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.

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.

The Undermining of Understanding

Its odd, but when I think about writing a blog entry, I usually have an idea in my mind what I want to write but have to spend ages thinking of a catchy title for it. Usually alliterative, I try and think up a title that’ll give the reader a clue as to what the entry is about. This time, though, its the other way around. The title came to me in a flash after spending some time perusing Twitter and Facebook but the content, which I had in my mind, disappeared. So, I decided to start writing anyway. Maybe it would come back, maybe it wouldn’t and I would end up with a load of drivel that I would spend ages editing to make it look like I’d actually thought about what I’d written. We shall see how it goes…

 


 

Looking back on my school days, I realise that, for the most part, I enjoyed them. Yes, I was incessantly bullied; yes, I would wake up fearing that journey into the school grounds knowing what awaited me and yes, I couldn’t wait to leave and scurry home, hoping that the bigger kids and bullies that lined my path home would decide I wasn’t worth picking on that day, (believe me, those days were rare). Some of you may ask why I bothered going through that evey day, why I didn’t try to stay at home, and bunk off school? The reason is: I wanted to learn. I like learning. There was something about the feeling of sudden comprehension of a subject, the warm glow of the light going on, illuminating the mind. The fear of the unknown being driven from me by knowledge. This was why I braved the tirades of insults and abuse, both physical and psychological, why I scuttled to and from school like a frightened mouse.

As an adult, I look back on those days with some fondness, but I’ve never lost the love of learning, the fun and joy of having knowledge imparted to me by others and now, in turn, giving the gift of that knowledge to others. I’ve often been told that I should have gone into teaching but my life took a different path, and that path is part of the reason why I’m writing this.

Next to experience, knowledge is the best way to understand something or someone. Unfortunately, being trans is something that cannot be experienced except by those who are trans. So that just leaves knowledge, and therein lies the problem.

To be taught, to learn, you must first have an open mind. One willing to accept new ideas and new concepts. To be willing to unlearn incorrect knowledge and replace it with correct knowledge, with the understanding that, in time, this too may possibly be proven incorrect and have to be relearned. Unfortunately, there seem to be a lot of people in this world who, when it comes to trans women and men, have closed minds. They seem to have a fixed idea of what a trans woman is and seemingly no amount of education to the contrary changes this.

Sometimes this unwillingness to learn stems from an unfortunate fear of the unknown, the unwillingness to change because it causes discomfort, knowing that something one believed was wrong all along. Other times, it goes hand-in-hand with hatred of something or someone different, a form of xenophobia perhaps. Often, its purely because new sources of information are not trusted unless absolute proof is provided.

The worst culprit, though, can be blind faith or extremism. This type of faith can be so strong that it can blind people to the realities of the world around them, giving them such a narrow worldview that leaves no possibility for change. Anyone (or even anything) that challenges this belief is to be considered dangerous and to be destroyed, converted or otherwise changed to fit within that narrow worldview. If none of this can be accomplished then they are deemed to be an enemy and will be dealt with by a higher power. Two such groups, (and probably the most dangerous in the Western World to trans people), are Right Wing Conservative Christians and TERFs (Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists).

Fear can be conquered and change can happen. Its just getting that initial look, that first little bite of knowledge, proving that there is nothing to fear. Hate, with the right conditions, can be changed, maybe not into love, (I’m not going down that mushy, well trodden road), but into understanding, tolerance and maybe acceptance. It can happen. I’ve seen it happen, twice. As for absolute proof? Well, the medical establishment can provide proof of our existance. While not absolute, with nearly a hundred years of experience and knowledge, it comes pretty bloody close.

So we, trans women and trans men, have plenty to fear, many to mourn, (too many), a lot to be wary of and in some cases, plenty of hiding to do but, we also have a lot to look forward to, a lot to hope for and much to be happy about. Things are changing, abeit slowly, but they are changing for the better.

As for the Right Wing Conservative Christians and the TERFs? Anyone got any ideas?

 

Anyone?

Reclaiming Stonewall – Redux

I suspect that most people in the LGBT community have heard the name Stonewall, and know something about the Stonewall Riots of 1969, and how they led to the Gay Rights movement which has campaigned for equal rights for Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual people across the world. But, to all intents and purposes, the LGB movement has seemingly ignored Trans people, leaving us to campaign on our own. I suspect, though, that not too many LGB people recognise the horrible irony of this.

I’m going to throw two names at you, dear reader and, be honest with yourself, there’s a good chance that you’ve probably never heard of them or know who they are. They are: Sylvia Rae Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson. No? Then read on. (Kudos if you really did know).

These two are trans women who, on the 28th June 1969, became leaders in the Stonewall riots, a turning point in LGBT rights, when a police raid on the Stonewall Tavern, a gay bar, on Christopher Street, Greenwich Village, NYC resulted in a series of of spontaneous and violent demonstrations. Rivera and Johnson, both present in the bar, became the first to strike back at the police. Rivera is quoted as saying “I’m not missing a minute of this — it’s the revolution!”

