When Does Caring End?

Tonight, I felt a little bit special. A part of something. A small cog in a caring system that helps people who are less fortunate, troubled, ill, disadvantaged or in situations I have been in and, with help, managed to pull myself out of, and it amazed me how many people do not want to be part of this.

I’d been to Tesco in Aldershot and was walking back through the underpass when I saw a man slumped to one side, lying in an awkward position, with an orange bag in front of him. To be honest, my first thought was just to walk past and ignore him. It would have been so easy to do. I’d just bought a new dress and was eager to try it on. I also really needed to get back and wash my hair and, as it was just past 11pm, I really needed to go to bed as well. So many reasons to walk past him and go home. So many superficial and idiotic and selfish reasons to walk past another human being, who was obviously in trouble, and ignore him. So I didn’t.

At first I checked to see if he was still breathing. He was. As I wasn’t sure of his condition and how he would react if I woke him, I walked the few yards to the end of the underpass and began to dial emergency services. I tried 101 at first but, as I was about to dial 999, a familiar face walked past me and approached the unconscious man. It was Rick, a man I knew from the local Job Centre. Ok, that meant that someone else was available to ensure mine and his safety. I dialed 999 and was put through to the Ambulance service. With instruction from the operator on the phone, plus Rick’s and my experience of having “been there”, we managed to ascertain that the man, Ben,  was severely inebriated and, with our help, in no danger. The ambulance was on its way.

During the time that Rick and I spoke to the guy, quite a few people walked through the underpass. Someone walking a dog, several couples hand in hand, single people going to or from the shop, and many others. Yet, not one single person asked if they could help. No-one spoke to us, even to find out if we were ok. I was on the phone, being instructed to ask certain questions to find out how Ben was feeling, if he was in pain, if he’d been hurt. Despite one of those questions being “Have you had a heart attack recently?” and Ben’s answer being yes, as someone walked past, as I looked up, that person had actually moved over to the other side of the underpass, as if we had some sort of disease. As if heart attacks were catching. It made me think.

When, as a society, did we stop caring? I don’t know how long Ben had been there but it couldn’t have been more than forty-five minutes. That’s how long it had been since I’d walked to Tesco and finished shopping. How many people had walked past him in that time? How many people had passed by, not caring about a fellow human being, and not shown a shred of compassion? When did we, as the human race, stop caring?

I’ve been there. That road that Ben is on. The road of depression, despair, loneliness. The road that leads to lying drunk, passing out and ignored in an Aldershot underpass. I know where that road can lead. It leads to a fork. A choice. A choice that depends on not only you, but the people around you. Those that care. If you have people that care then it helps you to take to fork in the road that leads to living. If not then, chances are, that road will lead downward into darkness.

As it turned out, Ben had been taken in by the Ambulance service several times that day. I didn’t care, neither did Rick. Rick and I had both spoken to him. We had told him of our experiences when we’d been in his position and, I would like to think that Rick would agree with my when I say: If even a spark of what we said leads to Ben getting help, even once, then both of us have been part of something special.

I walked past a person in trouble today. I helped. Someone else walked past and helped too. Maybe if we all helped, we’d run out of people in trouble.

One day.

Entitlement and Free Speech….

Another blog that I read, https://sometimesitsjustacigar.wordpress.com/, had a piece about the recent furor regarding Germain Greer and her being refused a voice at Cardiff University.  A comment on that post about “free speech” really ticked me off and I’d like to talk about that.

If you want, you can refuse to listen, refuse to read what I write, ignore anything I say. It will disappoint me, as I like it when people read what I write but, I won’t complain. I won’t go running to the media complaining that I have been denied a voice, because I haven’t. The fact that I can write this and post it on my blog is a freedom that I can enjoy. Whether or not anyone reads it is up to those who find it, not me.

I have opinions. Sometimes I like to share those opinions. Some people may not agree with them but, hey, that’s what debate and argument is all about. I won’t shove those opinions down anyone’s throat, I cannot force anyone to agree with me and I cannot force anyone to like what I say, but I still have the ability to say it.

I am a woman, a woman with a transsexual past. Consequently, any person with an opinion that seeks to deny my existence, or claims to know what I think or how I feel, will be in disagreement with me. I will tell them that they are wrong, and argue the point with them but, if they do engage with me, I don’t have to listen. I don’t have to spread the word. I am under no obligation to allow them a platform and I can quite happily tell them to shut up.

This isn’t denial of free speech. As an individual or an organisation, not providing someone with a platform to speak isn’t a denial of their rights, nor is it silencing them. Its an exercise in free speech itself.

