Friday, 22 July 2016

No one wants to be trans*

Here's the thing: no one wants to be trans*. Seriously. I would not wish being trans* on anyone. It sucks. There is no upside. Really, nothing. I'm not just saying that - I don't see one.

When I write this blog, I try to explain how things are but I try to keep things upbeat. Sure, I touch on realities and that can be quite jarring. But I have always tried to point out the positives. This isn’t a whinge. I just want to let you in on my life. I don’t need encouragement, niceness, etc. I don’t need pity. I’m fine and I will get on with it. No amount of nice words will take away the constant drain that life has for you if you are trans*. You learn to get on with it. I do get on with it. 

But right now I am weary and in some way, maybe sharing my negative thoughts will provide the most insight.

Now, don't get me wrong. If you are trans*, then I fully recommend transition if it is possible. Coming out and going for it relieved so much mental pressure from my mind. It freed me in ways most folk will never understand. It allowed people to know who I am. Not the shell, but the ghost inside. It freed my soul and allowed me to live. 

But, in many ways, that what being trans* is - the ghost in the shell. I am stuck in a body that is always going to feel alien to me. No matter what I do, it will always fall short. I can change things, and yes things have changed, but I can't ever imagine feeling that my skin is my own. What I see in the mirror every day hurts. 

I'm gonna skip trans* folk that live in such gross realities that they cannot transition - I'll focus on those of us that are lucky enough to. Transition does improve your situation but you're still just making the most of a bum deal. 

Every day I appear in public and I get stared at. Every day. Today I was outside a building for about 5 mins and every single person looked over at me as they passed. I stand out as a freak show attraction. You hope when you begin that you will get to the stage where you get clocked less and less. Right now, I do get clocked, always. When I don't, it is only because those folks are so busy with their own world that I don't even show up on their radar. I love it when that happens.

My best state of being is totally unnoticed. 

Most people that see me see a man in a dress - I can tell. Be it the stares, the points, the accepting smiles. Yes, even the positive reinforcement singles me out and reminds me of what I am. Folks cannot see a woman when they see me. The numerous 'sir' and 'him' aimed in my direction prove that. I'm sure some trans* folk get it worse. Some get it less, and I feel so happy for them. Truth is: I stand out.

And I notice every single look that comes my way. 

Will this improve? I dunno. Right now, I doubt it. Every day I wake up and hope that I look different. Every single day. I see the changes from time to time, and I feel great about them. But the world soon reminds me of what I am and my place in that world. 

Facial feminisation surgery, FFS. Oh that I had the money to get surgery. The results can be great, although I assume that normally the results are more of a nudge in the right direction than a miracle cure.

This isn't about feeling ugly. This is about my features specifically marking me out on a day to day basis. You can say “oh, but you look great the way you are”, “no need for surgery”, “your features are you and they are great”. No, they are a reminder that I am born wrong. Don’t try to make me feel better about them because I never will. I will put that to one side. It will not rule my life. But whatever I do, everyone knows I am trans*. And so do I.

There is a lyric by Against Me!:
"In her dysphoria's reflection, she still saw her mother's son." (From Paralytic States on Transgender Dysphoria Blues.) 

People misgender me because my features misgender me. 

Even by folks that know I 'identify' (what a ridiculous term) as she, her, hers. Something about what they see just triggers a 'Clara = male' response. Happens. Some folk do it on purpose (NB. no longer talking about friends here). I had a street preacher specifically say "hello SIR" to me a little while back. I thought I looked pretty good that day. Foolish me. The moment is still embedded in my mind, weeks later.

So yes, I would jump at surgery if only to blend in just a little. To get some respite from being noticed.

Trans* women get flack for saying that we 'have to' wear makeup / have long hair / wear very clearly feminine styles / shave legs etc. Sure, we are all free to do what we want. But guess what, all the crap we get on a daily basis is just magnified should I not make sure I have a face full of makeup when I leave the house. As poor as it is, it is my best chance of being accepted for who I am. It doesn't mean that people look over and say "oh, woman" but at least it makes them thing "ah, that thing thinks it's a woman". Funny, if I didn't wear makeup, cut my hair, wore androgynous clothes I would no doubt get stared at less - but I would NEVER get correctly gendered. Bloke in a dress is at least closer to what I am than bloke. It is an improvement even if the result still falls way below acceptable. It is the best I can get. Woohoo. 

