Homesickness sucks and a book update.

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My head has been in a fuzz for weeks, it feels like I’ve felt overwhelmed by everything lately and I think I’ve figured out why. I’ve been so homesick. As I write this I’m watching 15 minute long YouTube videos in which some guy has strapped his camera on to his scooter and films himself riding it around the roads of Jersey with some crappy background music. And I’m crying my eyes out. Every landmark, every building, every road, in fact every corner is bringing back memories of some dearly loved friends. I miss them all so much.

I moved to the UK almost three years ago now and I came here for only one reason, to answer the question of whether transition was right for me. I knew all too well what the tiny island’s gossip grapevine thought of trans women and well, the grass is always greener… I used to hate making plans but I reckoned that transition would take two years, three tops, but then the thing with the cameras and the meeting of some new friends who completely changed my perspective on everything about life happened, and now I’m sitting here drying the tears from my cheeks facing a completely new reality and a stark choice. Do I go or do I stay (now)?

My sudden realisation came after about an hour of scooter guy, I can’t go home. Beyond the practicalities of where I am going to live and how to earn enough to live, I have things I want to achieve over here in the UK. Fox and I are about to release our book, Are You A Boy Or Are You A Girl? (That’s an official announcement, I guess!) Trans* Pride is something I’m immensely proud of helping create, all the other things I love doing would be be impossible to do if I have to get on a plane to make appointments, I find it hard enough to be on time as it is!

Times change and I have to accept that a permanent return to Jersey just isn’t realistic for another few years and who knows what I’ll be doing then so I’m gonna have to focus on what I want in the short to medium term. For now I need to make sure this book goes well, I need to be at my best and in an ideal world I need a holiday back home.

Very soon Fox and I will be asking you to pre-order and invest in us and our idea of a children’s book introducing a character whose gender is left for the reader to decide. We’ve decided to use the Kickstarter.com crowd funding platform and have total control over the marketing and production process so we are about to ask for your help for the initial printing costs. Details are still being finalised but I really believe the time is right for an idea like this, this will hopefully be the first in a series of books which inspires a generation of children and families to talk more about gender and what it means to each individual. I am really excited about what the next few months hold.

Tomorrow is another day.

The Beaumont Society

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Scottish Sun

 

Ok, I’ll talk about my opinion on the recent opinion piece in the Scottish Sun about people with non binary identities. Janett, please understand that I’m not having a go at you personally, none of us are perfect and a mistake has been made and you have apologised and are listening to the constructive criticism. From what I understand you and the Beaumont Society have been campaigning for trans rights and acceptance for more years than I’ve been alive so I respect and thank you for that immensely.

My issue with the Beaumont Society is that in recent years these faux-pas have happened with some regularity, correct me if I’m wrong but there was the Paddy Power thing, the issue with the trans guy who gave birth and now this. Each of these times it would seem apparent to me that while the intent was good the result was that it caused people upset, three times opportunities have been missed and although hindsight is a wonderful thing, it should have been clear that when something is outside of an organisations knowledge base, outside help should be sought. There is no shame in that as we are all in this together and have broadly the same goals.

For what it’s worth I self identify as non binary, I’m female but value the male traits that make me who I am and when I talk about ‘trans’ issues I mean to include all facets of gender variance, from cross dressing to acute gender dysphoria and this is where I believe the Beaumont Society could give more thought. The gender landscape is changing fast with young people growing up in a world where expressing their gender in a non binary way is becoming widely accepted and I think every trans organisation should shape their policies in such a way to be totally inclusive of any and all gender variant expressions.

What is important is how we all move forward, everybody needs to work together as nothing is achieved by infighting and placing blame.

Why ‘transsexual’ should be a word of the past.

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I’ve been talking with a few people recently about the labels and definitions we all feel like we’re pushed in to and there is one thing all of these boxes have in common. Transsexual, transgender, cisgender, gender queer, transvestite and all the other identities which people feel define them fall somewhere on the spectrum between 100 percent male and 100 percent female. An identity can be fluid, fluctuating or fixed but from what I can see these labels just serve to divide people into smaller and smaller boxes.

