Trans Women Are Destroying Reality….

Oh, I do so like a clickbait title, don’t you? It’s like catnip for the masses. So, seeing as you are here, you may as well keep reading. I chose that title because it seems that, lately, we trans women seem to be walking around with a Target on our backs, (notice what I did there), and it seems that the worst of it is in the so-called “civilized” United States, (note the American spelling there). Well, it makes me angry. Very, very angry. Why, you may ask. Well, the “bathroom bills” for starters. Why are these even a thing? In the whole history of everything there has never been a recorded incident of a trans woman assaulting another woman or child in a loo (or bathroom, for my US readers). For a trans woman, a public toilet can be a very frightening place to be. We just want to go to the toilet, check our makeup and then leave. Its as simple as that. Not long after I transitioned, I had to use the loo in a motorway service station on the M40. I went in to the cubicle and, while I was there, a group of women from a coach party came in. I stayed in the cubicle until they left. The reason being, I was worried that I would be verbally and physically abused for being trans. This, I suspect, is a feeling that many trans women feel in public conveniences. There is a certain feeling of vulnerability when using such facilities and that vulnerability is felt more keenly when one is trans.

Following on from that, another item on this long list, is the notion that people have that being trans is a “lifestyle choice”. I’m going to be gentle here and say NO, IT IS NOT! I could have used a larger font but I did say I would be gentle. A trans woman or a trans man has no choice. None whatsoever. Its who we are, what we were born as, what we grew up as. Some may realise later in life, some earlier, (the mind is a very complex thing) but, always, it’s knowledge. It’s not a “feeling” or an emotion. It’s not a choice or a result of upbringing. I was four years old when I knew something was wrong. What my mind was telling me was incompatible with how my body looked. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the language or the knowledge to express how I felt at the time. I just knew. I had a fairly vanilla upbringing. One brother, loving parents and a good life. It wasn’t until I was about twelve that I came across the word “transsexual” in The Sun newspaper. It, erroneously, explained what a transsexual was (after all it was the late 70’s) and it led me to investigate further. Eventually I met up with Jan Morris, via her book “Conundrum”, and all became clear, almost. It took a further year of reading to confirm what I already knew and then a further 35 or so years of self destruction and suicide attempts to finally transition. So, to all of you who think that being trans is a lifestyle choice I say again: NO IT IS NOT! Please try and understand this. There is no choice.

One more thing: If you do happen to meet a trans woman, or a trans man for that matter, please treat us as we present. It takes nothing out of your day, and it means that we will respect you too and, maybe, you will make a friend. The world could do with more friends.

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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.

Love, Hate and Violence….

Over the last few years my eyes have been opened, wide. I knew, being transsexual that, when I transitioned, there would be prejudice and a certain amount of hate possibly levelled at me, but I hadn’t reckoned with the absolute levels of hate and violence against trans people as a group, and the sources of it.

It seems that, having spent much of my life in a drunken stupor (see here), I had missed out on a huge chunk of what was going on. I was so, so naive. To me, church was a place you went to talk to an implausible being who was probably too busy anyway, a Christian was someone who did this, turf was sheets of grass used to make a lawn, right-wing was something to do with politics and prejudice and discrimination happened to other people. How things have changed. How I’ve grown up. I’ve had to. Transition is not an easy journey.

There have been the changes socially. I get treated as a woman. Doors opened for me (nice), people talk to me more, especially other women, shopping is a much more fun experience, even silly things like male drivers letting me out at junctions. There are some not-so-nice changes, (I’m not complaining, just commenting), mainly things I took for granted pre-transition, such as being treated like I don’t know anything in DIY shops, (having a pink toolkit recommended to me!), and car shops, but the best is computer shops where thirty years in the business gives me a chance to have fun.

But then there’s the hate and the violence. The sheer immensity of it is staggering.

It appears that much of the hate for us is Right-Wing (largely) Christian led, mainly in the US, but there is a large component here in the UK. They run around, selectively quoting the Bible to justify their hatred and intolerance, pointing at us and calling us abominations, freaks, and worse. Then they say they can cure us, with love and God’s grace but, when that doesn’t work, its back to inciting violence and hatred.

