Wednesday, 23 September 2015

How am I treated? Pt 2

I returned to the UK and stayed at me mums. She does not live in the most liberal of places so I had to be wary. I did dress up and just get on the bus sometimes but I usually wrangled a lift or, later, jumped straight on the motorbike to get to town. Once I got to Manchester I was fine. Sure, some places I would be wary and avoid but generally it is so busy and varied that I was just a blur passing by. Not shouts and no comments. Nothing! So whilst I knew I had to get outta my home town, Manchester was fine and it was good to be myself there. I would go shopping with my mum (I needed to replace my entire wardrobe with girl clothes!) and the shop assistants would be great. Even when I was wearing minimal makeup they were still so cool. One day I was looking rather rough (the day after my first laser beard removal session) and we still got a "hello ladies" on the way into a shop. My fear of browsing went away - the female section was finally mine!!! I would try things on and the girls would smile and 'let me pass' without any questions. I was not an intruder, something I always worried about before. I was where I should be in the female changing rooms. Such a simple thing but something so uplifting for me and my soul. People just let me be and that is amazing.

I did build up my outward appearance. It is funny. I already described slowly changing what I wore but there were more steps that felt huge. Nail varnish and hair have always been things that got me looks but I never worried about them. Eyeliner also bothered me little. But full makeup and especially lipstick felt like a big step forward and took a while for some reason. Same with skirts and dresses. I stuck to jeans and shorts for ages when I went full time - like a skirt would draw extra attention or be a beacon for abuse. Still, the final drawbridge was crossed once I had a dress just far too cute to not show off! Now I feel confident wearing whatever I want. Some things do not suit me but I think I have that pretty much sorted. I think so at least.
Same with my day makeup. Maybe I wear a little more than most girls in science but it is my armour - a sign of "hey, I wear makeup, I am a girl!" - just to help folks along that are not sure how to treat me (usually guys btw!). Getting called 'love' or 'darling' may not be feminist but right now I am enjoying that. At least folks are acknowledging who I am. I still get 'mate' a lot (although I am told that this is pretty gender neutral down south). I got a 'buddy' once but he looked kinda embarrassed after. And one guy slurred his 'he' into 'they' so I do actually appreciate the thought and effort. Let's face it, most folk do not interact with trans* people so this is new to them. The fact they try makes me smile even if inside I wish I was less obviously trans*.
In the street I don't usually get a second look. I know when I have because you can tell. Either they look bemused or smile at me. And whilst the smile could be seen as a flirty sign I doubt it. I think people are just letting me know that they are totally cool with me. That may sound weird but actually it is really nice. A nice, warm smile is great for feeling acceptance from strangers. Again, the flip side is that they have 'clocked' me which hurts a little but I have a way to go yet and recently I have watched loads of YouTube vids by beautiful trans* girls who complain of being clocked a lot in public. The truth is, trans* awareness is high right now and whilst that means more people have some understanding of us, people are also more likely to spot us because they know we are here! Course, a lot of times I am easily clocked by my voice. I need to sort that out ASAP. I am on the speech therapy waiting list so hopefully it that is only another 4 or 5 weeks away but in the meantime I am not really helping myself - as I am doing very little to train my vocal chords (mainly as I keep straining them). However, seeing videos of the same girls whose beauty gave me the confidence to transition saying that they get clocked also gives me great confidence too - 'cause they are beautiful so bugger it, people are people!

I have a new job. When I was offered an interview I realised I had applied under my old name. It would have been far less daunting to go to my first interview in 4 years as my old self. Keep it simple. But I realised two things; that I wanted to work as myself and did not want them to know old me - start as I mean to go on and make the most of a new beginning, and; if they had a problem with my trans* status I would rather know straight away so I can walk away. So I told them in advance, rather than turn up and surprise them. Plus - I was sick of lying and hiding.

