Here we go you gorgeous people!!!
Category Archives: Trans Activism
Hey everybody. First off… yeah, I haven’t blogged properly in ages. Sorry about that. My usual Winter funk started early, triggered by western society’s increasing resemblance to pretty much every dystopian science fiction future in every dystopian science fiction movie ever. As a result, I have been just drifting around in some kind of semi-fugue state, fueled by very strong painkillers and an immersion in the ‘grim darkness’ of the Warhammer 40,000 universe because, fuck it, it’s a brighter future than ours looks right now.
This is of course all hyperbolic for comedic effect, but what I wouldn’t give for a few power armoured, 9-foot tall warrior monks wandering around, purging would-be dictators with guns as big as a car.
Now, this post is more of a ‘She’s Baaaaaack’ thing (although consistency remains to be seen), rather than a scathing, withering yet amusing analysis of anything in particular. In all honesty, who needs satire when global events efficiently take the piss out of themselves? MRAs, the Alt-Right, ‘Alternative Facts’, ‘Fake News’, Rapey reality TV stars being elected President of the US, Brexit (Or how do we enact this thing without dry-fucking ourselves in the arse), some twat called Milo speaking in support of Paedophilia (he’s fallen a long way since he was in ‘The Tweenies’) and the Political Left in the UK refusing to get behind an actual Left Wing leader. All the while, our government has been systematically shagging the disabled and selling off the silverware… business as usual then.
However, yesterday I saw (without actually intending to, may I hasten to add) a 42 year old Transwoman in Brazil, dragged screaming from her home, begging for her life before being beaten to death in an alleyway. I shan’t link to it, it isn’t hard to find. This is the fifth reported Trans Murder from Brazil alone this year.
Now it’s easy to say “Oh well, Brazil is a backwards, Third-World Country.” Well it isn’t. It adopted equal marriage before we did, and supports Trans people with its public healthcare system. Poverty, Prejudice and Police corruption are prevalent in a large amount of countries we see through our Western perspective as ‘Developed’. Indeed, most of South America is coming on by leaps and bounds in terms of equality and social enlightenment from where they were a few dark decades ago.
No, this isn’t about Brazil. It is about all of us. It’s about everyone just laughing at the bigotted whilst they terrorise, intimidate, harass, assault and abuse the people who aren’t them.
People sit and laugh at Trump, but hate crimes have massively increased in the US, whilst he has personally signed away the rights of millions of US citizens. “Oh it’ll be interesting to see what he does…” are words one only hears from a straight, white, cisgender man (of course, not ALL straight, white, cisgender men 😉 ).
The Brexit Vote… guess what? A significant rise in hate crimes in the UK. I don’t really care what side of the fence you are on there, but the result gave a massive boost of self-righteousness to those whose idea of a good time is punching queers or battering brown people. So yeah, I’m now more likely to be attacked in the street. GO TEAM!
This oppressive fog of negativity has left me in a situation where I have a hard time motivating myself to chew through the restraints every morning. It is hard to see the goodness in the world right now, even though it is right there in so many of you. One of the things about strong pain medication is that everything looks so bleak, and yet so distant that you feel powerless to change anything (except pants… always change your pants. I cannot stress the importance of this enough).
But hey, every now and then someone puts a motivational poster up on Facebook so that makes it all okay, doesn’t it?
Ah well, at least the sun is shining. The bells of St Stephens are tolling and the primary school down the road is full of children screaming like someone’s chasing them with a chainsaw. Best of all, that hooty bastard Tawny Owl appears to have fucked off for the spring again so he can go and lure some other miserable bitch to the Underworld. Oh, and people are actively punching Nazis now, which is apparently something nobody thought of in the 1930s.
I fancy some toast.
I think I’ll go make some toast.
Peace out, love ya lots, and don’t forget to punch a Nazi.
I often find it quite ‘poncey’ when people talk about ‘narratives’ …’what’s your Narrative?’, ‘Gender Narrative’, ‘Social Narrative’ etc. I am fully prepared to accept that this attitude, and indeed the specific wording of my feelings are based on a personal narrative of growing up in a no-nonsense, plain speaking environment. Indeed, I can often be poncey, flowery and pretentious with my prose but when you grow up around the cultural vacuum of a ‘New Town’ like Stevenage where there is sadly a culture of distrust towards anyone who is different, one doesn’t have to season their vernacular too much before being labelled as all these things.
It does concern me, however, on a deeper level than just how self-important it can make one sound. The sad truth is, as a Trans person, we are all judged upon our Narratives. One cannot simply walk in to a GP and, like Ricky Gervais satirically speculated on one of his standup tours say “You see all this? Get rid of this… pop on a fanny!”
In the UK we have to bare our incorrectly housed souls to psychiatrists in order to be diagnosed with a condition that they don’t even want to classify as a mental illness (which it isn’t if the recent discoveries of the variation in androgen receptors is true). This is where we give our narratives.
Did we want to play with the toys of the opposite sex when we were younger? Did we want to dress as the opposite sex? Did we express our Dysphoria to family and friends from a young age? Did we even experience Dysphoria when we were young? Were we effete little boys, or tomboy girls? These are relevant to our past narrative.
