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Sassify Zine - June 2020

Illustration - Ben Faulkner Gant

“Give us the platform,

not because you “feel” it’s the right thing

to do but because you know we should

have been equal all along

and those challenging feelings

are testament to

your growth”

Z Ratty 2018

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Meet Zayna Ratty (She/Her), Chair of Oxford Pride, Gender, Sexuality & Relationship Diversity Hypno-Psychotherapist and Stonewall Role Model by day, we caught up with Zayna to talk Pride, and her LGBTQ+ journey.

Could you tell us about your LGBTQ+ journey so far?


My own journey to authenticity started from a similar place as many others, that of not knowing, yet of sensing something other about myself. I did as many people did and signed up to the societal trope of heteronormativity, a marriage which lead me down the fabulous path of motherhood. That path also led me to the flawed self-belief of being heterosexual and holding my authentic self in stasis.


I stayed in GSRD stasis until the learnings I made and took from my marriage gave me no option but to admit to myself that I had never been heterosexual and had been forcing my square self into a round receptacle for most of my life. It left me with the feeling of what do I do? Where do I turn? I don’t know anything other than the box which I’ve always lived in.


My learnings have been many yet continue every day, knowing more about myself and being more accepting. I do often feel that my bisexuality intersects with my ethnic identity in that they both undergo systemic discrimination. Just as ethnicity is a set of boundaries dividing populations based on characteristics such as language, religion, race or culture. Sexuality can be seen as a set of boundaries dividing a population according to sexual practices, identities, orientations and desires. It is through this observation of division that we can begin to decolonise those concepts. Right now, I truly hope that the outpouring of activism and support for the #blacklivesmatter movement never wains but continues to evoke real change throughout all our worlds. From the language used around marginalised groups, to the frameworks and structure that mean we are born at a disadvantage simply because of being who we are.


We must remember that few great things were done alone, we must think differently than before to affect change, this capacity to change the way we think comes thanks to the unusually high neuroplasticity of our brains. Listen to viewpoints that are not your own without interrupting; treat the person or viewpoint with the same kind regard that you’d treat your own ideas or self. We can improve inclusion by considering the 4 steps of intellectual humility. This guides our intellectual conduct, recognizing and owning our intellectual limitations in the pursuit of deeper knowledge, authenticity, and congruence.

The power of therapy and talking is so important, even more so in times of isolation.

What drew you to becoming a Hypnotherapist and Psychotherapist?


We have all lied, we all evaluate the cost to benefit ratio of doing so every time it occurs. Clients need to learn that they can trust us before they will tell us what they really want to talk about, we are taught early on in practice that the “presenting issue isn't always the issue”. I too had this experience.


I didn't know much about myself, had a limited emotional vocabulary and didn't feel my therapist would understand what I wanted to say. I had a professional background in terminal care, so have always been in a role where I tried to help others. People often ask how I became a LGBTQIA+ specialist. It’s because I want to provide a safe space where people can be themselves, to provide a space where there is no judgement and because I do what I know.


I don't really see people who want to stop smoking, I guess I’m not the therapist for them either. I always say clients are drawn to the therapist they need at that time, this might not be a long time therapeutic exchange but when I see people who have been erased, dismissive therapists or those whose therapists had some fascination with some part of their identity for their own end, then I know I made the right choice to allow my career to take me where it wanted to go.


I didn't start researching courses and training until I was in my 30’s nearly 10 years ago now and it’s been a journey for me, I’ve learnt so much and continue to learn. I’m currently doing a practitioner’s course in ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy). I am not tied to one modality, because no two clients are the same and so I believe the therapist is their own modality made up of everything they know, want to know and have done. The profession can be quite territorial about modalities. I feel that I’m an ‘integrative’ hypno-psychotherapist. Like baking a cake, every client comes with different ingredients, so you need to know how to bake more than one type of cake.


One image I saw recently that really resonated with me was about how smart people learn from everything and everyone, average people from experiences and short-sighted people already have the answers. I am told I don't like to make it easy on myself, but decolonising therapy is a passion of mine. If no one ever challenges anything then no one ever moves in any direction. I feel that when any profession is not being proactively inclusive then it is fostering a systemic culture of being exclusive.


What has been the best part of your chosen profession?


People think my profession is just to listen to people’s problems all day and it’s really depressing or to use hypnosis to turn people into chickens… Nether is actually true!


