Category: That makes me mad!!


IMG_0536Nor do I want to dress like a man. I do not want to act like a man, and I am not crazy about the idea of passing as a man.

People go through a lot of mental gymnastics to fit me into the way they view the world, and I am grateful for the most part that they do this. I have always maintained that people understand the trans* experience on a number of levels, and I try to be kind to those whose understanding is still at the level of “oh, so you’re having a sex change, then”. However inaccurate and insulting that statement might be.

I would rather poke myself repeatedly in the eye with something sharp than agree with the common suggestion that “I was born a girl and now I want to be a boy”. Not because it makes me want to shake whoever is saying it to within an inch of their life whilst simultaneously apprising them of the latest theories of gender identity. No, because of the word WANT. I do not want to be…I AM.

I do not dress like a man. I am a man, and dress what I would consider appropriately (if not stylishly). I do not act like a man. I am a man, and act in a way that is reasonably appropriate (albeit I don’t live at the butch end of Man Town). I do not ‘pass’ as a man. I am a man, whose genetic make-up means people get mixed up about his gender.

This all may sound a little incongruous if you consider that I have never agreed with gender being a binary thing. Is my statement ‘I am a man’ at odds with my philosophical ramblings about queerness and acceptance of my history? No, it’s not. I may not tick many of the stereotypical ‘masculinity’ boxes, have grasped ‘male privilege’ with both hands, or insist that feminism is for the girls, but nevertheless, I approach all the issues about which I talk and, let’s face it, life, from my own point of view, which is that of a man.

I get increasingly fed up of being misgendered because as time goes on, I feel more and more comfortable in myself, and in my rather fragile male identity. It is increasingly ridiculous to be called ‘she’, ‘her’ and ‘girl’, and every time this happens it feels like, perhaps, I really am just pretending to be something I’m not.

Fortunately, or I don’t think I’d ever leave the house, I know better. I do not dress like, I do not act like, and I do not pass as, a man. I am no fraudster or actor, nor am I deluded. I am a man.

 

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InterrogationI was sipping tea at the end of a meditation class, when I became aware of a conversation going on next to me between a trans* woman and one of the other group members that made me very angry. Given where I was (the local Buddhist Centre) and that the woman in question hadn’t asked for intervention, I kept my mouth shut. But that didn’t stop the steam coming not-so-gently from my ears.

The gentleman this woman was talking to had, after ‘discerning’ that she was transgender, decided it was ok to ask her a series of increasingly personal questions about her transition, right down to ‘will you be having the Full Monty?’ – his words. Over tea in the Buddhist Centre.

Now she was answering those questions, so perhaps the whole conversation was fine with her, but it did get me thinking about all the questions that people feel are really quite ok and appropriate to ask on learning that we’re trans*. I’ve asked my good buddies on Facebook to give me the questions they are most asked, so read them, weep, and make a note not to ask any of these things unless you are extremely sure of your context, and the person you are asking. And even then, consider just not bothering. Please.

1) What was your name before?

This may be totally motivated out of curiosity, but really this is never an appropriate things to ask a trans* identified person. My old name is irrelevant to your interaction with me now – why will knowing it help you to understand me better?

2) Has your sexuality changed?

Some people’s sexuality does become more fluid after transition, often because of increased confidence and comfort with their body and responses to it. Many other people carry on being turned on by exactly the same type of people they always did. Again – why ask this question? Curiosity is not a sufficient reason to pry about someone’s bedtime preferences.

3) How far are you going to go?

For a start, this implies that transition is a straightforward linear process with an exact end point, and a series of jumping off points along the way. Not true. But actually, you just wanted to ask about my genitals, didn’t you?

4) So does that mean your partner’s sexuality has changed?

This question is often wrapped up as ‘concern’ for an existing relationship. My partner’s sexuality did not just flick like a switch the day I first said ‘I’m not a woman’, but fortunately for me, her love for me triumphs over society’s more salacious expectations that we’ll fall apart as a couple over my transition. It’s just another kind of voyeurism, and if there ARE any changes/problems in a relationship like ours, due to the politics of sexuality or anything else for that matter, why on earth would I be discussing it with anyone except those in whom I choose to confide?