There is, sadly, an element of one-uptranship within the Trans community? Woe betide any poor Trans person who didn’t experience Dysphoria until puberty, or who never wanted to dress as the opposite sex when they were younger. Born male? Played with Ninja Turtles and not Barbie? You don’t qualify! I am considerably Transer than you!
Our current narrative is also under scrutiny. How do we present ourselves? Many Transwomen I know, especially early in their transition are afraid to attend GIC appointments and assessments without a full face of makeup and as typically feminine an outfit as is humanly possible for fear that their expression of their gender identity will be deemed inadequate. There is this permeating fear that if you rock up in jeans and a hoodie like half the women you pass in the street, you will be dismissed as ‘not serious enough’.
There is this concept in the Trans-critical feminist circles, that Transwomen are walking parodies of femininity. This is of course an absolutely absurd and downright offensive notion, but does it gain weight from the fact that out current healthcare system seems to be encouraging Transwomen especially to overcompensate? The fact that we are expected to present as feminine fulltime (RLE) for nearly a year before receiving and benefiting from any feminising hormones, has the unfortunate side effect of making us far more visible to those around us than we feel comfortable with. Jeans, T-Shirt, Hoodie, Trainers, hair in a ponytale… is that ok? Are we still presenting as female? Are we negating our RLE? Are we at risk of losing our support or being hurled back to square one? Are we even allowed to have our hair short if we want?
RLE (Real Life Experience) is a misleading concept, as it is not really experiencing life in your preferred gender role, as much as it is seeing how you cope with the shit you are going to get when others perceive you as Trans. Unless you are fortunate enough to be naturally very androgynous, you are going to look like a guy in a frock or a stereotypical ‘butch lesbian’ until you get medical intervention. ‘Passing privilege’ doesn’t often come until later, and for many, not at all.
No one comments on Trans people who blend in, only on those who stand out. I suppose I can count myself fortunate that I can sit near a group of people saying nasty things about Trans people without realising that one of these ‘abominations’ is within muffin launching distance from their ignorant faces. It sometimes feels that the less you think you pass, the more you overcompensate, and the less you actually pass as a result.
Femininity is highly subjective. Masculinity is highly subjective. Is it wrong to push transitioning people to the extremes of gender expression? Is this not the issue many think it is and just an internalised aspect of Gender Dysphoria? Is there not enough consensus on the parameters for gender expression to use it as a suitable judge for the criteria of RLE?
I prefer to wear dresses or skirts, love shoes, don’t usually wear much make-up, play tabletop games, video games, collect Warhammer stuff, love sci-fi and history, laugh at dirty jokes… there’s a mix of typically both genders in there, yet I identify strongly as female… are Transwomen allowed to be Tomboys? Are Transmen allowed to be effete? The gender binary is far from just a Trans issue, we are all a hodgepodge of different traits and interests that have been gender labelled. Compassion is seen as feminine, yet there are many compassionate men whose Gender Identity is never in question. Competitiveness is seen as a typically male trait, but try telling that to a women’s Roller Derby team.
I always knew what my brain needed my body to be, but that is not negated by the fact I liked Ninja Turtles and Action Man when I was a child, and it doesn’t negate my identity if I can’t be bothered to shave my legs for a fortnight.
So, this is a thing… http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/7689007.stm
For those who have slow internet connections or cannot bear to be parted from me for more than a few seconds, the gist is that researchers have discovered a link between people who identify as male-to-female transgender, and a gene which regulates our sensitivity to certain hormones, and therefore is a strong candidate as to why a brain can develop a gender identity incongruous with the sex of the body.
The first reaction of course is to wave it in the faces of those who call us fetishists or sexual predators and go ‘Nerrr, it’s genetic you ridiculous twat’, but that would be vulgar. The look on the faces of Germaine Greer, and Julie Burchill would be immensely satisfying, but vulgar nonetheless.
It makes me wonder what it actually means for Trans people in society. Certainly any medical body that continues to classify Transgenderism as a form of mental illness or sickness would undermine itself by refusing to acknowledge the evidence that it is a born trait.
For decades there has been a hunt for a ‘Gay’ gene, with various degrees of success but with nothing conclusive enough for all medical groups to agree. Perhaps being Trans is biologically simpler than being gay or bi or whatever. Something that drives human emotion is always going to be more complicated to pin down than hormones triggering a brain to develop in a more female or male form. I mean, we all start off the same until our genes tell us which us which hormones to obey or ignore. Look at men’s nipples for example; pretty much useless save for a handy spot to attach the crocodile clips and the car battery in torture films.
But will this have any bearing on public perception of Trans people? When there was talk in the 1990s of promising advances in the discovery of the ‘gay gene’, the notoriously anti-abortion Daily Mail ran an article suggesting that genetic screening of the unborn could warn of potential homosexuality of the child, which would therefore be justifiable grounds for termination.
Don’t believe me?