Gender variant is a phrase not used enough in my opinion, the majority of people in this world have never had to think twice about their gender but the fact of the matter is that most cis identified people are not binary in their gender expressions. Men who society would call ‘in touch with their feminine side’ still fall on the male side of the spectrum but display gender variant behaviour, the hundreds of thousands of transvestites and crossdressers who identify as their birth gender fall under this definition too, the same goes for women who some people would call ‘tomboys’ and a multitude of other behaviours which go against the traditional stereotypes.

When we as a community talk about trans rights and acceptance I can’t help but feel that we are missing a trick here, using words like transgender and transsexual creates an ‘us and them’ mentality, it excludes the millions of people who are by definition gender variant. When I explain to the people I meet about gender being a spectrum instead of the male versus female binary system, it’s like a light bulb has been switched on in their heads, they get it, they finally understand why I say that I never felt like I was a woman trapped inside a man’s body or any of the other misconceptions they have about why a person transitions.

I truly believe that the whole of society is on the cusp of a gender identity revolution that will be on the scale of the sexual revolution of the sixties and seventies, more and more young people are freeing themselves from the binary handcuffs of the traditional ideas of what it means to be a man and a woman. One of the reasons which held me back from attempting to transition for so long was that I just didn’t feel that I fit into what was expected of me to be transsexual, up until a few years ago I just thought that the word queer was just another gay insult and as I have learned more about the complexities of gender theory, my own identity has evolved.

I’m not knocking the people who identify as totally male or female, it’s their right to be true to themselves and I understand the merit of medical based definitions but I can see in ten years or so words like transsexual and transgender being viewed as old fashioned and exclusionary, while the conversation about gender variant people evolving and whilst it is yet another label, it’s one whose meaning is wider and helps society to understand that the fight for acceptance and equality isn’t one of a tiny minority but something that is relevant and means something to millions of people.

 

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F*ck your gender binary

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The last few days I’ve read some disgusting views, some written by cis people, some by trans women about that ‘transsexual murderer sleeping with women in prison’ story. (I’m not linking to the Daily Fail, find it yourself.) The ‘popular’ opinion is that she can’t be transgender because she likes to have sex with women, like, actually puts her penis in a vagina! Oh my fucking god, what horror, a trans person who uses their genitals to feel pleasure! If these idiots are to be believed, she can’t be a ‘true’ transsexual if she wants to have a sex life that doesn’t involve pretending that her arsehole is a pussy and ignoring her primary sexual organ!

Bullshit. Two points here, first of all, who the fuck is anyone to enforce their own idea of a gender binary on someone else? What right has one trans woman got to say who is a ‘true’ transsexual and who isn’t? It pisses me the fuck off when people moan that society won’t accept trans people for who they are when they themselves won’t accept other trans people without placing arbitrary rules upon them, saying they have to feel this, do that and say whatever before they are allowed to define their identity by some bullshit label? Since when does having a penis or a vagina make a person a man or a woman? I thought society was starting to move away from these antiquated definitions?

Second point, what right does anyone have to interfere with a strangers sex life? Perhaps the lady in prison has chosen to make do with what she has, make the most of a shitty situation regarding her genitals? Perhaps she wants gender conformation surgery in the future but for the moment, she’s working with what she’s got? What if she has a phobia of having a major operation or a medical condition which means she can’t have surgery?

She is an adult, the people she allegedly slept with are adults, I’m 100% sure that cis lesbians and gays have sex whilst in prison, why the fuck does it matter to you who she does or does not sleep with and how she does it? I could tell you things about my sex life that would make your grandmother spin in her grave and sing Waltzing Matilda but I don’t, it’s my private business what I do with my body, and the same applies for any other human on this planet.

Perhaps, just maybe, what you’ve read in the shit face transphobic Daily Fucking Mail is all a lie and you’ve fallen for their thinly veiled hate speech, stirring up the right wing ‘trans people are scum’ witch hunt crowds? It’s her business who she sleeps with and how she does it, stop judging people for having a sex life.

 

*I originally wrote this a few weeks ago on BookFace but am republishing it here because I’m just testing site functionality*

 

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You’re a filthy tranny!

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A young woman who’s gender identity is different to the one that was assigned to her at birth, describes herself to her friends as “a tranny” and is in bed late at night with her husband of five years, they have just finished having sex and are indulging in some pillow talk.