5)Will you have sex with me?

To be honest, if you’re asking me in this kind of context in the first place, the answer is probably no. If you want to add ‘slept with a t****y’ to your list of achievements, run away now before I hurt you. If you like the idea of sleeping with someone your own gender, but without those awkward tell-tale bits (eg: ‘it won’t make me gay because you’ve not got a penis’), sorry, but there’s professionals for that kind of thing.

6) How does your partner feel about you changing?

What do you want to hear? That everything’s brilliant, in which case, fair enough. I can appreciate that people who love us will want confirmation that “we’re ok”, but it’s an odd question coming from a stranger. Are people actually trying to find out if a couple are going through a really hard time, and maybe receive confirmation of their own that ‘transition harms relationships’? Either way, it is, quite simply, none of your business.

7) Can I have your X when it/they have been chopped off?

I know, I know, it’s a common joke when trans* people are contemplating surgery. But being common, we’ve all heard it a few hundred times, and it gets a bit tiresome. Besides, it makes what we’re going through into a cartoon situation. This is not some kind of advanced Mr Potato Head.

8) Have you always felt like a [insert chosen gender here]?

We all have very diverse internal histories when it comes to identifying as trans*. Having to explain our journey in a social setting is not what many of us want to do. As a result, a lot of us have to hand a potted one-liner to sum up the ride so far. Mine is “I knew there was something wrong, but didn’t identify what that was until I was in my 30s”. There, easy. The trouble is, that makes the psychology of transition seem over-simplified, even childlike. Besides, why exactly do you want to know what my gender identity was aged 10, 18, 27, etc…?

9) Why do you want to do this to yourself?

Well, I was bored one weekend and thought I’d spice things up a bit by questioning my gender identity, jumping through countless hoops for the medical profession, taking life-changing medication and undergoing elective surgery. Why do you think?? If there were a different way of becoming the person I know I am, I’d be doing that instead.

10) When you’ve had surgery, can I see?

Did you want to see my genitals before? Have I indicated any desire to play saucy show and tell with you? Why are you so interested now? Are you going to give me marks out of ten? Ok, sarcasm aside, it can be helpful for people considering surgery to see the results of someone else’s, but really, unless you have a vested interest in seeing what a modified body looks like, it’s not very polite to ask. There are a million pictures online. Go (go)ogle them.

11) Which way round are you going?

Surprisingly common, this one, and in a weird way it is almost a compliment. However, I’d advise that if you really can’t work out ‘which way’ someone is going, just keep quiet, use the name they’ve asked you to use, and reflect on whether it really matters for you to know.

10) Are you sure?

By the time most of us tell our family, friends and wider acquaintance of our intention to transition, we have spent endless months and years weighing up the decision. If you mean ‘are you sure you’re a man?’ well consider your own gender identity. Are you sure you are a man? A woman? Genderqueer? How do you know, and how can you be sure? I bet it’s not because of what is dangling between your legs. Of course we’re sure. Or as sure as anyone else can be about how they identify, and that’ll just have to do.

I’m sorry if this week’s post seems a little angry. I know sarcasm is the lowest form of wit, but I guess I’d rather be sarky and a touch bilious than outright furious. Because sadly, trans* identified people are subjected to questions like this all the time, all over the place, by people they have barely met as well as those who are closer to them. You might think it’s unfair of me to say ‘Don’t Ask’, because it does help to understand someone if you ask about their journey, but please, I beg of you, choose your words carefully, choose your timing, and examine your motives. Most of all, consider whether you actually need the answer to a particular question to be able to support someone on their journey. And if you’ve just met someone, it does NOT show empathy, support or acceptance if you ask intrusive questions.

Most of us will answer questions when we’re pinned in a corner, but it can be humiliating, uncomfortable and stressful, even when we still have a smile on our faces. Please consider that perhaps empathy, support and acceptance comes in NOT asking these questions.