Then there are the TERFs, (TransExclusionary Radical Feminists), feminists that want people like me dead, who would look upon a trans suicide as a victory, who see us as nothing but men in dresses raping women. Feminists like Cathy Brennan, Janice Raymond and Victoria Brownworth to name but a few. I have read some of the TERF websites and Twitter postings with a kind of horrified fascination that this sort of thing could actually exist.

But the worst hate of all is the fear and hate generated by ignorance. The fear that some people have of the unknown. This is the hate that kills, the hate that destroys lives. This is the hate that is fed upon and encouraged by the Right and Christian Right and TERFs, the hate and fear that is turned into violence and murder. The hatred that causes the 44% level of suicides of trans people and makes stepping out the front door a nervous journey into unknown familiarity for many more. The hatred that has killed more than two hundred trans people in the last year for no better reason than who they were, and has given rise to an annual Day of Remembrance.

The hatred and fear is real, visceral. The only weapons we have are law and education. Knowing a thing removes the fear of that thing. We can only show that we are people trying to get on with our lives. We only shout and make a fuss when we are treated less than any other, when we are pushed to the back of the bus. Otherwise we want to live without fear of being killed simply because we are truly ourselves.

Please Note: This article was originally posted in The Girl From Nowhere

Media and Misinformation….

In this glorious new internet age we are bombarded by the media. 24 hour news channels both online and television, online newspapers, online news sites et al. The sheer quantity of accessible information is staggering. Unfortunately not all of it is correct, and some of it is just outright lies. In this information age, misinformation is one of the biggest problems. People believe the media, believe what they read in the papers and online. They believe what they watch on the television, what they’re told but, if the facts are wrong then there will be problems. For trans people, these problems can be huge, even deadly.

As you may, or may not know, there was a big misinformation campaign against a trans student by a US right-wing group called ‘Privacy For All Students’, featuring the Pacific Justice Institute. I’ll not repeat it but you can read about it here. The story was picked up by US national newspapers and television stations, including some here in the UK. Amazingly, not one of these media outlets fact-checked the story. They just assumed it was true and it continued to spread. It wasn’t until the story was fact-checked by Cristan Williams of The Transadvocate that the truth finally came out. The whole story was manufactured, false, but the damage had been done. The student in question ended up on suicide watch.

This is an extreme example of how the media can be manipulated and be made to serve others’ malicious purposes. Here in the UK we have another problem. Not one of malicious, targeted campaigns, but one of long term, inertial misinformation.

Ever since the seventies and eighties, media outlets such as tabloid newspapers and mid-morning chat shows have portrayed trans people in a bad light, misrepresenting us in such a way that we became laughable, objects of ridicule to be pointed at in the street. For trans women it was worse. We became ‘blokes in dresses’, ‘freaks’ and ‘weirdo’s’. We were having sex-changes, being castrated, hormones were giving us instant female bodies. Tabloids were obsessed with what we were wearing, rather than our actual stories. There was rarely any reporting of the story behind the person, documenting the pain behind transition. The stories always seem to rest on the phrases “I felt like a woman” and “I always wanted to be a woman”, making it sound like a decision taken one morning after breakfast. No-one took transsexuals seriously. It was seen as ok for us to be beaten in the street, have graffiti daubed on our homes. To be transsexual was to be an object, non-human almost, worthy of none but the most base attention.

Nowadays, things are different. Or are they? With certain newspapers the reporting hasn’t changed all that much. Neither has the language used to describe us. Still the process of transition is glossed over, making it sound like something you do in your spare time. No information is imparted to the readers or viewers about what transsexuality actually is. The differences between Gender Identity, Expression and Role is rarely, if ever, mentioned or explained. We are still seen as the subject for salacious gossip and maliciously intrusive reporting. The case of Lucy Meadows is a case in point. No link between the reporting and her suicide has been established but there is no doubt, in my eyes at least, that it was a contributory factor.

I would appeal to the media, should any member of it read this, to change. Change the way our stories are reported. Do your research. Fact-check stories if and when they come in. Speak to trans organisations such as GIRES and Mermaids, (when reporting on trans children and teens). Rather than concentrating on what happens to our genitals, ask us how our lives have changed, how much better they have become. Listen to us, ask us questions and we will give you answers. We are the ones living our lives, the ones who can tell you how we feel, no-one else. Don’t ask us what we wear day-to-day, ask us what we do day-to-day, how we live and work, and you will see how ordinary we are.

