I was bullied throughout my school years. Well, most of them, anyway. The war of spite, put-downs and vicious mockery started when I was about nine. Not so coincidentally, about the same age I started self-harming, but that’s another post. The bullying continued whatever school I went to, so I reached the seemingly obvious conclusion at an early age that it was me that was doing something wrong, and that other people were justified in whatever they were saying or doing to me. Not good for a little head.

After a few years of that, I think my brain started putting up a filter, so that I was able to go about my business in some ignorance of what was going on around me. An example of this is one occasion where I got off the school bus, aged 14 or 15, and someone I knew asked “Are you ok?”. I replied that I was fine, and asked why. She looked at me a little oddly and explained that throughout the journey a group of my schoolmates had been shouting comments at me, laughing and joking at my expense, with an audience of the whole of the lower deck of the bus. I genuinely hadn’t heard a thing, and there’s not a lot wrong with my hearing. Thank you, brain, for filtering that one out.

Whilst I was still having problems with bullies when I left school at 18, adult life brought relief. Over the years, as my self-confidence reasserted itself, and I didn’t need the filter any more, it gradually disappeared. And I grew to miss it, as I once again became aware of the negativity that goes on everywhere.

A lot of people hold strong views about trans people, and all too many of them think it’s ok to direct their venom at us as a community, and at individuals. I am fortunate in that people I know and mix with have either had the courtesy not to say anything hurtful to my face, or at least lacked the guts to.

However, without my filter against the world, I am very sensitive to whispering and stares, but with the wonderful advent of MP3 players, I have managed to create a reasonably effective filter for myself – music. By creating my own personal white noise, I find myself much more able to zone out others around me, and help the Paranoia Monster lay down and sleep for a while. I firmly believe that all the people who go through life with earphones permanently attached are probably doing much the same thing as me.

Sadly, I can’t do this all the time, particularly not with social networking, the internet generally, and the media skewing and attacking wherever it can. The trouble is, I tend to take criticism of my community generally very personally, and this snaps me straight back into being a child.  If someone somewhere in the world posts an article claiming that parents who decide to transition are selfish and disgusting, I start wondering if they’re right, despite being a logical(ish) intelligent person who knows that’s just a personal opinion, and a bigoted one, at that. Reading that another trans person has been vilified by their family fills me with fear that the acceptance I have been offered by my family isn’t genuine. The more ‘evidence’ I see that very many people consider my path in life to be wrong, the more that I feel everyone must think that about me. And so the Paranoia Monster operates.

There are a couple of logical solutions to all of this – firstly, put things in perspective, and secondly, don’t read it. To look at the second first (!?), I do try to limit what I see online. I ‘hide’ stories or pictures on Facebook that set off an unwanted emotional response, and avoid the Daily Mail Online like the plague. It’s actually not all that often that an online newspaper says anything so stupid it can’t be written off to lousy journalism, but the comments below any article to do with LGBTIQ stories are often horrendous. So much hatred and mockery, directed at people like me, or like those I love, is far too triggering, so I leave well alone.

But I am an “out” trans person. By writing this blog and making my own YouTube videos, as well as contributing to a collaborative channel (details to the right of this page) I am putting myself to some extent into the public sphere. I don’t want to build myself a little cocoon and hide in it forever, as I feel it is important for me to fight for the rights of people like me (and those unlike me, too). To do that, though, you need to know what’s out there, and respond it it. Otherwise, the haters really will win the battle and scare us into submission. To face up to these challenges, though, you need to have some sort of filter in place, or you’ll fall apart. Just as my childhood brain recognised.

So, perspective must be important, and it is this that I am working on, as my adult-style filter. You know that saying “It’s not all about you”? When seeing things online, or hearing them on the street (if they’re shouting loudly enough to drown out the Red Hot Chili Peppers) or reading them on Facebook, I have to reaffirm that it’s not all about me.

Funnily enough, some recent trolling on one of my videos bothered me not one bit, despite the comment reading something along the lines of “People like you shouldn’t be allowed to make videos. You’re disgusting, you f****** f****t”. Why would that not upset me, but someone commenting elsewhere online that ‘trans people are clearly mentally ill and should be locked away’ make me feel attacked?

I’ve a long way to go on this one, and I’d be interested to hear how other people keep their heads when all around them are losing theirs.

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