 

“You’re a filthy tranny!” He says softly, “that was amazing! I love you so much”

 

Contrast that with another young woman who’s gender identity is different to the one that she was assigned at birth but describes herself to her friends as “a woman with trans history” is alone and walking home from work late at night, she is very self conscious about her looks and doesn’t think she passes very well. A group of drunk men stumble out of a pub in front of her so she lowers her head and quickens her step, hoping they won’t look at her too closely.

 

“You’re a filthy tranny!” A man shouts.

 

I’ve always loved language, I can speak and understand some of the English, French and Spanish languages and it’s always been fascinating to me how very subtle changes in the way a word is spelt, the grammar used and the setting the word is used in can change it’s meaning entirely.

 

If someone wants a label with which to describe themselves, who am I to tell them that they’re wrong? Who am I to tell them that their choice of identity is not my idea of what is ‘the done thing?’ This kind of identity policing is exactly what the cis world is guilty of and a trans person would quite rightly call it out so why does it happen so often in the trans world?

 

The way that humans use words and language evolves over time, it happens organically and banning certain words never achieves anything, it just makes something taboo and  likely to be used more often than not as a slur.

 

Replace the trans women in my earlier story with cis women (Female at birth) and replace “tranny” with “bitch.” The story is the same and the meanings behind what is said are the same, why should the use of the word tranny be any different from bitch? Some women choose never to use either word and some choose to use both, why the judgement? Both can be used to mean both positive and negative things and everyone has a right to use their words however they wish.

 

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Why Parents Shouldn’t Be Scared Of Gender Variant Children

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My earliest memory isn’t of something related to my gender, it’s of a hospital. Well technically it’s of a television in a hospital. I was eighteen months old, I had caught a nasty dose of food poisoning and been admitted to hospital and I remember as clear as day being in a cot in a room and being annoyed at my dad because I was watching a cartoon and he turned the TV off. I mentioned this memory to my mum once and she was surprised that I didn’t remember the other room the nurses put me in, apparently the hospital was very busy and we had been put in a bay that that had been converted from a communal shower room.

 

Guess who managed to somehow turn on the showers…

 

Now my second memory is about gender, and what it meant to me. I went to a Biblical themed fancy dress party when I was four or five and I was dressed as Moses, every picture of Biblical characters I’d ever seen showed men wearing smock-type clothes, very similar to a dress. So for my costume I was put in one of my big sisters dresses which had some patches of fabric sewn onto the chest to make it more manly and was given a walking stick. I was in the process of learning what was different about boys and girls and at the time the only difference I could see was clothes and hair, girls couldn’t have short hair and boys couldn’t wear dresses. Bum deal for me is what I learnt.

 

When you read or hear about ‘transsexual children,’ chances are, it’s nothing to do with a child being transsexual at all. Like me, everybody goes through a learning process when they’re discovering who they are and where they fit in the world. A part of that is discovering gender and what it means, toys, clothes, jobs, even cars seem to have been assigned a gender role. As far as I remember all of my childhood friends at some point, usually as part of a fancy dress type activity, wore clothes that were usually of the opposite gender, virtually every child does it. And I’m the only one (that I know of) that has turned out as a transsexual adult.

 

Gender is a wide and varied spectrum and not everybody fits into either 100% male or 100% female, some people don’t identify as any gender at all, right in the middle of the other genders. Wherever you sit on that spectrum, there’s nothing to be ashamed of and you’re entitled to be yourself without having to worry about other peoples reactions. If I have a child and they want to experiment with gender stereotypes then I will encourage them. It’s healthy and only adds to a young persons mental well being in the long run to know who they are and what kind of person they want to become.

 

It’s only natural for a parent to worry about their kids, i mean, I’d hate to have a child of mine to have to go through the mental anguish and pain of transition so it’s important to stress that only a tiny percentage of humans are transsexual, the likelihood is that your child is just starting to discover and understand better the world around them. Encourage it and embrace it, give them the space to develop emotionally and talk about their feelings, medical intervention is impossible until puberty and as they grow their gender identity may well evolve too.

 

I’m still a inquisitive person who gets into some sort of trouble now and again, I prefer baths to showers and I’m not as fond of watching cartoons as I once was but I am a trans woman. What happens in childhood doesn’t necessarily shape the person you become and I wish could have had a safe and supportive environment where I felt comfortable to explore my identity at a young age.

 

 

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Make the Russian Olympics the Gayest Ever!