RashI’m the first to admit that I’m a bit of a hypochondriac. At the faintest whiff of a symptom I’m off to Dr Internet to work out what on earth could be wrong with me. Recently, I was finding it very uncomfortable to swallow, and could feel a definite swelling  at the base of my throat. It did, indeed, feel like I was gargling golf balls. Cue panic, mental re-writing of my will (that didn’t take long) and much tapping at my keyboard. Of course, I am also a sensible person, and concluded, on the basis of previous experience, that my throat issues were just the result of testosterone doing its job. Again. When the pitch of my voice dropped a note or two a couple of days later, everything fell into place.

The thing is that with the knowledge and experience I have, I am able to discern sensible reality from hypochondriac panic relatively easily. But my own reactions to feeling ‘not right’, even on such a small scale, beg the question of how many trans* identified people hit the internet before their GP’s office before coming to the knowledge (sorry, diagnosis) that they are, in fact, suffering from gender dysphoria.

I have a history of going to see my GP with a fairly clear knowledge of what might be wrong with me, and this has led people to think that I am, in fact, a bit of a charletan, in that I pick an interesting sounding diagnosis, then convince the doctor that this is what I have. That gives a lot of credit to my long-term acting skills, but does rather cast me in the role of attention seeker and fraud.

I like to assume that the various professionals I have seen over the years haven’t just looked at my original diagnoses, scratched their chins, and decided to go along with it. Over time I’ve been told that my bipolar diagnosis wasn’t true, contrary to, I think, the opinions of 4 psychiatrists, countless therapists, and a CPN or two, not to mention the entire staff of 2 wards in a fairly prestigious mental hospital. Conversely, it has been suggested that I’ve only been diagnosed with gender dysphoria because I was on a bipolar ‘high’ and therefore unstable enough to convince myself, 2 GPs, a psychiatrist, a specialist counsellor, a gender specialist and a surgeon, that I was right. I’m good, folks, but not that good.

The trouble is, when coming to your own realisation that perhaps the gender you were assigned at birth, validated by apparently having all the requisite ‘bits’ for that gender, is not the same as what resides in your head, heart and soul, being told that this is just some sort of extreme hypochondria can be terribly hard.

The diagnosis of gender dysphoria relies so much on the person involved being honest about their thoughts and feelings that the medical profession has put in place many gate-keepers, all of which are designed to ensure that the medical and psychological help being given is appropriate, timely and necessary. Some people do realise on their journey that they have taken the wrong path, and I respect the courage they have to face that and change their route. However, for those of us who find happiness, strength and fulfillment in our new roles, please save words like ‘Hypochondriac’ for when we’re complaining about sore throats.

 

 

***Trigger Warning – Murder and Suicide***

I lead a privileged, pampered life, where any abuse I receive about my transgender status is veiled in humour, or empty claims that I am delusional, blasphemous or a bit ‘icky’. I am lucky.

On 20th November 2012 it will be the 14th Transgender Day of Remembrance. Once again, this day will be marking those people who have been killed because they are transgender. I wrote about this last year, and I’m not sure I can match the fire of the words I wrote a year ago, so I shan’t risk diluting them. Please read Transgender Day Of Remembrance and reflect that a year later there are yet more people added to the list of the dead, and who knows how many more who were never found, identified, or deemed worthy of becoming a recognised statistic.

For information about those people who campaigners have been able to add to the list of those who died between 20th November 2011 and 20th November 2012, please go to Memorializing – 2012 where you will also see links to some useful, if sobering, information about this day, and why it is marked.

In my post a year ago I touched on suicide as a leading cause of death in the transgender population. This doesn’t make it onto the Day of Remembrance  statistics, though it is something that has probably impacted most of us on a personal level in some way.

It’s hard to get ‘true’ statistics about suicide amongst trans* identified people, for a number of reasons. Someone may never have come out to anybody before killing themselves. If they had, their families may be reluctant for their gender identity to be discussed or identified as a factor in their death. However, the prevailing figures seem to be that somewhere between 31% and 50% of the trans* population has attempted to kill themselves. How many succeed? Too many.