It is about so much more; there is no bigger privilege than to be the one to sit with someone, to walk with them, to encourage and see them be their best selves. I’m incredibly proud of the changes that my clients make in their lives and situations. They do the work, they show up and be present. We laugh, we cry, we search, we find meanings, we find dead ends, evaluate, transform and know that they are all part of the fabric of their life and, for that, I’m grateful to play my part.


I don't fix people, I encourage them to fix themselves: to find new skills, to reframe, to think feel and to see from different angles. We all come from different places and end up at different locations. When you do what you love, you can really love what you do.

Where have you been finding comfort during quarantine?

I spend a lot of time processing sessions. It can be mentally tiring and for that I’m grateful to have some breathing space from the school pick-ups and drops off, the merry go round within which we usually live.


One of the questions I have been asking of myself and others is “What learnings can you take from this that you will go forward with?” We are going through an incredible unmonitored mass mental health experiment and that means we don't have the answers. Look at the sky, breathe the fresh air and know that like emotions this time is temporary. As it came, it will go. We can utilise this opportunity to reset our lives, maybe with less cheese, wine and bad sleeping patterns however!

You are also a Stonewall POC & Schools Role Model. How important is it to normalise diverse identities and have representation at such a young age?


I always say, “You can’t be, what you can’t see”. We need to recognise that hierarchal social, legal and policy mechanisms can act as multiple layers of oppression upon those with overlapping minority identities and cause further erasure.


When we regularise diverse identities to young people, we can help to lessen that feeling of having to hide away, they can see that some of the cultural tropes and narratives around our community aren't true. We aren't extraordinary, we are just being ourselves. I always include a mental health element in my talk in schools. It’s important that everyone, including staff, know that being honest, open and transparent is much better for psychological well-being. We can’t break down barriers, help to eliminate HBT bulling if we are cautious and embarrassed to talk.


Visibility and representation are key components, I know I don't often enter a space where I feel belonging in that topography, it’s difficult to speak out and I experience negative comments a lot for what I do and say. If we don’t speak to these fears, then we can’t challenge and triumph over them. I was lucky enough to be asked to be on both the steering committee of the Queering Spires exhibition at the Oxford Town Hall and the Beyond the Binary Project that shone a light on our history, which is important to also understand.


I would like to see the day when ‘coming out’ isn't needed, a day where we can just ‘be’. Because it is not all of ourselves, just a part.

You are also Chair of Oxford Pride. How easy was it to transfer the celebrations into the digital world, and what impact do you think the quarantine has had on Pride events and queer culture in general?


I spent most of life isolating from my authentic self and it was going to pride that encouraged me to find a way to be me. When I gave my chair’s speech last year, I said this was the most terrifying and yet most rewarding position I could ever have, but I felt I could add value to the organisation. My most used phrase lately has been “why do I come up with these ideas?!” Transferring lots of our festival has not been an easy task, coordinating not only performers, committee, sponsors, and using technology we haven't encountered on this scale before has been led to a lot of meetings, sleepless nights and stress. Oxford Pride week is traditionally a high stress time and the additional issues we have encountered has meant this week hasn't been very different!


In a community where isolation is common for lots of reasons, and given the current global issues, we felt compelled to do something. To reach out, to foster any sense of belonging and community that we could. The culture and community have adapted to get the message out there however we could.


The widespread cancelling of pride festivals has taken away that rainbow that the community look towards every year, being able to in some small way cater and let people know they aren't alone is our greatest achievement. The festival moved so fast, being rearranged, changed and all in all the live feed was put together in a 48-hr frantic period where I lost lots of weight, hardly slept or ate and the breakout on my chin is testament to the stress of it all. It wasn't perfect, there were things I, and we, could have done better, but what we did – it was an amazing achievement. I could not have done that if it wasn't for the support of the committee. One of my committee pointed out Pride had never been cancelled before and in the end,  we didn't cancel it at all, we just reframed it.

What is your sassiest anecdote?


I was on a night out with friends at a beautiful vintage club down south. I really needed to go to the toilet, corsets move stuff around you know and bladders don’t like it. The queues were horrendous, I felt they should all be non-gendered anyway. A toilet is a toilet right. I went in, used the facilities and on the way out got accosted by someone. They looked at me and said, “You aren't a bloke” I turned around said “How do you know” and walked out. I felt empowered by not feeling constrained by my gender orientation or presentation a privilege, we must never forget doesn't belong to everyone.

What made you happy today?

Seeing the outpouring of support for Oxford Prides Online content, realising how much we can do. Using new technology to come up with ways to connect and deliver a Pride like Oxford hasn't done before.


My connections, my family both chosen and genetic, my life.

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