Remember: In our quest to become who we really are, we go through incredible changes, painful changes, in order that we might live ordinary lives. We suffer prejudice and bigotry, some of us on a daily basis, so that we may fade into the background and become someone you will pass on the street without a second glance. All we ask is the right to live without fear of hatred, to walk the streets and go shopping or visit friends without the fear of abuse and this can only come about with the help of the media.

After all, if its in the paper, it must be true.

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?

Human Rights? Yes, But Who’s?

The death of Margaret Thatcher has, of course, dominated the news. This has pushed many news stories into the background over the last two days. I was thinking of writing about her and her policies but a little nugget of news caught my eye while I was digging through the papers (online of course), being the news junkie that I am. It concerns an issue of human rights abuse, perpetrated by Her Majesty’s Government, against a certain Mustafa Abdi, formally of Somalia.

Mr Abdi arrived in the UK from Somalia on the 7th May 1995, and immediately claimed asylum. His claim was rejected but, being the kind souls the government are, he was granted exceptional leave to stay until February 2000. Mr Abdi repaid this kindness by committing the most heinous criminal acts, namely rape and indecency with a child, for which he was convicted on 23rd May 1998, and sentenced to eight years in prison.

On the 22nd May 2002 the Home Secretary authorised Mr Abdi’s detention until a deportation order could be issued. 2nd July 2002 saw Mr Abdi appeal against the deportation order and make a fresh claim for asylum. These were denied and his appeal right exhausted on 4th December 2003. Earlier in 2003 a probation panel interviewed him and found that he was unsuitable for parole on the grounds that during his time in prison he had received fourteen charges relating to offences against prison discipline. Six of these offences involved fighting. Moreover, he was assessed as presenting a high risk of sexual offending and a medium risk of general offending on release.

In September 2003 Mr Abdi’s release became automatic but, because of the Home Secretary’s authorisation issued in 2002, his detention continued until a deportation order could be issued. This was issued on 5th April 2004 and also contained a paragraph authorising the continued detention of Mr Abdi until his deportation.

Unfortunately, in August 2004, the last carrier willing to take “enforced returns” withdrew, meaning the government could not deport anyone without their permission. Carriers were willing, however, to take anyone provided they went voluntarily. Something that Mustafa Abdi was not willing to do. In 2005 he made another application for asylum which was refused. Bail was also refused by the Chief Immigration Officer.

In 2006 the government reached an agreement with African Express Airlines making enforced removals to Somalia possible. By this time, Mr Abdi was given leave to apply for a judicial review of his case. In 2007 his case went before the Court of Appeal who ruled that his detention had been lawful because he could have returned to Somalia voluntarily. He was release on bail in 2007 but was returned to prison in April 2008 due to breaking his bail conditions. He has now taken his case to the European Court of Human Rights on the grounds that his detention until 2007 violated his Article 5 rights:

“1. Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be deprived of his liberty save in the following cases and in accordance with a procedure prescribed by law: … … …

(f) the lawful arrest or detention of a person to prevent his effecting an unauthorised entry into the country or of a person against whom action is being taken with a view to deportation or extradition.”

His attempts to include Article 3 were dismissed. However, the ECHR have upheld his appeal on the basis that monthly review by the government, during his incarceration, were not carried out.

I know this has taken a long time to explain but it seems that it was needed. This is a simplified version. The full case can be accessed here.

This, then raises the question:

Why is it allowed that a criminal, convicted of a crime so serious it is just short of murder, committed against an under-age citizen of  a country he himself is not a citizen of, can raise a legal challenge against the government of that country over his lawful detention?

It appears that this case solved no useful purpose other than to gain this man approximately £7,000, and possibly set a dangerous precedent, opening doors up for similar cases. This man is still in jail awaiting deportation, therefore I very much doubt that he did this as a crusader for his fellow illegal immigrants. No, the government and the courts, in allowing this spurious case to go ahead, have possibly allowed a crack to appear in its ability to detain illegal immigrants, into which a good lawyer can put his legal jemmy and prise open. I may be completely wrong about this and, if I am, then I apologise but, it does seem to me, that this case is one that should never have been allowed to be put to the test. I can see others now looking at their detention and whether their monthly reviews have been carried out to the letter. Its not a case of whether illegal immigrants who commit atrocious crimes should be protected by the Human Rights Convention or not, but whether those rights should be placed over those of of their victims.