It’s easy to speculate on why these figures are so high, but for my part I would look to the way we are treated by others, socially, personally and institutionally. We are ridiculed and misrepresented by the media, regarded as misfits, weirdos and even perverts by many other people, and made into legal outsiders by the governments of our countries. The thing is, if you tell somebody they are wrong enough times, it is possible they will start to believe it. We are not all revolutionaries and rebels, after all.

Of course, it’s easy for some to say “oh, those poor mixed-up people! If they’d just been content with the body they were born with, none of this would happen! Of COURSE they were unhappy – they were trying to mutilate themselves to achieve something that wasn’t even possible!” Sorry, but we don’t just need hugs and a good ticking off to put us on the right path, we need appropriate support for those who do struggle with reconciling their identity with what the rest of the world is telling them. Internal demons will always play their part, but where are those demons born? And how do they grow up so strong?

In a world where the casual murder of transgender people is an ongoing reality, suicide will continue to take lives too. I have said it many times before, and will probably be croaking it on my deathbed –  the values of this world have got to change.

I was in the pub last night with a friend – a gay bar, no less. It was quiet, but there were enough people in to people-watch which, for me, is one of the best bits of going out.

So here’s the thing – even though I have a very lovely partner at home, I still like to think that I “still have it” in sufficient quantities to be eyeballed when I go out. Go on, admit it – we all like to get a bit of attention.

As previously mentioned, I’m not attracted to people because of their gender, or to be more accurate, I don’t rule people in or out of being attractive because of their gender identity. I guess that’s why I get a bit peeved if people pass me over because of what they perceive MY gender to be (or lack of it).

Now of course I’m not everyone’s cup of tea, and I can take being dismissed as unattractive because of physical traits, people thinking I’m boring, etc. etc. You know the sort of stuff that puts you off someone. But what I do find depressing is receiving the kind of look that might be translated as “what IS that person??” and people not bothering to stick around long enough to find out.

It’s ironic, really, if you consider that I see my own gender and sexuality as very fluid, that I really don’t like being physically ‘unidentifiable’. I know some people enjoy that state of physical flux, but I would rather be seen as male, and yes, seen as an attractive male.

Ok, there’s only so much I can do to change what Mother Nature gave me, and the changes testosterone is making are ongoing, but my transformation into that gorgeous hunk of burning love that I just know is right there and ready to meet the world are very, very slow.

I’ll put my hands up, I’m impatient, but I’m really looking forward to turning heads for the right reasons on a future trip to the local gay bar.

When discussing our experiences as trans people with a friend, she suggested that me being a man with the emotional intelligence of a woman is a valuable thing. I tend to agree, though it would be a very controversial argument to get into that a trans man was ever emotionally a woman. Some trans men argue that they have grown up wholly male in their thinking and emotional responses. Others, like me, recognise that X years of socialisation as a woman do lead to a difference in thinking from your average man.

Any trans man, though, will have experienced the disadvantages of living in a patriarchal society at some stage. Sexism and misogyny have been built into our lives  like ingrained dirt built up over centuries. Sure, “things have improved”, but not by a whole lot, if you scrape off the shiny surface and look at what actually goes on in most women’s lives, in our cultural expectations and in the way we use language.

We’re quick to take the moral high ground and criticise the sexist practices of other cultures, perhaps satisfied that we’re much more emancipated than them, but that’s always struck me as a coward’s way out – rather than actively pursuing change at home, find someone who’s doing it worse somewhere else to campaign about.

Rather foolishly, I now realise, when I came out as trans, I expected that other trans men, having been identified by others as women, and lived and treated as such for a large chunk of their lives, would have the decency to treat women with a little bit of respect. Instead, I’ve come across more sexism, more careless misogyny and more dismissal of women’s interests than I’d ever imagined possible amongst those who identify as trans and male.

