Storytelling is a powerful tool, says Catherine McGregor


Only 8 per cent of the population has had direct experience with meeting a transgender person. Queenslander of the Year Catherine McGregor reveals the power of storytelling as a tool to encourage diversity and inclusion at AHRI’s Inclusion and Diversity Conference.

When a high-profile woman gave a moving account of her life at a recent conference, it proved to be a powerful example of how storytelling can convey a message to people more effectively than ‘awareness training’ or information kits.

Catherine McGregor, the current Queensland Australian of the Year, affirmed her female gender in 2012 at the age of 56. Formerly Malcolm McGregor, she had a distinguished career in the Defence services and is also a cricket commentator – both arguably environments that might provide greater than usual challenges for a transgender person.

McGregor gave the opening keynote address at the recent Australian Human Resources Institute Inclusion and Diversity Conference.

How people reacted

Despite an early psychological diagnosis, McGregor resisted changing her gender in the 1980s and 1990s. Change at that time was discouraged by what she described as a “gatekeeper” model and a widespread view that transgender people were simply “expendable”.

Over the years, the pressure on her built up to the extent that about five years ago she seriously contemplated committing suicide. This proved to be the trigger to finally change gender.

She added that it was necessary to present oneself as being of the ‘new’ gender (in her case female) in order to obtain prescriptions for the necessary medical treatment to change.

She was able to transition while still serving in the Defence Forces because the ADF had changed its policy to allow it to happen.

She related several anecdotes of how various people had reacted to her transgender status – both positive and negative. These included:

  • Some people insist on referring to her by her previous (male) name, simply out of cruelty;
  • Around the time of changing gender, she had to book an airline flight and was fearful that confusion over her identity might result in an embarrassing experience when passing through the security checks. In a panic, she rang the airline’s call centre and was reassured when an employee simply said “would you like me to change your name on the boarding pass”?; and
  • There were several experiences with taxi drivers who worked out her identity without being told, but they made no judgments and simply offered her practical advice on how to deal with things.

McGregor added that the cricket community was much more supportive of her than she had expected, one remark being that “there is room in the game for courage”.

The message from the above anecdotes is that a supportive culture is crucial to transgender people being able to successfully transition and then continue as productive employees. It was also clear to the audience that small gestures of support such as those above mean a great deal to the individual person.

This article was originally published as “The Power of Storytelling: A transgender journey” on Workplace Info. You can read the full article here

Subscribe to receive comments
Notify me of
guest

1 Comment
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Kathy Mestre
Kathy Mestre
8 years ago

A great story teller – I thoroughly enjoyed hearing Catherine’s story, a strong and courageous woman indeed!
Catherine made us laugh, made us think, and made us appreciate how the small things can make the biggest impact.

More on HRM
Sorry, no posts matched your criteria.

Storytelling is a powerful tool, says Catherine McGregor


Only 8 per cent of the population has had direct experience with meeting a transgender person. Queenslander of the Year Catherine McGregor reveals the power of storytelling as a tool to encourage diversity and inclusion at AHRI’s Inclusion and Diversity Conference.

When a high-profile woman gave a moving account of her life at a recent conference, it proved to be a powerful example of how storytelling can convey a message to people more effectively than ‘awareness training’ or information kits.

Catherine McGregor, the current Queensland Australian of the Year, affirmed her female gender in 2012 at the age of 56. Formerly Malcolm McGregor, she had a distinguished career in the Defence services and is also a cricket commentator – both arguably environments that might provide greater than usual challenges for a transgender person.

McGregor gave the opening keynote address at the recent Australian Human Resources Institute Inclusion and Diversity Conference.

How people reacted

Despite an early psychological diagnosis, McGregor resisted changing her gender in the 1980s and 1990s. Change at that time was discouraged by what she described as a “gatekeeper” model and a widespread view that transgender people were simply “expendable”.

Over the years, the pressure on her built up to the extent that about five years ago she seriously contemplated committing suicide. This proved to be the trigger to finally change gender.

She added that it was necessary to present oneself as being of the ‘new’ gender (in her case female) in order to obtain prescriptions for the necessary medical treatment to change.

She was able to transition while still serving in the Defence Forces because the ADF had changed its policy to allow it to happen.

She related several anecdotes of how various people had reacted to her transgender status – both positive and negative. These included:

  • Some people insist on referring to her by her previous (male) name, simply out of cruelty;
  • Around the time of changing gender, she had to book an airline flight and was fearful that confusion over her identity might result in an embarrassing experience when passing through the security checks. In a panic, she rang the airline’s call centre and was reassured when an employee simply said “would you like me to change your name on the boarding pass”?; and
  • There were several experiences with taxi drivers who worked out her identity without being told, but they made no judgments and simply offered her practical advice on how to deal with things.

McGregor added that the cricket community was much more supportive of her than she had expected, one remark being that “there is room in the game for courage”.

The message from the above anecdotes is that a supportive culture is crucial to transgender people being able to successfully transition and then continue as productive employees. It was also clear to the audience that small gestures of support such as those above mean a great deal to the individual person.

This article was originally published as “The Power of Storytelling: A transgender journey” on Workplace Info. You can read the full article here

Subscribe to receive comments
Notify me of
guest

1 Comment
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Kathy Mestre
Kathy Mestre
8 years ago

A great story teller – I thoroughly enjoyed hearing Catherine’s story, a strong and courageous woman indeed!
Catherine made us laugh, made us think, and made us appreciate how the small things can make the biggest impact.

Sorry, no posts matched your criteria.
More on HRM