If I were to stand in Parliament Square in London, espouse my dislike of certain policies enacted by the government, and then be arrested and taken away on the orders of the government, then that would be suppression of free speech. If I wrote something on my blog which was then deleted by GCHQ, then that also would be suppression of free speech. Conversely, if I were denied any form of media through which I could express my opinion, then that would be denial of free speech.  Any form of suppression of opinion by a government is denial of free speech.

Anything else is simply “I don’t want to listen to you.”

Its A Little Bit Funny, This Feeling Inside….

That’s what we have: Feelings inside. No matter what we do, no-one can see them. No matter how we explain, no-one can feel them. Not a single person on this earth can understand how any of us feel. We cannot understand how someone else feels either. This is the biggest problem we have as trans people. We cannot show people how we feel, how we suffer, how society denigrates us as less than human.

I consider myself one of the lucky ones. I pass through life with barely a passing glance or comment. I work in the public view yet rarely rate anything outside of the normal “ma’am”, “miss” or, at worse “excuse me young lady” (although I’m 47). Some of us, though, have problems getting a job, getting somewhere to live, even getting something to eat. These problems are purely based on people’s perception of gender, their view on how it is supposed to be presented and their knowledge based solely upon what they have been told, mainly by the media or, in many cases, their religion.

Much of what we suffer from stems from the “How can anyone feel differently to me?” attitude. Amazingly, we still feel the full range of emotions that everyone else feels! I know this may come as a shock to some but, yes, we do feel emotions. We do hurt, cry, jump for joy, feel happy, and we even bleed when we are cut, slashed and stabbed. We also feel pain when we are beaten, kicked, assaulted and, yes, raped.

There are certain segments of the population who disagree that trans people, especially trans women, can be raped. According to this small segment of the population (TERFs), this can only happen to cis-women but, believe me, it can happen to trans women, and trans men.

One of the biggest problems that trans people face is the questioning of the validity of what they know. I have known since I was at least four, that I was different. I knew that my body was wrong, that a mistake had been made somewhere but, without the words, there was no way I could tell anyone. It wasn’t until I saw one of my female cousin’s bodies, (I was about age 5), that I realised what was wrong and something ‘clicked’ in my mind. My body was wrong. According to what was in my head, it should have looked like hers, but didn’t, and there was nothing I could do about it. That sparked off forty years of torment, self-hatred, depression, and multiple suicide attempts. For many trans women, this is a familiar story, and the range of emotions will be familiar.

Another problem we face is the potential destruction of family, friendships and other social circles. We face the loss of any form of support, except that we form amongst ourselves. Some, like myself, have the support of family and friends. Others do not. They face ostracisation and loneliness, with no support or help. This potential loss is the greatest obstacle to transition that many face. This has to stop. How many of my sisters have to die before people realise we are human? How many lives have to be lost before people realise that we are not a threat, just people trying to live their lives?

There is no other reason for this I can think of other than lack of knowledge. People fear what they do not know. Unfortunately, many people just do not want to learn new things and cling to what they think they know, frightened to change, even when what they know has been proven wrong.

Sometimes it’s like banging one’s head against a brick wall. In the words of the almighty Pink Floyd:

Banging your heart, against some mad bugger’s wall

As an aside: Here is a trans emotional timeline:

1) Sad: I feel different.
2) Depressed: No-one around understands how I feel.
3) Happy: There are others like me.
4) Joyful: There is something that can be done about it.
5) Angry: No-one around me wants me to do anything about it ie (4).
6) Depressed (further): Because of (5).
7) Angry: Fuck (5) and (6)
8) Fuck everyone! I’m me.

Usually transition occurs between 7) and 8), although it can occur earlier.

Transition Truths and Bathroom Lies….

I don’t normally blog about things outside the UK but the problems in other countries, most notably the US, regarding the treatment of TS people, are becoming to big not to. Probably no-one will read this, or maybe some will but, if it helps to change even one life then my time has been well spent.

There are several items that seem to be high in the US news at the moment but, in this entry, I will concentrate on two. One is AB1266, the so-called “bathroom bill” in California. The other is the case of the Florence High School student in Colorado, (known as “Jane Doe”), who has allegedly been harassing students in the girls bathroom. This has since been proven false by Cristan Williams of the TransAdvocate website. Both stories have involved the Pacific Justice Institute, a “Christian” organisation seemingly devoted to eradicating anyone and anything that doesn’t fit their world view, along with the Traditional Values Coalition and The Privacy For Students Coalition (of which PJI is a member). All of these organisations are right-wing, allegedly Christian organisations who seem to see gay, lesbian and transsexual people as some kind of threat that needs to be destroyed.