So yes, I really do have to make the effort - course the payoff is making myself a beacon for stares and hate. I really don't have a choice.

Oh, and don’t tell me to do what I want, or accept how I am; that gender doesn’t matter. Guess what, I can’t get over it and gender does matter to me. That’s like telling someone with depression to cheer up. Someone with cancer to get better. Ridiculous. Do you not think I try to ‘get over it’? I’ve spent my life trying to push it aside, accept it. It doesn’t work. The high suicide rates for the transgender population prove that.

Yes, some folks have worse lives, get worse deals. But that doesn’t mean that my life is great. I still hate what I am – even if I look at others and know they have it worse. Getting run over by a car and dying instantly may be better than a slow death by drowning, but neither are really options you want.

Every time I get a stare, a point between friends, a sympathetic smile I am reminded of myself. I am never allowed to just be. Every time I get misgendered, it stabs me hard. But, more than that, it makes me a target. Trans* people are the most at risk minority for being on the receiving end of hate crimes percentage/ population wise. I read stories about beatings, threats, abuse and murders nearly every day just because someone is trans*. More so in some countries, more so if a trans-woman of colour.

Our choice is to live a lie and not get abuse or be open and take it. I see why so many ‘leaders’ say that being trans* is a life choice…

I live in a world where advanced, first world countries have laws saying that I can be leagally discriminated against, that I can be arrested if I use the bathroom, kicked out of my home or job. Even where there are laws in place to prevent workplace discrimination I am far less employable than a cis-female for the jobs I should have (and they themselves are less employable than cis-males). When last looking for a job I got zero responses for the applications where I stated that I am trans*. Any replies I got were from jobs where I skipped that bit.

We live in a world where my very existence offends people on the grounds of religion because of what they read into some texts. I expect a trip to the US towards the end of the year and we are trying to figure out how to ask manufacturers to invite us to facilities in states where I can pee in peace. What the hell? I just want to look at machines and spend a huge quantity of someone else's money. Every time I head to the bathroom I try to be as unnoticeable as possible. Busy bathrooms freak me out. I try to pee as quietly as I can because I know I make the wrong sounds. And if I am out, I will do everything I can to wait until I am home just avoid any snide looks. And this is in a country where I do not face being arrested because I am breaking the damn law.

I don’t even wanna start discussing dating. Just, ugh. But when I have some creepy guy come up to me and ask me what genitals I have (and they do), then tell me I am lucky that they are even interested in me and I will not get any better offers – he may be right. Not that I’ll drop my standards to accepting that. But he may be right.

Not that I can let anyone near me, creep or not, because of how I feel about myself.

When I hear of a new group/ meetup/ event, or folks wanna go to a bar or somewhere new I freeze – fearful of what to expect. Even going to the cinema may provide a chance for someone to make me feel like hell. I stick to LGBT venues and clubs because I know that they ‘safe’ and I will be accepted. This is why attacks on gay venues scare so many of us – these are our safe places, our refuges. They may be viewed as party places, but their meaning is far deeper than that. 

I see the hate directed online to those that make themselves known. As much as I want to live in the shadows and just get on with life, I can't. Partially I stand out. Partially, I am stronger than that. I can take it when others can't, so I need to stand up and be a shield. Not in a ‘wearing a mask and cape’ kinda way, or even in a shouty way. But just by not blending in. Making my voice heard.

I see transgender people stand up and make themselves visible and I see them get knocked about and upset. Tonight I watched a bunch of brave kids on youtube get upset just because they let people know they exist. No one should have to put up with that. I’d rather that hate was aimed at me than some 20 something girl. Heck, one of these girls was 12. Who the hell aims hate at a 12 year old? Try that with me.

In some ways, my clear trans* status makes me a good person to do so. I don't hide. I draw attention to myself with clothing or hair (not that the purple lasted long this time...). I guess I am already a target so I make myself a larger one. In that way people have to accept the fact that trans-folk walk amongst them. I am here, and I make sure folks don't forget that. And I try to do so without being militant or pushy. I try to let folks know I am there and I am just one of them - a human. I try to see both sides of an argument, even when I am under attack for existing. I will listen. I will address questions. And I will try to make my answers as clear and understandable as possible. We don’t want special treatment – we want normal treatment.

