Fundraiser for Rise video with Julie Burchill

 

I’ve never really talked about it much but two years ago, when my life was first splashed across national television, I was homeless for a while and eventually found a place in a women’s’ refuge. Much like when I first arrived off the boat in the UK, I had landed in Brighton with all my worldly possessions in my car, and it was my new friend Fox who suggested that I call Rise. Little did I know it but this charity had a history of being very inclusive of trans people, they had a dedicated LGBT officer and had policies in place that made sure that gender variant people’s identities were respected. I was assigned a key worker who for the first time ever, asked me how I identify and how I wanted to be addressed. It was a complete breath of fresh air.

My whole life was in complete chaos during those first few months, I couldn’t tell anyone where I lived for fear of putting the other women in danger by exposing exactly where the refuge was, the immense pressure I felt from the TV thing, the breakup of a relationship and being homeless yet again took it’s toll on me. I met some great people and it gave me the space to think and to plan a way to put my life back together so in a roundabout way, I’m glad things worked out how they did, if it wasn’t for Rise, my life wouldn’t be what it is, my confidence wouldn’t be where it is now and I’d probably be living in a tent on the Outer Hebrides or something.

Fast forward two years and the Trans Alliance, one of the organisations I volunteer with, heard that notorious transphobe Julie Burchill would be organising a fundraiser for Rise in Brighton called End Of. The reactions from the local trans and feminist community varied from quite strong ‘burn the witch’ the responses to the more moderate and although last year I had helped organise one of the wave of direct action protests against her sickening rant in the Observer, I felt that the bigger picture needed to be taken into account on this occasion. The Trans Alliance reached out to Rise and we talked about how best to manage the situation and they asked me if I would like to say a few words on the night to highlight how the charity supports women, regardless of whether they were trans or cisgender.

Rise is a charity which can only offer such a wide range of support services because of the fundraising efforts of women like Julie Burchill. Rise doesn’t discriminate who they help so of the tens of thousands raised last night, trans women will be among those who are helped to recover from abusive relationships. Wonderfully Ironic, isn’t it?

When I was deciding what to say for my time on stage in front of hundreds and hundreds of people I was very aware that I was walking a tightrope, on one hand I had to be respectful of the real needs of Rise as a charity, and on the other, I couldn’t miss up an opportunity to call out a transphobe on her bullshit. I was super nervous waiting to go on stage, which wasn’t helped when Burchill and my eyes met over a crowded corridor, she must have known that I helped organise those protests, I mean who doesn’t Google themselves from time to time, right?

In the end, I kept my protest low key, focussed on the positive that had came from my interactions with Rise but still made the point I had come to make. The most surprising thing that came fro the evening though, was bumping into a woman I had met while in refuge, her story was more harrowing than anyone can imagine and it made my week to see her happy, strong and getting on with her life. positivity rocks.

If Julie Burchill happens to read this, let me say this to you; we obviously have some things in common, the Sex Pistols and a desire to combat domestic violence for a start, is it time to drop the transphobic rhetoric? Let’s talk and see if we can find some more common ground.

Homesickness sucks and a book update.

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

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.