express talks to prominent LGBT+ figure and transgender personality, Mary Haddock-Staniland, to find out what she’s been up to, as well as her thoughts regarding Countdown’s new transgender policy that was just released last month.
What have you been up to lately?
I am currently a director for a small (but growing) PR company, I have ongoing MC work, and keynote speaker engagements. Lately I’ve actually MC’ed a few weddings which is always great fun – I love being a part of people’s special days. My online presence has grown over the past three years, so I’m always looking at ways to keep my followers captivated.
You do a lot of public speaking within company management. What impact do you think this has?
By opening the eyes of HR managers, managing directors or COO’s, I hope that I have an impact on company culture, and maybe encourage employers to be more accepting of having a diverse workforce, by making them aware of the challenges that minority groups have to deal with.
Which person, living or dead, do you admire most?
Oprah of course – I have admired her for years. She has time and time again shone the light on the plight of the minority, the downtrodden, the vulnerable. Her work has had a huge influence on people’s thinking over the years. She is a force for good, no other way of putting it.
What does 2017 have in store for you?
June is a particularly busy month for me, travelling to Australia, Hamner Springs and Wellington to MC events – it’s a busy time. To relax I spend time in my second home, Tonga. For those that follow me on social media, you’ll know I absolutely love the place. In a nutshell, it’s business as usual for me. Growing, learning and educating is my mantra for 2017.
What do you consider to be your greatest achievement (so far!)?
Me being me in the world is in itself a big achievement. Whether I’m on a stage or walking down the street – it took a long time for me to get where I am with the strength to do the things that I do. I have no doubt that there are people out there that don’t like me for whatever reason. I get it – I’m not everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s okay. Thank God for coffee!
What would you like to say to Countdown for introducing their new policy?
Big ups to Countdown, this is bold, progressive, and it’s leading from the front. When you think about it, as responsible managers trying to get best outcomes for their shareholders as well as their employees, this just makes so much sense. Workplace support is so important, and also, a lot of New Zealanders still need educating. Showing great leadership in our supermarkets is profound, because its an environment that most Kiwis interact with regularly.
What impact do you think this will have on the transgender community?
It will be fantastic for the trans community – this is another step towards normalising our place in society. Every time someone or some organisation is brave and makes a stand, it marks another step along the road to an accepting non-judgemental environment where everyone is embraced.
What other big companies would you like to see adapt this policy?
All businesses need to look at this. By embracing the diversity they have in their places of work, businesses will get the best out of their people, it’s a win-win. Any business that fails to build a supportive work environment is really saying they don’t value their people, that has got to be counter-productive.
What do you think still needs to be done to both raise awareness and support those transitioning?
I can only tell you from my perspectives what needs doing. The place we ultimately need to be at, is where being trans is a non-issue. It’s great to see that for most gay people these days, their orientation has little impact on their place in society, or how people see them (of course there will always be the odd bigot). This is where trans people want to be I’m sure – no special treatment, just treated like everybody else.
What is your opinion on the growing transgender suicide rate in NZ?
It’s a tragedy, I know how tough it is to grow up confronted with this challenge. It took a lot of time, and quite a few battle scars, for me to have the strength I have now and the confidence that goes with that. For my part, I will always shout it from the hill tops that it is okay to be trans, and that you can have quality of life as a trans person. I hope some of the people having difficulty with this find some comfort in that. I hope that every time something like the Countdown policy happens or someone famous comes out, like Caitlyn Jenner, it represents another step towards making things a little easier for the next generation.
Anything else you’d like to tell our express readers?
At the risk of upsetting some people, I’ll tell you something that pisses me off. Our community, the people in it, we have so many challenges in life. As you pointed out, trans suicide rates are unacceptably high. So why is it, that so often we spend time tearing each other down? Why do we get into cliquey groups and bitch at each other? This is crazy. We need to support each other, no question. Come on people, keep it positive – I challenge you.