I had almost walked away from science for a few reasons, one of which was the acceptance of being LGBT in the scientific community. In 10 years in STEM research I have not met one open member of the LGBT community (as far as I know) and it makes you wonder why. Still, the job just seemed too interesting to not try and if anywhere would be cool with the true me I figured it would be Oxford Uni. Of course, the night before I realised I didn't have 'interview clothes' and that was accompanied by some emergency shopping! (Darn!)
The interviewers did not bat an eyelid and just asked me all the normal questions. And then gave me a job accompanied by amazing feedback giving me a little bit of a big head and resting my fears about being picked out of pity or to make up diversity numbers. Since I have started I have raised a few eyebrows but they have all got on it and everyone has been so great making sure they correctly gender me (the odd slips quickly corrected). And it is really, truly amazing to look down and see that I am wearing a skirt or dress at work and know that it is not a dream. My dreams have come true and everyone is letting me live them. I either burst into tears or a big grin and I am happy with both.

Living in Oxford is nice. Most people are so friendly and just chat away as normal. I have been invited to lesbian social groups which really surprised me and made me realise that my life really is different now! I also couldn't help but laugh when my electrolysis beard removal lady started going on about her trans* clients before, five mins in, asking "erm, ARE you trans*". She then asked me rather inappropriate questions which I have heard happens a lot to trans-folk but had not actually been on the receiving end of myself (except for one creepy guy at 4am in the Manc gay village who, to be fair, I had let buy me some G&Ts). I could have said that it was inappropriate but she was about to spend an hour electrocuting my face so I let it slide!

What about negatives? Honestly, this is the shortest part of the blog. Since I went full time I have had three things happen. One was some school girls giggle at me. My makeup was a mess (first attempt at day makeup outside) and I knew that so I couldn't help but laugh back at them. It just did not bother me. Same with the next incident - being shouted at by some teens. They passed by and shouted and that was it. It didn't bother me in the slightest. My mother on the other hand was not impressed and came out with a very witty return. I love that she was defending me but it wasn't necessary. Kids don't get it and words are nothing to me. I am much stronger than that. Being happy with myself far outweighs the odd mean words thrown my way and I am happy to just let them slide. The only real time I did worry was when some junkies followed me up a main road in Edinburgh shouting "it's a man in drag" after me for five mins. That they shouted was fine - everyone looked at them not me!!! But they followed me and that made me nervous. I know I am not as strong as I was and junkies are not easily defended against anyways so that was pretty freaky. But I nipped in Boots and bought makeup whilst they went so it had its upside.

But yes. That is it. The most outstanding abuse I have had. Course, I keep myself in safe places and don't venture out late much these days but I am not hiding. I am out and in full sight. And people just let me be. I can be happy with myself - maybe even learn to love myself finally - and no one has tried to take that away from me so far. The positives wash any slight negatives away. My initial apprehension disappeared as soon as I stepped out the door the first time and was replaced with pure joy. I still have some ways to go but I am excited for the future and finally happy to live in the real, here and now present. I never thought I could be so happy.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

How am I treated? Pt 1

So, for once I am not talking just about myself (although it is my blog so I guess it is allowed...). And I should warn you - it all sounds rather bleak at the beginning. But bear with it. It is all really positive in the end :)

One massive delay in starting my transition was my fear of how I would be treated. Not by those around me - I choose my friends carefully! So whilst I was nervous about their reactions, I was never worried that it would get grim. Same with family - I didn't choose them but I think we are all a likeable bunch-ish. Co -workers is a little different. Especially in my old job, I figured some may have made my life really awkward and been able to make things difficult so I only told a few people and kept my early transition in the closet at work. Again, I chose carefully. And I chose wisely.

But folks on the outside, regular people, those buggers everywhere. It was them I was scared of. As a young indie kid I constantly took abuse from the public. Wearing makeup, having pink hair - just being different - made some morons think that I was a fair target for abuse - both verbal and physical. And I was not really one for standing up for myself so I ended up with many black and busted eyes, etc. Luckily never anything bad as I was actually pretty good at taking a beating (which is something I put to good use when climbing - although maybe I should just learn to be more careful...).

