Now, this is something that I have been wanting to write for a while, but because the legal process was still trundling along for the friend that it involves, I have refrained from doing so. Fortunately common sense has prevailed and she is no longer facing charges, but this is something that should really have been worked out within a few minutes as opposed to several months.
Let’s rewind a few months. There were reports of a man in ‘womens’ clothes’ exposing himself to school children in an area to the north of Leicester. The police even put out warnings to the local LGBT groups about this, warning of a potential backlash to the local Trans community from members of the public who cannot tell the difference between someone who is transsexual and living as a woman, and some dirty perv who’d waggle his maggot at kids. The problem was that the mistaken identity was not on the part of the public, but on the part of the Police themselves.
There she was, just minding her own business in the vague area of the offence, and a local Transwoman was arrested in connection with these offences. Now, it is bad enough living with Gender Dysphoria and trying to live in the gender role that feels most correct for you, without the added exclamation mark of being assumed to be a pervert because of it. These officers, nor indeed any officer handling the case, seemed educated enough about Trans issues to bring the matter to a swift conclusion. Instead they have spent months ensuring that the poor woman was living with the possibility of criminal charges over her head, all the while the true perpetrator goes free and unpunished for his actions.
Now one might say “Oh but how was she dressed?” like that somehow justifies all manner of ‘mistakes’. Well I can assure you that the woman in question is a very modest dresser, and would no doubt have gone largely unnoticed where the police not looking for certain physical traits. Had she been strutting down the street in stripper heels, a belt-skirt and leopard print crop top belting out ‘I am what I am’ in fake falsetto, then one can understand the type of attention it would draw, however that does not describe this woman in the slightest.
What this massive balls up shows is that a little sensitivity training and the odd leaflet being handed out does very little against the tide of unfair and woefully inaccurate representations of trans people by the media. Public consciousness is shaped and moulded by what we see on television, or in three inch high letters on the front page of a tabloid. Trans people are still rarely seen in the media. With one or two notable exceptions, anything Trans related on Television is not presented by a Trans person. It may be a Cisperson interviewing a Transperson, or a Cisperson playing a Trans character, but it is very, very rarely a Trans voice that speaks direct to the public. Even when it is, it is the voice of the more passable, or even the downright stealth-able members of the community that is given the most weight.
The average Transperson on the street isn’t a pinup-worthy stunner like Paris Lees or Laverne Cox (not to denigrate in the slightest, the indispensable contributions they make to the public face of genuine trans people), but most of us have something that would give us away after no more than a few seconds scrutiny, and many without even that. Now, we all have days where we pass and days where we don’t, some of us more than others, some of us less. Early in physical transition, like my friend was, we can be a little more obvious to other people than after a few months of HRT or cosmetic surgery. Unfortunately when the media shows people looking like that, they aren’t usually declared Trans, instead there is the stereotype of the ‘confused’ gay man or the pervert that hangs around the bushes in parks and show his genitals to school children.
There is this ridiculous idea that a man decides to become a woman one day and walks into a clinic with a beer gut, short receding hair and a big nose, then walks out a few hours later looking every bit the woman. Transition is a long and difficult process, made all the harder by vindictive slop-spouters like Julie Burchill and Richard Littlejohn and the members of the public who buy into their verbal smegma. It is a daily struggle facing harassment from other people on the street if constant shaving has made us break out in a rash that couldn’t be hidden under dulux emulsion, or if we happen to be a foot taller than them, or our voice is more Brian Blessed than we’d like. Yet If we can’t even walk down the street without risking being dragged into a police car for looking too much like a bloke in a dress and made out to be some kind of pervert when the absolute LAST thing we want to do with our genitalia is show it to ANYONE EVER, then there is something wrong with our society.
What if it were the police grabbing the first black guy they saw as a suspect after a mugging? What about grabbing the first woman they find after reports of a prostitute working in the area? There’s be a massive shitstorm of official complaints, inquiries, press attention and the like. It happens to a transperson? Most people would probably side with the Police. After all, any stuff to do with genitals has to be a sex thing right?