Yes, despite the paper’s usual stance that they believe that foetuses are people, they made it very clear that believe homosexuals are not and, over two decades on, the Daily Mail and other contemporary litter tray linings are just as quick to portray homosexuality as sordid, undesirable and morally repugnant. Their attitudes to transgender people have long been nasty and sensationalist, and will continue to be so long as that angle continues to sell stories.
Perhaps the best place to confront these prejudices are in the classroom before they start, but that just leads to outcries from the press and right wing political parties that learning about diversity, tolerance and understanding is the same thing as sexual grooming, so the cowardly left in this country will either scrap these ideas, or water them down so that they become ultimately worthless.
Now, apparently someone called Bruce Jenner has come out as male-to-female Trans. I am going to be utterly honest here and say that until all these rumours about this individual’s gender identity started doing the rounds, I was unaware of who or what Bruce Jenner was, and I honestly thought a Kardashian was the name of the sinister grey fascist aliens from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. This has been drawn out for months to maximise publicity and build up the drama whilst the LA paparazzi followed Jenner around and documented possible surgical procedures as they happened. The shallow end of the audience pool seemed hooked.
And there is the problem. No one of any value to the press gives a flying fig leaf if it is genetic or not, they just want the drama and the mystery. They would rather sensationalise a famous sixty-something’s well funded transition, then push to help Trans youth get the information and support they need. They are so quick to leap on tales of parents letting their children live by the gender identity they feel most comfortable with, and portray them as some kind of ridiculous parody of ‘permissive parenting’.
The religious right will take a long time to accept the genetic argument too. I mean, they knew being born black wasn’t a lifestyle choice but still accepted the idea of slavery for many, many centuries. In the face of overwhelming evidence that being gay is predetermined, they take the ‘lalalalalalala, I can’t hear you’ approach. Even now, in Northern Ireland… very much the Alabama of the United Kingdom… we have the backwards morons of the DUP blocking any equality legislation that they can. I am sure Ian Paisley is very pleased with these results from his vantage point on the receiving end of Satan’s toasting fork.
One can be hopeful that these links get confirmed, the papers start to be positive about their portrayals and schools are allowed to tell children that it is natural to be Transgender and wrong to discriminate and bully people, but I think it’s more likely that it will just be used by the press as another justifiable excuse for abortion, or by the religious right as evidence that we are damned by God.
Still, Bruce Jenner has a made a few bucks out of it, right?
Firstly, my I say that I have been a member of your organisation in my student days, and I appreciate the lengths you have gone to in order to represent the needs of your members and indeed, all students around the country over the years.
However, I have grave misgivings with regards to your recent assertion that ‘crossdressing’ and ‘drag’ are Transphobic, and the subsequent proposals to curtail instances of such activities upon student premises will serve to have a far more negative impact on Trans people, than it would if you just allowed such practices to continue.
I am a Transwoman, and activist, and I am aware of the concerns that may lead you to believe that this course of action is appropriate, but please listen to the warnings of an actual Transwoman with her fingers on the pulse, so to speak.
First off, ‘Drag’ and ‘Crossdressing’ ARE NOT the same thing as being Trans. You know this. Everyone in the LGBT community knows this. People who partake in these activities (be they male or female) are not pretending to be Trans, nor are they doing so to denigrate Trans people. It is an act of expression that has a long history in British cultural tradition. From Pantomime Dames to cheeky Drag Queens, to subverting the themes of a ‘Tarts & Vicars’ party, or a rugby squad railing against the expectations of their own masculinity, Crossdressing has served many purposes. To condemn it as an attack on Transgender people not only shows a very cynical view of what you believe it is to be Transgender, it actually restricts the rights of everyone to subvert and mock societal expectations of expected gender roles.
Secondly, what do you mean by ‘Crossdressing’? Women can be argued to ‘cross dress’ every time they put on a pair of jeans or a plaid shirt. This combination seems rather in vogue these days. Are we to assume that such adoption of traditionally male garb is to be banned? What of those who are androgynous, or non-binary in their gender expression? What of those who are Transgender but are not living full time for various reasons? What of those Transgender people who, for some reason or another stand out? Are we to assume the NUS will condone the harassment of these people? Will you insist they be forced to justify their gender expression to the satisfaction of staff or other NUS representatives? Being Trans is hard enough without having to justify your gender identity at every turn to people who are supposed to be your friends and allies. Your vision of Trans-safe spaces will only draw attention to people who are all too often sat in a corner praying that no one pays attention to them. Your actions have already caused a backlash within the LGBT community against Trans members.
Thirdly, IF you wish to create a Trans friendly space, then you do so by insisting your members treat Trans people like they would any other, NOT by restricting the right to expression of others. If people are intent on causing distress to any Transgender individual or group, then it must be dealt with on an individual basis, and in line with any equality policies already in effect. Singling out Trans people for the kid-glove treatment is NOT what most Trans people want. Most Trans people want to get on with our lives without drawing attention unless it is on our terms. Not everyone is a hate-crime time-bomb that must be herded and corralled, and when you treat them as such, it is those who you profess to be protecting that get the full blast.
In the name of sanity, reason and damage limitation, I urge you to rethink your policies on these matters.
Tamlyn Ailsa MacPherson