As life went on I tried to blend more into the background. Stand out less. Just be a literal dark shadow passing by. Course, folks head to toe in black don't actually disappear into shadows and can tend to stand out just as much as having shoulder length pink hair.
I also got angry with the world at this stage and when someone gave me grief, I learnt to give it back. I am not violent. I just want to stand up for myself and not get beat on. I want to feel safe. And once I did, less bullies bothered to try it on.

But loosing up to a third of your muscle mass and becoming part of a minority well known for drawing physical abuse - well. That is not something you do lightly. Add that to the constant reports of rights violations against trans-folk, the lack of understanding in the world at large and the general way that trans-folk are ridiculed and despised and you have very little reason to want to put yourself out there. 

Except that you have to. Keeping it inside just screws you up. There are an increasingly brave number of youths that transition because they need to but for anyone older the truth is that many just cannot face that. Many see three options; bottle it up, let it out or escape in a very permanent way. The suicide rate is high, trans* deaths are high and everyday verbal and physical abuse is insane (compared to the average population). Make no mistake, the trans* community is fragile.

So I have my fear and I delay the inevitable (as I have no intention of giving up). I took strength from the many brave folks that went before me and I knew that being in Zurich (and, soon, the UK) as well as having an amazing group of friends meant that I was probably in a great place. I had the best chance I could have and I could not waste it. So, you know, I didn't.

I had been out a few times in the past and it was never quite so scary once you headed out the door. Course, I was with friends I knew would have my back and only heading to relatively safe places but it was all good. Heading out in the village was lovely. To be dressed how I felt was just amazing. Of course you have some strays that would laugh or shout although not usually at me so that was good (not so good for the girls who did get the grief though). And any odd stares were just kinda water off a ducks back. Plus I did get compliments and have creepy guys try it on so whilst those advances were not welcome it did let me think I was not some huge freak. Taxis were the only real worry - especially at the start of the night pre-alcohol but honestly they just let me get on with it.

I was not ready for the daytime though. Being in a safe place is one thing but the wide world is scary!!! I'd go shopping and draw odd glances. Some shop girls (I avoided the males) were nice and helpful. Some gossiped with others. My trips were all rather grab and dash resulting in awful choices and wrong sizes. I did, over time, get a little more confident. I would chat to the MAC staff about the best choices for me. I would try boots and shoes on in stores in the open. I sometimes tried stuff on. I got stares and probably drew more gossip but I kept it brief then got outta there. And it was all something of a rush. But I was never confident and it never felt comfortable.

After months of hormones I knew I had to tackle the wide world. Being a gothy-indie kid I was able to shift my clothing reasonably subtly without anyone really thinking anything of it. My jeans became girls jeans (well - all my jeans belonged to a girl, they were now also cut for girls). My vests became almost dress length. My tops became open necked. My shoes and scarves went pink and my boots became very cute as heck. But this all got me the question "why are you modelling yourself on Dracula?" as, when folks regarded me, this was the easier connection. Then I added nail varnish. Then eyeliner. My hair became styled and less untidy. Just bit by bit. And I went out with friends (who knew) like this. There were stares still but I was happy to have them. It just felt right and that gave me the confidence to just... be.

Eventually I finished my work contract and I went for it. A day out in full makeup. Scary as heck. I rushed away from my town where there may be someone that knew me and became more relaxed when I knew I was just a face in the crowd. As strange a face as it may be (nothing new there though). Annoyingly I was great at 'night-out' makeup but it turned out not so good at day makeup! Most people let me pass by but I stood out and I knew it. Still I was in one of the safest cities in the world and I never felt unsecure. I would get coffee and the barista would treat me like normal, despite clear recognition of my gender state. Which is all I wanted! 

And now i will give you a break. But the next post, well, it shows just how fine folks are. And why I should believe in humanity more!