Sylvia Rivera went on to become a founder member of both the Gay Liberation Front and the Gay Activists Alliance and, with Marsha Johnson, also formed STAR, Street Transgender Action Revolutionaries. One of the GLF’s first acts was to organize a march in response to Stonewall and to demand an end to the persecution of homosexuals. The GLF had a broad political platform, denouncing racism and declaring support for various Third World struggles and the Black Panther Party. They took an anti-capitalist stance and attacked the nuclear family and traditional gender roles.

A parallel GLF was set up in the UK in 1970 which eventually led to the creation of  the London Lesbian & Gay Switchboard and then to OutRage! and Stonewall.

Sylvia Rivera eventully left the GLF due to a falling out over the marginalisation of trans people by the gay community.This marginalisation was brought to the fore in the 1973 Stonewall Rally when feminist activist Jean O’Leary protested the presence of crossdressers and drag queens, believing they were mocking women. During a speech by O’Leary, in which she claimed that drag queens made fun of women for entertainment value and profit, Sylvia Rivera and Lee Brewster jumped on the stage and shouted “You go to bars because of what drag queens did for you, and these bitches tell us to quit being ourselves!”

This marginalisation continued through the years. Marsha Johnson died in 1992 in mysterious circumstances, her body found floating in the Hudson River. The police ruled it suicide but, with continued pressure from her friends and supporters, eventually reopened the case in 2012. Trans exclusion increased over the years, as attitudes about binary and fluid sexual orientation and gender developed and came increasingly into conflict.

Rivera eventually led a protest march against trans marginalisation in 1994, in response to the exclusion of trans people from the Stonewall 25 march in NYC. Since then, trans exclusion from the LGB community seems to have grown. In the US, the inclusion of transition expenses and surgery costs  was removed from medical insurance cover, in 1980, on the recommendation of the radical feminist Janice Raymond. It also seems that its impossible for US trans people, especially trans women, to perform even the simplest functions, such as using a public toilet, without suffering from some form of harassment. Things in the US, however, are changing slowly. Many states have voted in protections for trans people, equal marriage, and now coverage for transition-related medical expenses (including surgery) from medical insurers.

In the UK, in the last few years, our situation has improved as well. Despite it’s flaws we have the Equalities Act, the introduction of the GRC (Gender Recognition Certificate) giving us the ability to change our birth certificate to reflect the correct gender, and the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act, giving us the legal ability to get married, (the annoyance of the spousal veto notwithstanding).  Our ongoing, (and sometimes problematical), ability to obtain treatment on the NHS, with ongoing support, is something none of us take for granted.

Unfortuantely, some of what benefits us as trans people has been gained as a by-product of changes put in place to benefit LGB people, with trans people often left out of the decision-making process. Everything that directly affects us only, as trans people, has been gained as a result of the work and dedication of trans people, by those at the forefront of activism in the UK. People such as Sarah Brown, Roz Kaveney, Natacha Kennedy, Sarah Savage, C. N. Lester, Fox Fisher and many others.  Every inch of legal protection, every scrap of equality, every ounce of recognition has been gained by trans women and trans men.

Yet, we have been treated, as a whole, like the little sister sitting in the corner that no one has time for, marginalised and left to fend for ourselves by the gay rights movement that trans women helped to start, and the organisation that carries its name.

We need to talk. Things need to change.

I think it’s time we reclaimed Stonewall, don’t you?

Reclaiming Stonewall

I suspect that most people in the LGBT community have heard the name Stonewall, and know something about the Stonewall Riots of 1969, and how they led to the Gay Rights movement which has campaigned for equal rights for Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual people across the world. But, to all intents and purposes, the LGB movement has seemingly ignored Trans people, leaving us to campaign on our own. I suspect, though, that not too many LGB people recognise the horrible irony of this.

I’m going to throw two names at you, dear reader and, be honest with yourself, there’s a good chance that you’ve probably never heard of them or know who they are. They are: Sylvia Rae Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson. No? Then read on. (Kudos if you really did know).

These two are trans women who, on the 28th June 1969, became leaders in the Stonewall riots, a turning point in LGBT rights, when a police raid on the Stonewall Tavern, a gay bar, on Christopher Street, Greenwich Village, NYC resulted in a series of of spontaneous and violent demonstrations. Rivera and Johnson, both present in the bar, became the first to strike back at the police. Rivera is quoted as saying “I’m not missing a minute of this — it’s the revolution!”

Sylvia Rivera went on to become a founder member of both the Gay Liberation Front and the Gay Activists Alliance and, with Marsha Johnson, also formed STAR, Street Transgender Action Revolutionaries. One of the GLF’s first acts was to organize a march in response to Stonewall and to demand an end to the persecution of homosexuals. The GLF had a broad political platform, denouncing racism and declaring support for various Third World struggles and the Black Panther Party. They took an anti-capitalist stance and attacked the nuclear family and traditional gender roles.

A parallel GLF was set up in the UK in 1970 which eventually led to the creation of  the London Lesbian & Gay Switchboard and then to OutRage! and Stonewall.

