Am I transgender?

A question I get asked all the time over email and during interviews with the press goes along the lines of the very simple ‘am I transgender? What next?’

I think that if a person is asking themselves if they are transgender in the first place then that means they are at least feeling a bit uncomfortable with their current gender role so the answer to this question is yes. The word ‘transgender’ is a bit of a catch all word to describe anybody who feels that there is a difference between how you experience your own gender and how everybody else perceives your gender to be. If gender is a wide panorama of possibilities rather than the restrictive, over simplifying male or female boxes people would have you believe, then transgender or gender variant can be used as terms to describe a heck of a lot of people.

If the answer to ‘am I transgender?’ is yes, it’s important that you know that this can mean almost anything you want, but most importantly, it doesn’t mean you have to do anything. Identifying as a transgender person doesn’t mean you will be forced to do something you don’t feel comfortable with, you don’t have to have surgery, you won’t even be forced into transitioning by some trans ninja mafia or something. Although these steps often help people who feel uncomfortable with their gender, there are no rules to being trans.

One of the things that I struggled to understand for years was that my experience of being trans didn’t fit the stereotype ‘trapped in the wrong body’ narrative, I just knew that the people I met everyday perceived me as male yet I knew that was wrong. Realising that I didn’t have to force my gender expression to fit into somebody else’s jelly mould was the one magic lesson which finally brought me some peace. Speaking to other gender variant people helped me come to this realisation, hearing their wide and varied stories about how they experienced and lived their individual gender showed me how we all must dance to the beat of our own drums if we ever want to be happy in our own skin.

If the answer to ‘am I trans? is yes then it’s also important to mention how for some, this means a long and difficult journey ahead. For the people who’s internal gender is so different to their external bodies that they will need to come out to their family and friends, transition and deal with all the challenges it brings. Transition is a period of time we talk about when somebody begins change their external gender expression, for me this meant that I changed my name and started to live my life as female. Transition is another open-ended term, for some this is a set period of time after which they will have finished and moved on to another state, but others believe that life is one big transition and the lines are a bit too blurry to say where one gender ends and the other starts.

If you think you are transgender you will need to help yourself though, I won’t sugar coat it, life is tough at times and there will be setbacks in the future. You’ll have a better chance of being happy if you reach out to other trans people, speak to people on the internet or even better, find a local support group where you can meet and chat with people who have similar experiences, working out who I’m not was far more important for me than working out who I am, if that makes sense. Speaking to a specialist gender identity doctor might be the next step, in the UK that will probably mean first asking to your GP for a referral to the NHS Gender Identity Clinic or if you can afford it, getting a private appointment with a specialist.

Gendered Intelligence have a great resource section if you would like to read more.

Please add your own links in the comments and I’ll edit them into this article over the coming days!

 

The Big Stonewall Meeting

My internet exploded today when news broke of The Big Stonewall Meeting With Trans People™ happening later this week. For those of you who been living in a tent on the island of Sark for the last few months, I’ll give a quick recap: The UK’s biggest LGB organisation is called Stonewall, they have a history of not supporting gender variant people, giving awards to transphobic journalists and more. Well, they’ve got a new Chief Executive, Ruth Hunt, and she is keen to make some changes with how the charity interacts with trans people, starting with meeting some actual trans people. I think this sounds like a great place to start.

 

I’ve known about this meeting for a while after I wrote to Ms. Hunt earlier this year, we set up a chat on the phone and I wrote about here. A couple of days ago I was sent an email with details of the meeting and list of people going and it was good to see almost fifty names of gender variant activists from all over the country, all of whom I respect and some I have had the pleasure to meet over the last few years. There is a broad mix of gender variant people who have all dedicated a good deal of their time, energy and skills to supporting the wider trans* communities, mostly unpaid, I must add. Stonewall have even paid for the travel and accommodation of those who can’t afford it. I don’t know how they decided who would be invited or not but from a quick look there seems to be a good representation of all minorities, there are some who have disabilities, people of colour, both binary and non binary, in fact the only cis people there will be three or four Stonewall employees. Here’s a list of them.

 

So, back to the exploding internet shenanigans. Predictively, there is chaos, this is the first time some have even heard of such a meeting and given the opportunity, they would have liked have had some input. I understand those reasons but am pretty sure Stonewall don’t intend for this to be the last consultation with gender variant people and even their resources are limited and hosting a meeting for fifty people doesn’t come cheap. Please, give it time and your voice will be heard, nothing is not going to change over night, this will hopefully be the first step of many and all options remain open.

 

Gender variant people in this country are beaten down from so many angles right now, the NHS gender service is in crisis, hate crime and harassment is rampant, the suicide, self harm and general mental health failings are taking their toll on all of our lives. We need all the help we can get and it seems that the biggest thing that helped lesbian and gay acceptance in the nineties was that straight allies started taking notice and standing up against homophobia. Stonewall wants to talk to us, nothing more, nothing less.

 

Let’s talk…

Trans Activism, Cerys Matthews and me

I’ve noticed that there are two ways to approach trans activism, every time a trans story hits the headlines and generates discussion across the community there is always one section who are shouty, issuing rallying cries for direct action, boycotts and more. I’ve written passionate blogs in the same vein, hell, I’ve even taken part in protests and called for people to be fired from their jobs. I do this because it works.

The second theory of trans activism is often talked about on social media and follows the idea that all trans people are activists in a sense, these people argue that the most effective way of gaining acceptance and educating the cis masses is by just living your life with quiet dignity, getting on with it by interacting with the people they meet in their lives, winning them over one person at a time. Again, this works too as some of the most surprising acceptance stories in my personal life have come from people I meet in everyday life.

The problem I have though, is that both sides always seem to be absolutely certain that their particular brands of gaining acceptance, of activism, are completely right. Conformation and commitment bias run rife and sometimes there is friction between the two camps.

Recently someone brought my attention to an issue about a trans woman being talked about on the radio who had transitioned more than 40 years ago and is a successful musician. The presenter, Cerys Matthews used the wrong pronouns to describe this woman and when I listened back to the show she seemed confused in general about how to address her. A discussion followed about how to respond to this with one side literally braying for blood, saying that enough was enough, she should be sacked and it’s time to start fighting fire with fire. Maybe it was all those years of walking to school in the morning, blissfully listening to Catatonia but this time I couldn’t bring myself to go all out on the attack over this.

I decided to send Cerys a tweet, no shouty shouty, just a calm message and see where that took me. I didn’t really expect a reply, I just like to speak my mind at randoms on Twitter, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

To my surprise, she answered me and we swapped a few tweets and Direct Messages…

And it concluded with:

I think we can call that a success.

As usual when two opposing ideas clash, neither of these theories are one hundred percent right or wrong. I had a very strict rules and regulation based upbringing and have always delighted in the idea that there is always an exception to the rule. Hard and fast ideologies are weak to the fact that every situation is different and deserves to be judged accordingly and we as a community need to realise that in general, people just aren’t educated enough about trans people. They don’t have the vocabulary to describe transgender issues like we do, remember that we’re are all human, we make mistakes occasionally.

What makes a person is how they respond to their mistakes and kudos to Cerys Matthews for admitting it, apologising and promising to learn from it. If the shouty shouty crowd had been listened to, there is a chance that the outcome would have been completely different.

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

 

 

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.

 

newspectrum

F*ck your gender binary

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!

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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