I suspect that much of their problem is based in ignorance of what being transsexual actually means. I also suspect that they don’t want to know because, in their eyes, acceptance would mean realising that we are not the enemy and are not out to destroy families or corrupt children. All we want to do is be like everyone else and work, earn money, pay taxes and bills, go on holiday and live our lives as we see fit within the law of whichever land we live in.

I. Minds, Maps & Transition

I’m only going to concentrate on transsexuality here since the two stories I previously mentioned (and will speak about further), are about that.

A transsexual is a person who’s gender identity does not match the body they have. It’s not a choice as so many people think. It’s something we are born with and grow up with. The mind’s internal map of the body is confused because the body doesn’t match. The map cannot be changed as it is an intrinsic part of the mind.

Imagine a sat-nav which has one map, a map that cannot be changed without destroying the sat-nav and losing yourself forever, but the map doesn’t match the roads you are on. Rather than destroying the sat-nav and becoming irrecoverably lost, its easier, with a lot of work and time, to change the roads to match the map. That way the sat-nav works and you can navigate with no problems. Changing the body to match the mind is far less problematical and less fatal than trying to change the mind to match the body.

From the UK Home Office Guide: The Workplace and Gender Reassignment:

In medical and scientific disciplines, gender dysphoria is increasingly understood to have a biological origin and is strongly associated with a neuro-developmental condition of the brain. Studies, such as those conducted by Professor Van Gooren, of a region in the hypothalamus of the brain which is smaller in women than in men showed that in M-F transsexuals this region was of female size or smaller. The view that the weight of current scientific evidence suggests a ‘biologically-based, multifactorial etiology’ for transsexualism is supported by articles in journals, the press and popular scientific works. Transsexualism is therefore innate, not acquired. It cannot be ‘cured’ by psychological or psychiatric treatments alone, although psycho-social factors may play a role in the outcome. It is a medical condition and transition to the preferred gender role, thereby confirming the individual’s core gender identity, may be the only solution.

Transition is a choice of sorts that eventually befalls us, but not much of one. With most transsexuals its a choice of transition or a descent into a life of excruciating depression and mental anguish. With many its a choice of transition or die. Transition brings its own problems: Ridicule, physical or verbal abuse, difficulty with employment, housing and finances, loss of family and friends. Along with learning new behaviours, hormone therapy, extremely painful laser and electrolysis treatments, voice training, and eventual surgery, it’s not something that can be undertaken lightly. So why the groups I mentioned earlier want to make things harder is beyond me.

II. Bathrooms and Beyond

I’m not really sure if the case of the Florence High School student, “Jane Doe”, and the opposition to AB1266 are as much about use of the bathroom, (toilet or loo in the UK), by TS students as they are about the hatred and distrust of the unknown and the frightening refusal to learn the facts about that unknown.

It seems that, in the Florence HS case, the facts were totally ignored in order to manufacture a situation that would promote hostility to Jane Doe, and therefore force her removal from the school, or at the very least, prevent her from using the bathroom of her gender. (I’m not going to dance around the fact that she is female, and presents as such). Since, thanks to some in-depth fact-checking by Cristan Williams, it has been proven to be a false claim, the PJI and the PrivacyForStudents coalition have taken to attacking her in other ways, even though she has been put on suicide watch due to death threats received after Fox News aired the story (again, without any fact checking whatsoever). Even the UK media picked up on the story, most notably the Daily Mail, who, along with most other media outlets, after receiving correct information from TransAdvocate and Cristan Williams, removed the story from their web pages and online newspapers.

Along with this, the PJI, Traditional Values Coalition and The Privacy For Students Coalition have also resorted to underhand tactics to try and get AB1266 repealed. These tactics include a manufactured story about a trans student in LA who allegedly peeked over the top of the stalls in the girls bathroom. This, also, has been proven to be false, fabricated because, as with Florence HS, one parent disagreed with a transgender student being at the school and the PJI et al, jumped on the story and twisted it to fit their own ends.

Now they appear to be using even more underhand tactics to scare people into signing a petition that, should it reach the required number of signatories, will open the vote on repealing AB1266. These scare tactics include saying that AB1266 will open the way for gay men to use the ladies bathroom and that it will facilitate rape and molestation by trans children.