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Unless your head has been buried in the sand for the last few months you will be aware of the recent rise in attacks on the LGBT community in Russia and the laws that ban “homosexual propaganda.” (Whatever the crap that is.) In about six months time, on the Soviet Black Sea coast there will also be the small matter of the winter Olympics, the largest winter sports festival on the planet will be happening in a country that is endorsing and encouraging the oppression, rape, torture and murder of our fellow human beings.

 

There is not much more I can say about how wrong this is that hasn’t already been said, people now need to figure out how to react to this. It’s already been pointed out that simply not turning up is unlikely to work, proven by the fact that the 1980 summer Olympics in Moscow was boycotted by 65 countries led by America, but history has all but forgotten that. Google “political protest at the Olympics” and there is little mention of boycotts, number one result is this image though.

 

 

Which brings me to the point of this post, my idea, for what it’s worth is this: Make this winter Olympics the gayest ever, wether you’re spectating or taking part wear rainbow colours, rainbow unicorns covered in glitter if you can. Ask athletes to do whatever they are willing, rainbow flags, socks, gloves and scarves, anything that will show their support of LGBT rights. How amazing would it be to see people standing up for those being oppressed? The smallest gestures are sometimes the ones that achieve the most and I hope that  the conscience of the worlds will be pricked by these small actions.

 

The Olympics have always been a great inspiration for children and adults and we cannot turn a blind eye to the way people are being treated, this winter is an opportunity to stand up and be counted. Together we can show the future Olympic generations that everybody deserves to be treated with dignity and respect, no matter who they are, race, religion, sexuality and gender aside, we are all human and we are all in this together.

 

 

 

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The Argus coverage of Trans Pride Brighton

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Dear Mr Beard,

 

I am writing to you about the article published in The Argus, Monday 29th July, page 5; The Return Of Doggy Pride.

 

As a proud doggy owner I was over the moon to read about Brighton’s hosting Doggy Pride, for too long doggy owners have had to fear for their lives while walking the streets of their home town, just because of the fact that they own dogs. Ever since they were young they have had to hide their love of dogs from the people they hold nearest and dearest for fear of being physically and mentally abused and shunned. I think it is wonderful that doggy owners are finally standing up for themselves and showing the world that they are not ashamed to be who they are and embracing their identities. Together they are stronger.

 

I think it’s disgusting that people demean and misrepresent doggy owners, grouping them with other completely unrelated things such as trans* people, I mean, trans* people have never had to put up with the hardships that doggy people have, they have never had some newspaper editor infer that they’re less important than… oh, wait…

 

Let me start this letter again.

 

As a trans* person, Trans* Pride Brighton committee member and an ex dog owner (and aspiring future dog owner) I kinda feel that The Argus has been a bit disrespectful to Europe’s first ever trans* pride event, I don’t think you’ve given it enough credit. The significance of this piece of British history has seemed to have passed you by. It’s understandable though as trans identified people are probably the smallest minority there is, less than 20,000 have been through the NHS system and we are easily forgotten. Even so, this doesn’t make the fact that Trans* Pride Brighton was a runaway success  with a footfall of over 1500 people was any less newsworthy. I just found the way we were mentioned as an afterthought in a Doggy Pride article a bit insulting.

 

 

I am writing to you because I want to see if there is a way we can fix this, can we talk about it? If you don’t want to talk to me personally, (I can understand why I come across as a bit strange) why not check out this website http://www.allabouttrans.org.uk/ They promote greater understanding between media professionals and the transgender community. Anyway, you sent a photographer down and it would seem a waste not to use his photos, no?

 

 

Faithfully,

 

Sarah Savage.

 

EDIT 21:45 30/07/13

I have received a reply from the News Editor and I think it’s a bit of a win…

 

Dear Sarah,

 

Thank you for your email.

 

I am sorry the story appeared to belittle the importance of the Trans Pride event. That was certainly not our intention, but sometimes we get things wrong.

 

As a result, we have republished the story online www.theargus.co.uk/news/10580921.Brighton_and_Hove_celebrates_Britain_s_first_ever_Trans_Pride_event/ and will include a lengthier version with pictures in tomorrow’s paper.

 

Regards,

 

Lawrence Marzouk
News Editor

 

 

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Love and hate, my non trans life.