I will stand up and say "I am trans*, I am proud and I am allowed to be. This is who I am".

I just leave out the bit where I wish I wasn't. 

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

why are labels so important?

So, I am running on little sleep here. I am angry and disappointed with the way I see the recent shootings in the Orlando gay club Pulse. I hear arguments on both sides about how it should be labelled – and I do not really disagree with any. Yet I am seemingly being called ‘reactionary’ for being upset that this incident is not being labelled as a hate crime against the LGBT community.

I hear the LGBT community saying that they feel huge grief and that this should be recognised as a hate crime. 

I hear non-LGBT folk telling me that it does not matter how it is labelled and, therefore, does not matter to us. 

It does matter, it matters to me and my LGBT friends. I am telling you, it does matter to us. Isn’t that enough? 

If it does not matter to you, why are you arguing about it?

Rather than short, ‘instant’ posts, I want to get some thoughts down as to why I feel this way. It is not about who is wrong and right, it is about understanding why the LGBT community feels aggrieved.

I want to look at each reason this happened – because this is far more complex than one issue – and put my thoughts down about them. I am trying to be logical, but I have not spent hours and hours investigating and I am emotional.

The first reason this happened: terrorism. Now, the guy called the police to claim allegiance to ISIS. As such, under the definition of terrorism “the unofficial or unauthorized use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims” this does make this political. There will be some saying that ISIS knew nothing about it – but:

“It is not altogether surprising that Isis appeared not to know much about Mateen; they did not need to. One does not need to officially sign up to the group to carry out acts on its behalf. In his Ramadan message urging jihad, Abu-Mohammed al-Adnani, the group’s chief spokesman, had specifically instructed: “Do not ask for anyone’s permission”. This allows ‘lone wolves’ to plan and carry out missions and avoids the chances of leaks or infiltration by security agencies.” -

So yes, if he claimed that this was for ISIS, it is terrorism.

Gun control. I will always say that any chance to improve gun control should be made the most of. If people can get guns, they will use them.

Many stats can be thrown around, but I found the section on Germany in the following article interesting:

Trying to make sense of laws and regulations for different countries is not straight forward and I do not want to put in too much time into this. There are shootings in all countries, despite bans. But let’s face it, illegal goods will enter a country – it is not like drugs are legal in the UK or the US, but they get into these countries and are used. But making it harder for folks to buy guns just feels like it makes sense to me. This is an opinion and I have not yet seen a good reason to change it, so I will go with it for now.

But if it is not guns, then it is bombs. London 2005, Madrid 2004, Manchester 1996. Or other things; the killing of soldier Lee Rigby in London in 2013 involved a car, knives and a cleaver. All in the name of terrorism. If people want to kill people, either for a hate crime, terrorist act or any other reason, they can.

That said, bombs need making. Knives are not massively effective (I cringe using that word, but I think it fits) for a mass killing. Guns seem to be able to kill many, quickly. If they are widely and easily available – they will be used. Let’s at least make it hard for murders huh?

So yes, lax gun control did contribute.

Mental health of the murder. Seems that whenever it is a single person, mental health is brought up. In some cases, this is true. It creates a bad stigma: that people who suffer from mental health issues are killers. Yes, some are. But many, if properly helped and looked after would not commit atrocities. We need to make sure we look out for, and after our communities vulnerable. This is a failing of society, though I concede that some folk will always fall through the cracks. But expensive health care, bad treatment, and misunderstanding of ‘responsible’ people – these will make those cracks cavernous. Was the Pulse killer struggling with mental health issues, this I do not know – I am taking reports of this with a pinch of salt.

If so, this is a failing of a health care system – not an individual.

Homophobia. Yes, this word may, in root, be flawed. But the Oxford dictionary defines it as "Dislike of or prejudice against homosexual people.” So let’s use the word as it is defined. This man’s father is said to have quickly dismissed the attack as (paraphrased) “not religiously motivated, but by the rage of seeing two men kiss”. It was committed in a gay club. I’ll be honest, this all looks pretty pointed.

