kids to their heritage, and make sure they feel safe and wanted in their community? Is it possible to prevent them feeling like outsiders? When my friend and I had that conversation, I wanted to be helpful. But being white and, let’s be honest, a little bit clueless, I realised I’ve never had to think about it, at all. Ever.
It can be easy to listen to a person or a community once, hear they have a difficult time, and then never really think about it ever again. We tend to think of understanding as a single achievement. When, in reality, it’s an ongoing process, where you have to continue to listen attentively.
Have you ever looked at a room full of teenagers you assumed to be boys and ever considered that one of them could be a trans woman who hasn’t figured out who she is yet? Have you assumed that your local library doesn't need to stock braille text because screen readers exist now, but not considered that braille actually enables a level of literacy? Does your event know that your white cellist needs an anchor, for her cello, that goes underneath the chair, but doesn’t know that your black turntablist needs a really solid DJ riser for their turntables, otherwise they’re going to shake and skip all over the place?
You can’t help people overcome barriers that you don't perceive. If you want to bring equity to your organisation, you’ve got to commit to that long term relationship.When you listen and you demonstrate that understanding, then you let folks know that they’re safe, they’re wanted, and that you’ve got their back.
"We tend to think of understanding as a single achievement. When, in reality, it’s an ongoing process, where you have to continue to listen attentively."
About Reaching Out
Reaching Out is a training, development and future-thinking network hosted by music organisations More Music and Brighter Sound.
The network is aimed at project managers, programme managers and anyone else planning and managing inclusive music activity across the North West for children and young people.
To find out more, email Molly.
Cee Haines (CHAINES) is an award winning composer and multi-instrumentalist who writes surreal and fantastical electronica and electro-acoustic music. Their album, ‘The King’, was made Album of The Year by Robert Barry of The Wire Magazine, and was ranked in FACT magazine’s top 25 albums of 2018’s first quarter. CHAINES has also worked extensively with the London Contemporary Orchestra, premiering small and orchestral scale works at venues such as The Royal Albert Hall (BBC Proms, 2018), Tate Modern (Uniqlo’s Tate Lates, 2017) and the Roundhouse (Ron Arad’s Curtain Call, 2016). As of 2021, Cee lectures in Sound Art and Composition with Technology (SCoWT) at the Royal Northern College of Music (Manchester, UK).