III Opinion

Looking from the outside, in, it seems to me that there is a lot of blind ignorance, hatred and simple bigotry going on over the water. What amazes me even further is that many of these organisations claim to have a Christian basis and operate to Christian values. I have many Christian friends, both practising and non-practising, and none of them can understand the attitude of these organisations. In fact, most of them reacted with disbelief when I told them what was happening. I also live in an area with Muslims, Hindu’s, Sikh’s, Buddhists, Christians and various other religions and have good relations with all of them and I am accepted by them as a woman. So, religion itself doesn’t appear to be the problem.

It would appear to me that, as I have said before in this article, it boils down to fear. Fear of the unknown, fear caused by lack of understanding and fear of understanding and finding there is nothing to fear. This fear then gives rise to such hatred and bigotry, disguised by a thin veneer of religion, attempting to give it a socially acceptable face. Take away the fear and the whole house of straw would drift away on the breeze, leaving behind the knowledge that we are trying to live our lives as best we can, to become ordinary in somewhat extraordinary circumstances.

I am not asking for anyone to give up their beliefs, nor am I trying to denigrate any religion. I am just asking for understanding, some compassion and maybe, just maybe, for people to open their minds a little and see us as the men and women that we are.

Its not too much to ask, is it?

Apocrypha and Apocalypse

I took a walk out yesterday and, despite the high temperature and humidity, (having worked in hotter countries, the humidity in the UK still gets to me), it was a lovely day. The sky was pale blue with not a cloud in sight, birds sang, people gathered in the parks to enjoy the sun, children played, the traffic flowed and all seemed well in the world. This troubled me. How come married couples were walking hand-in-hand in the parks and streets, and children playing happily, (well, most of them anyway)? Where were the plagues of rats and mice? Where were the floods, destroying the towns and cities and the terrible diseases to accompany them? Why weren’t husbands and wives murdering each other in the streets, while the children ran rampant and feral, attacking all and sundry. Why wasn’t society destroying itself in an orgy of insane violence?

After all, Same-Sex Marriage was signed into law last week.

Following many of the articles in the online press and reading many of the comments, from the members of the religious communities and the far right, regarding SSM, has been a constant source of both amusement and amazement, frequently at the same time. Many of the early comments focussed on the “Why change marriage when there are Civil Partnerships” argument here in the UK. Others focussed on the ‘death of society as we know it‘ and some just became abusive. Around the world the harbingers of doom came out of the woodwork, (closet-shaped, of course), to proclaim everything from plagues of rats and mice caused by gay people and gay marriage to full on end-of-the-world-in-six-months caused by the defeat of DOMA and Prop 8 in the US. And then there’s the Westboro Baptist Church, but the less said about that lot, the better.

But once again, the predicted doom has not come about. Oceans are not rising up, rats and mice are not flooding into cities and eating the citizenry, there isn’t a sudden rush on storms and tornado’s to destroy gay-friendly towns. There have been two earthquakes this week in China but, since China has no plans on introducing same-sex marriage, I doubt even the WBC could ascribe these to anything other than stress-relief in the Earth’s crust (although they’d probably give it a go).

Nope. All we have is 18 countries where same sex marriage has been legalised (I’ve included the US even though its not nationwide yet). 18 countries where society still flourishes and grows, changes, updates, moves on. This gives me hope that, despite the recent law changes in Russia and despite the problems suffered by gay and transgendered people in Greece and other countries, the human race is moving, albeit very slowly, in the right direction.

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Addendum

I’d started this entry with a whole host of quotes from various different people on the subject of Same Sex Marriage, and my replies, but it sort of changed as I went along, (which probably explains the stilted writing style). I have kept a couple below, along with links to their sources and other information:

One notable comment came from Dr John Semantu, the Archbishop of York regarding SSM and civil partnerships (BBC News 11th March 2012):

“There’s a difference – and people don’t these days want to talk about difference – there’s a difference between a civil partnership and marriage, and that difference doesn’t mean one is better than another, but they’re different.”

I wondered if he realised what the SSM bill was all about. CP’s are different from marriage. That’s the problem. They’re supposed to be equal but one is more equal than the other. (See The Lords of Orwellian Change). That’s the whole point of the government introducing the SSM bill, to make things equal.

Gerald Howarth, MP for Aldershot (my home) was even more off the wall and, seemingly, target as well (Aldershot News 8th Feb 2013):

“Civil partnerships offer virtually all the benefits available to married people. The vote last night will not secure equal marriage as the government suggests; it will create two forms of marriage.”