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I wrote this for another website but I get lot’s of emails asking about my family so thought I’d share it on here too…

 

I was born into the Jehovah’s Witnesses in the UK, my dads mum brought him into it and he was a Ministerial Servant and is now an Elder. I have 3 brothers and sisters and we were a close family growing up, all of our friends were from the local congregation and I only had one or two friends from school who weren’t involved in the religion. I wasn’t allowed to participate in after school sports and was strongly discouraged from any further education despite being in the top 10% of my school. From as early as I can remember I had huge unanswered questions over my gender and sexuality but I knew that I couldn’t speak about any of it to anybody, I knew that if I did it would mean endless and pointless bible studies with the Elders, conversations with people who didn’t want to listen to my feelings, who would just try to change the way I thought and constant suspicion of being an apostate. I kept everything to myself, trusted nobody and this has messed me up ever since.

 

 

At 17 I was baptised, I thought that it was what was required of me, I always had doubts, I just wanted to be normal like all the other people I could see out in the world but I felt huge pressure from the elders and my family to conform, so I did. Less than a year later one of my friends who I had grown up with (who had left a couple of years earlier) was back in town for the weekend and I’d heard he would be going to a nightclub to catch up with some people. I wanted to go.
My mind was made up, the only way I was going to see my friend would be to leave the religion, I’d thought about it in the past often but did not want to miss out on another important (to me) opportunity to be normal. Saturday morning and I went out as normal on the ministry, I remember getting dressed in my suit and tie thinking that this would be the last time I would ever do this. I even managed to convince some poor soul to take a magazine that day but as I returned home I sat in my parents bathroom and wrote a letter to my dad explaining that I would be leaving and there was nothing he could do. I left it where he would find it, got in my car and drove away, I knew what the reaction would be.

 

 

Nobody saw this coming, not my family, not my Jehovah’s Witness friends, not the congregation members. I had hidden all of my doubts from everyone. I still believed everything that had been taught me since I was born, I still believed that Armageddon was coming very soon but I didn’t care. I was making the choice to live as a normal person and accepted that I was going to die, I just couldn’t live with the constant guilt trips one minute longer.

 

 

 

Overnight everyone in my life stopped being in my life. Childhood friends crossed the street to avoid eye contact, my family stopped talking to me, the mother of a family who were our closest friends called me to her house to tell me if I died she wouldn’t go to my funeral. My life spiraled out of control, I had lost everything that had ever been important to me and in the following few years drink and drug addiction took hold. I didn’t care, I was going to be killed when Armageddon came anyway so I was determined to escape the constant feelings of impending doom in any way possible. One night I stopped by the family home and my then 8 year old sister had just gone to bed, I put my head round her bedroom door to say goodnight and we got talking. She asked me if I was evil because Jehovah didn’t love me any more. I left the house and cried my heart out.  It took until I was about 25 before I even began to sort through my feelings and beliefs.

 

 

 

I’m now 31, I no longer believe the world as we know it is going to end any day now. I’m agnostic, pansexual and 2 years ago I came out as transgender.

 

 

 

The trans part has proven to be the final nail in the coffin with my family, my mum, to her eternal credit has always gone out of her way to continue a relationship with me is the only one who still speaks to me, she hides the contact we have from the rest of them. My dad has banned everyone in my family from speaking to me, I haven’t seen or heard from them in years, I have a niece I’ve never met and a nephew who wouldn’t recognise me. Even before I came out as trans my mum and my little sister were the only ones who spoke to me and now even my sister doesn’t. My mothers love has sometimes been my only saving grace.

 

 

 

I’m happy now though and despite everything I don’t regret a thing. I have friends who are closer than my family ever were and I don’t have that impending sense of doom and guilt trips that used to follow me about like a storm cloud.  I don’t hate my family, despite everything I will always love them. I don’t blame them for anything either as for me, unconditional love is real and will never change. My parents never set out to cause damage to their own offspring and in their own misguided way only ever tried to do the best for their children. I hate the Jehovah’s Witnesses though, and hate is genuinely not a word I use lightly. I hate the way this cult made me feel about myself, I hate the damage it does to people who are too young to do anything about it and most of all, I hate that I can’t do anything about it.

 

 

 

All the struggles and turbulence in my life have brought me to this point where I am at today and that is a very good place indeed. To use a phrase coined by an LGBT campaign, It DOES get better. Yesterday I found out that I’ve been nominated for The Positive Role Model Award for LGBT at The National Diversity Awards 2013 so that must be a good sign.

 

 

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