At first I thought this might be to do with some sort of warped oneupmanship – some idea that in order to be accepted as a man you have to talk endlessly about tits and how stupid women are. Or perhaps there really is a sense of hatred towards women stemming from that time when we were unable to escape from being identified as female, and were downtrodden ourselves as a result? Revenge? Really? Even if it’s on a really subconscious level, surely that’s too horrible to think about.

Are some people a little too eager to sample the male privilege  we hear so much about? I’ve heard it suggested that we trans men only really want to transition so that we can leapfrog to the top of the social heap. Don’t hold your breath, guys. Even if that was my motivation, I can’t say I’ve been admitted to the Promised Land of Privilege just yet. I’ll let you know when I’m presented with the Golden Key and taught the funny handshake.

If some trans guys think that talking about women as if they are below them, doing that whole “Yeah, what do you expect from women, they’re so crazy, I’ve never understood them” at every opportunity, and expecting women to ‘do them right’, be it in the bedroom, the kitchen, or wherever, they are going to end up resembling the worse kind of man. And more to the point, they will be perpetuating the thinking and actions that normalise oppression.

Every trans man evolves and learns from those around him. I certainly have – after 39 years of life in a female role, changing my role in society is a steep learning curve.  Surely, though, all of us can recognise that emulating the lowest common denominator of stereotyped masculinity is a mistake. We are in the rare position where we can take the people that we have always been, and develop them, changing them into the people we want to be. Do we really want to become the oppressors, perpetuating age-old patterns of gendered misery? Or the sad-act who thinks that putting women down will make him look manly?

Feminism and the trans man are not very comfortable bedfellows, but my way of looking at the world is not going to evaporate just because of a shot of testosterone every few weeks. Similarly, I guess it’s naive to expect people who have always held misogynistic views to miraculously drop them when they transition. As I think Lucas Silveira once said “An *rsehole before testosterone will be an *rsehole after testosterone”. We can only try.

I went to my first Pride ten years ago in Brighton. I had just come out as a lesbian, and I came away from the whole loud, colourful and slightly sweaty experience with a strong sense that I had met ‘my people’. The feeling of being able to march with thousands of people with whom you share common ground is fantastic.

I go to Pride to celebrate the LGBT community, to make sure that we are recognised in the constant, wearing fighting against prejudice, and to support my partner in her sexual identity.

So why did I nearly not go to my local Pride march yesterday? Partly because of the politics – every Pride has problems with infighting, squabbles and Facebook flaming, it would seem, and I understand that this is pretty much a part of organising a large event. Particularly one that tries to draw together and cater for a very disparate audience. But for an event that is supposed to be about inclusivity and celebration, this conflict can easily alienate the very people the event is supposed to be for.

Partly because I don’t feel I really belong. I know transmen who stop going to Pride events because they feel they are no longer relevant to them, and whilst I don’t fully agree with that sentiment, I can see where it comes from. Larger events may be different, by my experience is that Pride focuses heavily on the L and G, the B gets very little coverage, and the T…yes, I know we’re a relatively small group, but I sometimes get the impression that organisers don’t know quite what to do with us. Or for us. Saying this, at Pride yesterday there was a screening of a fantastic short film by a local trans youth group, which was a glimmer of light in what, for me, was a day of dysphoria and isolation.

Before the march, I went round the various stalls and stands, asking some if they would mind having some of my flyers for the new FTM Norfolk group on their table. They were happy to do this, but one person representing a local trans support group did ask me what the FTM stood for. This example of glaring ignorance aside, there is SO little awareness of and support for FTM-identified people generally, and at Pride specifically, that I’m not surprised a lot of people just stay away.

So what would make Pride better, and more inclusive for transmen? A few years ago I was in the City at around about the time local elections were on, and a member of the Green Party grabbed me and asked if I’d be voting Green. I said I’d love to, but there was no Green candidate in my area, so he said “Well, why don’t YOU do it?” Well, because I’m not a politician. Similarly, I suppose rather than bemoaning the lack of support and visibility, I should get up and do something myself. But you know, it would just be nice if the only way of changing things wasn’t to have to Do It Yourself. I’m not the only ‘out’ transguy in Norfolk, though I suppose I do stick my head above the parapet a little higher than most. Even if I did have the emotional energy to take on the mammoth task of trying to right the balance in provision for transguys at things like Pride, I can’t do it on my own.