Um, two forms of marriage? Marriage and, er, marriage? The two forms will be straight marriage and gay marriage which, eventually through the natural evolution of language, will become ‘marriage’. CP’s offer “virtually all the benefits”? From that we can infer that they don’t actually offer all the benefits then.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, however, went down the ‘death of society’ route (BBC News, 4th June 2013):

The traditional concept of marriage will be “abolished” under plans to allow same-sex couples to marry in England and Wales, the Archbishop of Canterbury has warned, ahead of a crunch vote on the issue.Speaking in a debate in the House of Lords on Monday, the Most Rev Justin Welby said that marriage was the “cornerstone of society” and that what was being proposed was “neither equal nor effective”.

The Archbishop denied that his opposition to the bill was a faith issue, insisting it was “about the general social good”.

Hmm, “cornerstone of society”, “the general social good”. It makes me so annoyed that my teeth itch. It’s simple arrogance, coming from the leader of a church that came into existence by an Act of Parliament because a monarch wanted to get a divorce. If marriage is the “cornerstone of society” then society, as a whole, is doomed. The divorce rate was 42% in 2011 and there were approximately 2 million victims of domestic violence according to the ONS, so Justin Welby’s ‘cornerstone’ is crumbling quite badly. Maybe it can be shored up with the addition of Same-Sex Marriage.

In Russia, the leader of the Orthodox Church is claiming that same-sex marriage, having been legalised in so many countries, is the harbinger of the apocalypse:

“This is a very dangerous and apocalyptic symptom… It means that people are on the path of self-destruction.”  

Not really sure where to go with this one. Russia has been recently criticized for its introduction of anti-gay laws and the recent imprisonment of four Dutch tourists for “spreading gay propaganda to children”.

God’s Dice and the Uncertainty Principle of Life

The current state of affairs regarding religion v religion, religion v politics, religion v LGBT, and the Westboro Baptist Church versus the whole world, makes me wonder what people think God has done, is doing and is going to do.

Albert Einstein was once famously quoted as saying “God does not play dice with the universe”. This was in response to Werner Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, which states that you cannot observe or measure both the position and speed of a particle with any certainty. You observe or measure one, you disturb the other. Einstein wasn’t happy with this, retaining his belief that the universe should be predictable through physics. Further experimentation by the late John Bell upheld the Uncertainty Principle (Bell’s Theorem). This means that we can predict how something like a star or a leaf can develop, but not whether it will develop, or even if it will develop in the expected way. This is only one of the many laws of physics but it does show that, if  he exists, God is actually a bit of a gambler.

Life, then, is a random coming-together of atomic and sub-atomic particles, at just the right time,  with a few physical laws defining how they interact. It doesn’t have the same ‘panache’ as a celestial being creating the world in six days and then putting his feet up on the seventh, but the idea of life being a random creation is certainly more plausible. It certainly explains people like myself.

According to the bible, in Genesis, God created heaven and earth and all things in between. He then created the Garden of Eden and, from the dust, created Man to look after it, with the only stipulation being not to eat the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. God then created Eve, by putting Adam to sleep, (Interestingly, there is no mention of who came up with the name Adam, it just goes from ‘man’ to ‘Adam’), and then used a rib to create Eve, (anaesthetic and cloning all in one go!), with the same admonition, not to eat of the Tree of Knowledge. It’s a shame that the all-knowing, all-seeing God didn’t see a certain serpent in the Garden having a chat with Eve. Or did he?

Is this, then, God having a little flutter, a gamble? He’s created two beings, (one from the other), put them in a garden full of food to eat, and told them not to eat from a particular tree in that garden, otherwise they’ll die. Being their creator, he could have quite easily prevented them from going near the tree by making them totally obedient to his will, covered or hidden the tree, or removed the tree altogether, but, no. God gave Adam and Eve free will, to see what they would do and, with the help of a wily reptile, they ate the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge and consequently were booted out of Eden. God then had to put a guardian on the Tree of Life to stop them eating the fruit of that tree and becoming immortal, which could have caused a bit of a problem for him.

So, according to the bible, God took a gamble and lost, having given humans free will and telling them not to go near the tree. Thus the choice of whether or not to believe in and worship God is ours.

This means that what happens to us, is down to us. If we destroy ourselves, whether through nuclear annihilation or destruction of the climate, that is down to humanity, nothing else. Not divine anger, retribution for sin or the devil taking over. Conversely, if we make peace and create a world of health and harmony, that is also not down to divine intervention. Simply our own free will taking us where we let it.

Therefore, we have the unpredictability of physics combined with our own free will. So, whether you believe in God or physics, humanity, by it’s very nature, is unpredictable. This means that, if we are all made in God’s image, then that image is one of all shapes, sizes, colours, sexual orientations, genders,  beliefs. There is no one-size-fits-all. God has thrown his celestial dice and the result is us.

If, like me, you believe in physics, then shit happens. Physics is the how and why.