Now, there are reports that the man may or may not have had homosexual tendencies. I treat this cautiously for now. But, that still does not stop this being a hate crime against the LGBT community.

Internalised homophobia and oppression happens to gay, lesbian and bisexual people, and even heterosexuals, who have learned and been taught that heterosexuality is the norm and “correct way to be”. Hearing and seeing negative depictions of LGB people can lead us to internalise, or take in, these negative messages. Some LGB people suffer from mental distress as a result

Yes, LGBT folk can be homophobic and lash out. This often results in self harm and suicide. I’ll put a link here to some numbers. Numbers always vary, but the general trends remain the same. 

So acting out, as a homophobic act by a gay male brainwashed by a terrorist organisation that routinely kill gay men (I do not want to see another image of a gay male being thrown off a building – I see them far too often) in such a hideous way is not out of the question. Especially given that the individual in question may see an act of ‘martyrdom’ as the only way to their respective Heaven. 

Yes, this was a homophonic act.

Now, why does it matter what we call it? Well, ‘terrorism’ does sell papers. It is used to make people afraid. It is used by both the terrorists and the opposing governments to push agendas. Donald Trump, US presidential prospect, immediately took Twitter to blame Obama and say that this is why he wants to ban Muslims from the US. He is not alone. That particular political message of hate is rampant – if it was not he would not have so many supporters worldwide. It is used to push agendas on both sides. In the UK, things like this are used to push s called ‘snooping laws’ though parliament.

It is terrorism, but labelling it solely as such is a political spin, whether it is true or not.

Note: I see terrorism as distinct from religion. I have not heard religion mentioned really but terrorism isn’t a religious act. In the case of ISIS, religion is used as justification. But not all Muslims (like some Christian groups and Phra Kittiwuttho, the Buddhist monks in Thailand) hold the same views. Many deaths by ISIS are actually against other Muslims. Again, I am not going to go fact checking this source, but it is something to think about.

Gun control – yes, as I said above. Lax laws made this act easier, but I suspect it would have happened anyway. Maybe not to the same scale, maybe worse. We will never now. We should fight for better controls, but it is a method, not a cause.

Mental health – It could be a contributing factor, it does seem likely. But I would hate to blame this alone, or even loudly. I believe we should be looking after people who suffer from mental health issues. It attaches far too much stigma to a vulnerable group and really, highlights the failings of our health care systems. I would prefer to stay away from this label, but it may prove to fit.

The big back lash right now is against calling this a hate crime against the LGBT community. I don’t get this. It was clearly an act specifically against the LGBT community. It may have been other things, but it really was this too.

People I know are 100% not homophobic are saying that this should not be called a hate crime. I think that they see this as ‘we are all in this together’. I agree, we are. I look forward to the day when we do not have any homophobia or transphobia. But know, that time is not here yet. For you, as an ally, sure. But unfortunately the world is made up of way more people than my friends.

In the last two weeks:

I had 9 – 10 lads, probably mid 20s with buzz cuts walk past me at a service station in a way that made it hard for me to pass whilst sniggering and saying ‘faggot’ to each other.

I walked with Oxford Pride march, and some folks were heard loudly saying that they thought ‘it was disgusting’ that we were there. 

I had a guys come up to me on the street. I was wearing a summer dress and presenting in a way that can only be described as ‘stereotypically feminine’ (note I say stereotypically and move on), as I choose to do. This man singled me out of a crowd and said “hello young man”. That may not seem like much to you, but it stung me and felt very pointed. It may have been a slip, but I really do not think it was. 

Every day I see people looking at me and have them misgender me. Every day unless I avoid people. And often, I avoid people. I only really hang out with old friends or in LGBT groups. I shouldn’t feel like I have to segregate myself but I do. There are a lot of amazing folk out there that I do not know. I spent the weekend at a pretty massive board game expo recently and no one shied away from talking to me. I met so many great people. But I did have stares too. I did have folk shift a little when talking to me. Not in a mean way, but I could feel that they were uncomfortable.

I would like to reach a point where I do not make other folk uncomfortable just by existing. Where people are unsure how to call me. But we are not there yet. My friends are, the general public is not.