So where are the transmen? The problem here, of course, is that a lot of transguys are stealth (not ‘out’), and yesterday I could have walked past hoards of transmen, and never known. We are not a very visible group, which is great in many ways, but it can mean that as a group we are not catered for at LGBT events, and even if someone wants to cater for us, we’re often not around to be consulted.

From my point of view, setting up FTM Norfolk, I KNOW that there are more FTM-identified people out there than the ones I know personally, and the 5 of us that I knew about at Pride yesterday. Short of approaching anyone who looked like they *might* be a transguy and getting my nose broken (don’t worry – I’m not that stupid…) there’s not a lot I can do. That makes me feel very lonely at an event like Pride – far from the Proud T in LGBT, and closer to feeling like an oddball at someone else’s party.

I had a lovely holiday – Will and I ate, drank, walked, drank and ate our way around those bits of the West Country we could easily get to by train. The hotel was…well, what we expected for the money, and the people were very friendly. All of the hotel staff warmed to those nice girls in room 218, and everywhere I went in Bristol and surrounds, I got used to hearing myself referred to as ‘her’. ‘she’ and one of ‘the girls’. Did I say anything? Nope. Did I want to? Of course! But to what end?

Admittedly I probably should have said something the first time the receptionist at the hotel made a friendly reference to ‘her’ when talking to Will about me. But honestly, I was on holiday, and lacked the emotional energy and political drive to go into the ‘actually, it’s him’ routine. Same at the Cider Shop, in the Co-op, and in numerous pubs and eateries. Would I  have gained anything (well, apart from being correctly gendered, obviously!) from correcting them? Maybe I’d have stopped them making assumptions about future guests/customers? Or just made things a bit awkward?

I don’t like making a fuss, but  I will move mountains to make a point if it’s needed. This week, I guess, I just decided that my masculinity wasn’t at any sort of risk by being called the wrong thing. As my lovely counsellor puts it, ‘you know who you are’, and whilst being called ‘she’ and a girl in a strange place where I may never go again sucks, it didn’t make me any less the person I am.

So how do I avoid being misgendered? Well, I dress to suit my gender, have a not-quite-buzz-cut, have no breasts, pack, and have embryonic stubble. Granted, I don’t try to adopt sterotypically ‘masculine’ traits, or gait, but I’m damned if I’ll become a caricature.

Will and I have come up with a cunning plan, though. Check out the photo below – that was me 4 years ago. Now look at the picture taken a few days ago, and tell me I look like a ‘she’? Clearly I need to get me a life-sized cardboard cutout, and carry it round so that people can compare and contrast 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh, and to the  guy begging by the docks who said ‘Thank you, Sir!’ when I slipped him some change, thank YOU. It balanced out a lot of those “she’s”.

A few days ago, my Lady Love and I were wandering through the centre of the City, when a middle-aged man on a bike slowed to a halt in front of us and said “Lesbiaaaans!” in a loud voice. Then rode off. Well, he was 50% right, but I’m still not quite sure what his motivation was. My immediate reaction, weirdly enough, was not to chase after him and tip him off his bike, but a sense of upset that I couldn’t put him right on a few things. After all, chasing after him shouting “Excuse me, sir, I just want to talk to you about my gender identity!!” would be a bit strange.

Now we all know that you can’t tell someone’s sexuality from the way they look, but people do have very stereotyped expectations of “what a lesbian looks like”, and I suppose the Mrs and I both conform to some of those stereotypes. Except that one of us IS a lesbian, and one is a man, who therefore handed in his Lesbian Club membership card some time ago. I identified as a lesbian very proudly for nearly a decade, and I don’t find being called one an insult – why would it be? – except that that is definitely not how I wish to be identified now. For more on this, please see my earlier post So, does that make you both straight now?

