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.

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.

Lucy Meadows And The Monsters Of Fleet Street

On Thursday28th March 2013 a funeral was held. A funeral that should never have had to take place. A funeral that, possibly, (and I use the word loosely), was a result of the very thing that the Leveson Enquiry sought to prevent. Lucy Meadows was, first and foremost, a teacher. A woman whose job was to educate children and help prepare them for the world outside the school yard. I know that teaching is not an easy job. I know from personal experience that teaching adults is difficult enough, so teaching children must amplify that difficulty a hundredfold. To come out to the school as transsexual was an incredibly brave move. So, what was the motive behind her being persecuted by a national newspaper? Why did a humble but brave schoolteacher take her own life? Was it because she was transsexual? Or was it because she was a teacher as well? I hope that these questions can be answered soon.

I’ve never suffered from press intrusion, never had to worry about stepping out my front door and looking to see who was there. I’ve never wondered who was watching me, or filming me or who was talking to my friends and what they were being asked. Lucy Meadows did. According to emails seen by Jane Fae, (New Statesman, 22nd March 2013), Miss Meadows had to leave her house by the back door early in the morning and arrive very early or very late to avoid the press. The same members of the press were also asking parents of the children she taught about her, although apparently listening only to those who had bad things to say about her. Anyone with anything good to say was apparently ignored. Images were plucked off the internet and published, including an image of a child’s drawing of her. There was no ‘public interest’ in ‘monstering’ Lucy Meadows. Aside from the immense psychological damage it would cause to a person in a very vulnerable position, it was an out-and-out invasion of privacy that should never have happened.

Then there was the Richard Littlejohn article, sympathising and condemning at the same time. Sympathising with anyone who is transsexual and what we have to go through, and then condemning her for staying and transitioning in her job:

“But has anyone stopped for a moment to think of the devastating effect all this [Miss Meadows’ transition] is having on those who really matter? Children as young as seven aren’t equipped to compute this kind of information.”

I know, from personal experience, that children are a lot more resilient when it comes to change than Mr Littlejohn would give them credit for. As for the apparent worry from the children about mistakenly calling her ‘Mr Upton’ (which would have had to be expected):

The head teacher denies that pupils will be punished for referring to the teacher as Mr Upton but added ominously that they would be ‘expected to behave properly around her.’”

What, I ask, is so ominous about asking children to behave properly around a teacher, be they male or female? Teaching children politeness from an early age can only be good. Of course they are going to make mistakes. It would’ve taken them time to get used to the change. I doubt calling her ‘sir’ or ‘Mister Upton’ would have resulted in anything more than a raised eyebrow and a “You mean Miss”.

“Nathan Upton is entitled to his gender reassignment surgery, but he isn’t entitled to project his personal problems on to impressionable young children. By insisting on returning to St Mary Magdalen’s, he is putting his own selfish needs ahead of the well-being of the children he has taught for the past few years.”

If she’d come out as gay, would that have been ‘putting her own selfish needs ahead of the well-being of the children’? Would that have been ‘projecting her personal problems’? No, because none of the children would have known unless she had told them. Unfortunately transsexuality has a visual component which cannot be hidden. I suspect that Lucy would have spent an enormous amount of time considering all possible effects that her transition would have had and, had she thought that it would be too difficult, or too harmful to the children, she would not have come out, or would have left beforehand.

“It would have been easy for him to disappear quietly at Christmas, have the operation and then return to work as ‘Miss Meadows’ at another school on the other side of town in September. No-one would have been any the wiser. But if he cares so little for the sensibilities of the children he is paid to teach, he’s not only trapped in the wrong body, he’s in the wrong job.”

Condemning her in a national newspaper, trying to give rise to ‘outrage’ and ‘disgust’ amongst the adults, belittling her by using male pronouns, and causing a huge fuss about it would cause the children more harm than the actual event itself. It may be that this ‘moral’ outrage inherent in Mr Littlejohn’s article, combined with the actions of his colleagues, may have resulted in more distress for the children than Lucy’s transition ever could have.

RIP Lucy Meadows