Sylvia Rivera eventully left the GLF due to a falling out over the marginalisation of trans people by the gay community.This marginalisation was brought to the fore in the 1973 Stonewall Rally when feminist activist Jean O’Leary protested the presence of crossdressers and drag queens, believing they were mocking women. During a speech by O’Leary, in which she claimed that drag queens made fun of women for entertainment value and profit, Sylvia Rivera and Lee Brewster jumped on the stage and shouted “You go to bars because of what drag queens did for you, and these bitches tell us to quit being ourselves!”

This marginalisation continued through the years. Marsha Johnson died in 1992 in mysterious circumstances, her body found floating in the Hudson River. The police ruled it suicide but, with continued pressure from her friends and supporters, eventually reopened the case in 2012. Trans exclusion increased over the years, as attitudes about binary and fluid sexual orientation and gender developed and came increasingly into conflict.

Rivera eventually led a protest march against trans marginalisation in 1994, in response to the exclusion of trans people from the Stonewall 25 march in NYC. Since then, trans exclusion from the LGB community seems to have grown. In the US, the inclusion of transition expenses and surgery costs  was removed from medical insurance cover, in 1980, on the recommendation of the radical feminist Janice Raymond. It also seems that its impossible for US trans people, especially trans women, to perform even the simplest functions, such as using a public toilet, without suffering from some form of harassment.

In the UK, in the last few years, our situation has improved. The inclusion of gender identity in the Equalities Act, the ability to change our birth certificate to reflect the correct gender and our ability to get married. Our ability to obtain treatment on the NHS, with ongoing support is something none of us take for granted.

Everything we, as trans people gain, has been as a result of the work and dedication of trans people. Every inch of legal protection, every scrap of equality, every ounce of recognition has been gained by trans women and trans men.

Yet, we have been treated, as a whole, like the little sister that no one has time for, marginalised and left to fend for ourselves by the gay rights movement that trans women helped to start.

I think it’s time we reclaimed Stonewall, don’t you?

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.

Labels and Liabilities….

Just lately, I have come to realise that there is a big, big problem within the LGBT community and it seems to reside largely within the T, or Transgender, part of said community. The problem is labelling. Who am I? What am I? For myself, I find it quite easy. I am a woman. Unfortunately one with a male body, but a woman nonetheless. In the medical profession this would classify me as a ‘transsexual’, an easy to remember term that denotes what I am without the need for long explanations. For others its not so simple. For the sake of clarity though, I will write within my own sphere of experience.

So, what are these labels? In the context of this blog they are the words used to describe a person’s gender identity in relation to their physical body. They are used to replace long winded explanations. For example, as I have said, I am a woman, but I am also inhabiting a male body and am undergoing male to female transition to correct this in the best way possible. Rather than saying all this each time I meet someone, I can just say “I am a transsexual woman”. Thanks to the media, both social and audio/visual, most people I am likely to meet will probably have a simplified view of what a transsexual is and what it means. They may know the basics and need further clarification but, overall it gives them a starting point of reference.

Since the early ’80’s another term has slowly crept into use. This is ‘transgender’. It is meant to be an umbrella term encompassing all those gender non-conforming labels. Unfortunately it has also become interchangeable with transsexual, and also become the seemingly preferred label. It has since been shortened to ‘trans’ or ‘trans*’, usually to denote a transsexual person but also to describe anyone who’s gender identity or presentation is outside the ‘norm’, (whatever that is). It can be confusing. One can say “I am trans” or “I am transgender” but, does that mean transsexual, transvestite, gender-queer, agender, bi-gender, etc? You can see the problem there. For most transsexuals the problem with the trans* label can be relatively easy. A male-to-female transsexual, like myself, can also be a ‘trans woman’ and female-to-male is a ‘transman’. Simples. I have to admit though, when talking to older people I still use the term ‘transsexual’ because its the term I grew up with.

It’s with the usage of such terms that the problem I mentioned earlier arises. Unfortunately some within the trans community have become extraordinarily sensitive to usage of terms and is ever ready to jump up and shout whenever they are misused or misconstrued in public, in the media or anywhere else. Rather than helping, this approach tends to hinder the trans community by giving the appearance of weakness and insecurity. I know there is a possibility of me upsetting some people by saying this, (and I apologise in advance), but, jumping up and down like spoiled children every time someone misuses a term of reference creates and reinforces an image of uncertainty, of self-doubt. I know that misuse of labels and terms can result in problems, (it has for me, several times), but the correction needs to be made calmly and clearly, not by pouting and shouting. If the person being corrected acts like an idiot then, by all means, treat them like one, but we shouldn’t act the same. We suffer enough problems as it is without creating more ourselves.

The requirement for labels is a distinctly human problem and is one of language. It gives us a point of reference to work from. It enables us to be more succinct and to the point in our speech. Language evolves over the years, words change meaning, new words come to the fore and each time we need to adjust. Mistakes will be made, misuse and misunderstandings will happen and will be corrected. People will be angry with the misconstruction’s and mistakes and that can’t be helped. What we need to do is remember this and make allowances. Only then will understanding and acceptance be forthcoming.

Otherwise the labels become liabilities.

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.