My partner and I actually don’t do each other any favours. She identifies very strongly as a lesbian, and does not wish to lose this identity. Sure, she’s married to a transguy, but that doesn’t change her central identity, nor her sexuality. The trouble is, the more like a man I look, the more often she is read by people who don’t know her as straight. Sadly, even some of the people who DO know her have assumed that me transitioning has miraculously changed her sexuality.

The thing is, if people read her as a lesbian, then look at me for confirmation, they are far more likely to assume we are a lesbian couple (me being the REALLY butch one!) and until I grow an enormous beard, that will probably continue to be the case.

So, if I am read correctly, it is to the detriment of Will’s identity, and if she is read correctly, it is to the detriment of mine. And short of getting forehead tattoos proclaiming our preferred identity (which I don’t think would go down very well at work) I guess we both have to ‘suck it up’. Alternatively, we can hope that as society starts to get a clue, people will make fewer assumptions based on appearance and who we are standing next to. I shan’t hold my breath.

I know this is a generalisation, but I think it’s probably fair to say that a lot of trans people have body issues before they transition. I certainly did. I’ve compared my ‘old’ body to a lump of clay: awkward, heavy and lumpen. My relationship with my physical self was rocky, to say the least, and I did not recognise that my corporeal packaging was part of me, other than that I was stuck with it.

Hormones have changed my body, slimming my hips, shrinking my bum, broadening my shoulders, squaring my jaw, pumping up my muscles. Just as potently, my confidence has grown, my ease with my physical self is growing and, like a Venn Diagram slowly closing in on itself, my body is gradually becoming part of me.

Along with the positive changes come an inevitable flipside: I have gruesome acne on my back, my stomach area is fatter (thanks to all the fat that has moved from my hips/bum/etc) and I have hair in some very funny places indeed. But all in all, these are things I can deal with.

I do worry a lot about putting on weight. I’ve been heavier than I am at the moment, by a couple of stone (that’s 28 pounds to some…) and I fear putting that weight back on. I joke that I don’t want to go through all this to end up with a figure like Homer Simpson, but behind that joke is a real concern. I actually weigh exactly the same now as I did before I started T, so I know I’ve probably not got too much to worry about, but fear isn’t always rational. It’s not helped by the various doctors in my life regularly greeting me with “Have you put on weight?” Thanks. And that brings me to the Trans Body Police.

As we transition, I have experienced a general assumption that one’s body and behaviour becomes public property. Intrusive questions about one’s lower anatomy aside, many people do feel free to ‘advise’ or ‘correct’ us, in the misguided hope that we’ll be grateful that we can ‘fit in’ better with some sort of gendered norm. Remarks about the way you walk, dress, carry yourself are seen as being ok. Weight becomes part of conversation. Perhaps I should say to someone “You know, the way you sat down in that chair made you look really mannish, and did you realise that that extra weight you’ve put on recently makes that skirt pretty unflattering”. Hmm – just as well I’m a nice person.

Chatting to transwomen, I’ve heard stories that make my toes curl where people have told them they need to look ‘a certain way’ to be a ‘Real Woman’. “You need bigger tits and should wear skirts more often”, for instance. But it’s not just looks, it’s behaviour. When did it become acceptable to tell someone their behaviour is ‘too masculine’ or ‘not masculine enough’, like there is some sort of gendered behaviour Plimsoll Line?

The trouble is, this isn’t just me ranting about ‘Other People’ not understanding the trans experience. The Trans Body Police come just as often from within the trans community. There are strong expectations for both transmen and transwomen to look and act a certain way, and when insults are wrapped up as advice, particularly from someone perceived as more experienced as yourself, it is easy to see where damage can be done.

Most of us have had to battle years of body dysphoria, years of not fitting in with our gender presentation, or social gendered expectations. Living in a body that feels alien for a long time causes problems that take time and love to unknot. We have made the decision to become ourselves and reunite the physical with the rest of us. A little genuine advice goes a long way, but misplaced comments wound those who definitely do not need to be wounded any more.