In the US, there are laws made so that I cannot use the bathrooms in some states. Same-sex marriage is being boycotted. In over 70 countries it is illegal to be homosexual, and punishable by death in some.

In Russia, it is not illegal. But talking about being LGBT is. Just holding a rainbow flag will get you arrested:

and taking part in a pride march will get you arrested also. 

This is sanctioned hate against the LGBT community. If you have rules in place, it shows that being LGBT is not acceptable for one reason or another. It makes the LGBT community less than normal, less than acceptable, justifiable recipients of violence.

I read many articles of atrocities against the LGBT community. Deaths, beatings, suicides, protests, hate, laws. I read it every day. Just recently I said on my Facebook page that it wears me down. Most of this does not make the news, but it does happen. If you look – it is there. I look because I have a vested interest in my community. Just like I know more about board games than most folks I know. It matters to me. I don’t expect you to know all this stuff. It’s bloody depressing. But don’t assume that it is not there just because you do not see it or understand why it would be the case. As I say, you are cool and groovy, but you are not everyone.

So when something major happens, yes. It does hit the LGBT community hard. I am always on edge. And feeling a massive, collective grief from my community amplifies the hurt.

And we do want folk to know that this was a hate crime against the LGBT community. It may not make sense to you, but for a moment it highlights all the struggles we go through, not just this one. Like black people still fight to gain official apologies from countries for slavery.  Like we are the LGBT community is fighting to have people killed in the UK for being homosexual to receive pardons. In 1970, the German government apologised for the holocaust. It is not going to change anything in theory, but to that community it does. It has an impact. It shows that these crimes are recognised as wrong. You may assume that these things are wrong, but official apologies STATE that these things are wrong. They make it official and irrefutable.

So yes, hate crimes do need to be highlighted as such.

And for those that still say, well yes, it was hideous and a hate crime, but let’s move on.

No. we still need to point out that it was a hate crime. But in doing so, we actually stand more unified. There is so much hate coming from this. So many cases of folks saying that ‘this is God’s punishment for being gay’. Jokes about ‘how much HIV+ blood’ was spilt. Internet trolls. Well, let’s take it closer to (my) home.

Yesterday a group of LGBT folks got together to show their compassion for the events at Pulse. To grieve for people who died. The result, a Christian group protested them. Yes.

We should treat this atrocity as an atrocity against people. Clearly motivated by homophobia, extreme terrorist ideals and enabled by lax gun laws. People died. Just people. No matter what other labels they had. The Orlando community will no doubt struggle to cope, the families will be devastated. The LGBT community feels this attack personally. Indeed, there is a lot of anger at the way it is being portrait. 

The same day, a man was arrested headed to LA pride with guns and bombs. Again, the LGBT community was being targeted.

things must be called for what they are. this is true in all cases, not just LGBT ones. 

In France a police officer was killed in a terrorist act. He was targeted because he was in the police. It is important that we note that. This man died because of his chosen profession. I have so much respect for the police, who work in often hostile environments. I do not think it to be an easy job and appreciate the work they do. There have been a number of police deaths just because they are police. Again, I think we have to highlight this point.this person died for who he was, not for a cause.

The terrorist attack in Beirut in Nov 2015 killed many people, but press coverage was much less than it was for the Paris bombing around the same time. This was called out over various media. Why are folks more concerned by the deaths in Paris than Beirut was the message I received. I felt closer to the victims in Paris, it felt close to home. A rock club, a band I had seen in a city I have visited and where I have friends. But I do not see either attack as worse, or more. In both cases, people died, but I cannot help but empathise more with the Paris attack. Still, I felt bad for feeling that way. My own hypocrisy shown to me no mater how I justify it. 

No one complained about this being called out. Messages of support and solidarity flooded in. A group of people had been targeted by a terrorist atrocity for being who they were. That they are not western does not matter. They were killed for where they live. People realised they had neglected it, and tried to correct this. There was no outrage at being shown the hypocrisy compared to Paris. 

Pulse was a terrorist attack specifically against the LGBT community. And it is important to members of the community – even if it seems trivial to you - that this is made clear.

It is important to me. 

So don’t dare tell me it isn’t.