We are living on the cusp of a gender revolution – Jay Stewart’s TedX Talk

Jay ted talk flyer

I was really excited by the idea of doing a TedX talk. I was nervous too. 10 minutes to reach a wide mainstream audience (450 in the room and potentially more on line) I wanted it to be as high impact as possible plus I wanted to address my thoughts to people amongst our trans communities. So how would I be able to balance that out?

The good thing about doing a TedX EastEnd talk is how much support you get to prepare. Founder and Curator of TedX EastEndMaryam Pasha (an inspiring woman btw who has a finger in so many pies including doing amazing work for women immigrants in London and elsewhere) really helped me to identify and pull together my key messages. Also there was a real community generated with the other speakers, who were all awesome!

I wanted to summarise a kind of ‘where we’re at’ – not only amongst trans communities but also within wider LGBT circles. I wanted to propose that the current way we categorise gender identity and sexual orientation will become no longer tenable. I also think there continues to be an over-emphasis on the causation of being trans (and to a lesser extent LGB) as biologically determined. This works off the logic that if we can identify any cause as something a person can’t help being then we can say ‘hey we deserve our human rights!’

But why we’re trans shouldn’t really come into it. My argument here was that our human rights should not depend on what causes us to be who we are or on that which is biologically determined. Our human rights should be gained by being able to pursue what it is that we wish to become. So it’s about the freedom to act – right? When we feel we can’t become who we are, when we are not free to act, when we feel restricted – well that is an infringement on our human rights and it is there where we need to be focusing our energy and our resources. Not looking for brain cells!

I believe that we all should be able to express ourselves in a way that feels right for us. Because the possibilities of expression are political. We should be able to wear what we want, look the way we want, carry ourselves the way that we want, play with what we want, hang out with who we want, want the jobs that we want and none of this should be restricted quite simply by the sex that we were assigned at birth. And yet it is – all the freakin time!

As trans people when we are told that the way we are expressing our selves is wrong, when we are told that who we wish to become is wrong – well that’s incredibly damaging isn’t it? It can really affect our sense of self-worth and that’s not fair either.

One of the discussions that I have a lot with various people at Gendered Intelligence is to what degree we engage others with the complexity of gender and to what degree is it our job at GI to break that complexity down into accessible formats for others who are new to the topic of trans to be able to take away key concepts that we want wider society to learn and know.

At Gendered Intelligence we feel passionately that everyone can be more intelligent about gender. But I believe that this involves labour. In my TedX talk I wanted to encourage people to put in some effort when it comes to gendered intelligence – to read more about gender, to be critical about the world around them and to do what I would call ‘circulate the discourse’ by which I simply mean to talk about it more – over dinner, in the classrooms, on line. Because that’s what’s going to move the game on.

So… having tried to say all of that in my 10 minutes, I am really keen to hear more about what people think about my TedX talk and some of the things that I posed. Perhaps I have not made my point as clear as I would have liked and you have some questions for me. Perhaps you disagree with bits and I welcome your thoughts. Regardless I hope that you might feel inspired to do a TedX talk too. It has been a bit of a confidence boost for me personally – to be given such a platform and to think: ‘Wow! My voice is being heard’.




  1. Jayne Suzette Cunningham · March 29, 2015

    Wow Jay brilliant you are a fantasic speaker

  2. Angella Dee · March 29, 2015

    This is a brilliant speech. Well done Jay. I am listening 2wice. ❤

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.