‘A trans charter would recognise the community’s contributions to the industry’

The charter, created by industry leader Saskhia Menendez, is built on three main principles: equality and non-discrimination, representation and visibility

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As a multi-award-winning innovator, public speaker, researcher, activist, and podcast host, Saskhia Menendez wears many different hats across the live music industry. She’s also a LGBTIQ+ List 2023 finalist, and is spearheading the creation of a transgender charter for the music industry, purposed to put trans individuals in the spotlight.

“The trans charter in the music industry is to recognise the vital contributions of transgender individuals to the music industry, and to commit to fostering an inclusive environment that respects and supports transgender artists, professionals and fans,” she explains. “The charter will outline commitment to equality, representation, and advocacy for transgender people in the music industry.”

The charter, primarily established for the UK but with potential for global reach, is built on three main principles: equality and non-discrimination, representation and visibility, and protection of legal rights. Though it’s being created for the music industry, Menendez hopes it could be rolled out for the entire creative sector.

“It’s important to see representation and visibility, not just for the trans community, but also for deaf, disabled, and neurodivergent people,” she says. “It’d be really nice to improve representation, visibility, education, and training, but also to make sure that people are comfortable, and using the right and the correct terminology and language, and also learning about some of the issues and barriers that we face when access to music and entertainment.”

“Music is a really powerful tool because it helps with cultural change"

While a few transgender artists have made it big in the mainstream, like Grammy-winning performer Kim Petras, late producer SOPHIE, DJ Honey Dijon, and alt-singer Ethel Cain, getting more artists and industry professionals in the spotlight is an uphill battle.

“By only having one or two, that puts a massive strain on those artists that are on the front lines,” Menendez says. “The more of us there are, the more important it is to share that burden. We deserve to be a part of cultural change, a shift, and giving back and representing the community.”

“Music is a really powerful tool, if used the right way, because it helps with cultural change,” she proclaims.

By diversifying music as a product, the industry can reach more fans across more communities — and increase profits as a result, Menendez says.

“We need to have people in the business, but we also need to have people out on the stage and represent the fans, because a lot of people now identify as trans and it’s becoming a bigger umbrella,” she says. “We need to cater for those people, because if we don’t, we’re just going to lose money, and we’re just going to lose kind of communities as well.”

Increasing representation beyond the stage from underrepresented groups, like those from LGBTQ+, disabled, and neurodivergent backgrounds, can usher in a new era of representation across the industry, Menendez says. This can start with proper education and training to decrease the barriers to hiring new perspectives, something the upcoming class of leaders can take with them as they rise through the ranks. 

“It’s about ensuring that they’ve got the correct training, they understand the issues and barriers that trans people face when accessing the music industry,” she explains. “A lot of us have neurodivergence or we suffer from mental health and other issues, so by ensuring that we understand what these issues and barriers are, we can actually streamline the process.”

“Sometimes people have had to take time out for transition, some people have to have surgeries. Being able to understand all of these issues, and how we can accommodate for those issues and make sure that it’s fair and equitable is important,” she says.

“what we also need to do is be an ally to other underrepresented disadvantaged groups"

And by increasing representation in the industry, a greater network of support can help bolster the next generation of leaders.

“I’m generally the only trans person in the room, which can be quite intimidating, and at times, it doesn’t always feel safe,” she says. “Expanding on the markets, and then the cultural and social impacts that that will have on society is really important too. Because if you see yourself, you feel like you’re part of something, if you don’t see yourself, then you don’t feel that you’re part of that, or you’re not welcome. And I think that’s a massive part of it, too.”

“We need increased visibility, we need safer spaces, but we also need to be aware that those people need support,” she says. “They’re going to need people that they can turn to if they feel that they’re getting stuck, and having all these different things in place will really help that.”

While cultural change in the industry can seem like a monumental task, Menendez says taking it one step at a time is the only way to produce change. But beyond increasing representation for specific groups, she explains that underrepresented populations need to work together to bring each other up.

“We do need to make sure that we are respected and protected, but what we also need to do is be an ally to other underrepresented disadvantaged groups,” she explains. “That way, we can share information, we can support each other, and we can just make it more inclusive and representative or different groups and communities, which I think is the key.”

Menendez plans on rolling out the trans charter in the near future. You can find her on LinkedIn, and keep up with her ‘Music Industry Insights Worldwide’ podcast on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.

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