The Ripple Effect

The Ripple Effect

When a pebble is dropped in still water the ripples expand across the surface growing larger and larger. Today I am going to ask each of us, who feels able to, to become a little pebble.

Just before my surgery Janey and I discussed the high rate of suicide within the transgender community with Sim Courtie on BBC Radio Wiltshire. The latest statistics show 48% of transgender people attempt suicide before the age of 25. This compares to a figure of 23% among the general population in the same age range.

There are ways we can significantly reduce this figure. In fact, we can almost eradicate it. Statistics have proven that 93% of transgender suicide attempts could be avoided if the transgender individual felt safe, accepted and supported by their family and friends. Teenage years are problematic and stressful at the best of times, but when an individual is faced with the feelings of rejection, isolation and degradation because of their gender identity they are even more vulnerable.

The families of transgender people need support as much as we do. They may not feel the anguish of dysphoria or face the life-changing surgeries and psychological processes as we do but they are being taken on the journey of transition along with us. That cannot be easy.

We may have to wait a long time for our various therapies but they are out there and available to us. Who does a parent turn to when a daughter becomes a son? Who is there to offer understanding and support to a child whose dad is now another mum? What support is given to our partners? To support us there has to be support for our families as and when they need it.

In my time as a support group organizer I have been asked too many times by a parent, a partner, and children the following questions: – “What can I do?” “Who will listen to me?” “Is it my fault?” I believe our families deserve better than this, much better than this. We have to find some way of offering counselling, peer support and networking so there is someone our family members can turn to.

As part of my transition I regularly attend a Gender Identity Clinic in Exeter. On the walls of the waiting room are various posters for the different groups offering support to MtF, FtM, Non-Binary, Trans with disabilities and trans youth. There is nothing at all for our families. This needs to be changed so that the needs of supporting family are recognized. By supporting them they are able to support us and that suicide rate will fall.

As a group STGG and TransSwindon will always welcome our supportive family and friends. We value our allies. Every time a supporter comes to our meetings I see a difference and a greater understanding. I hope they feel as much a part of our community as the transgender members. By working together, we are making a small but valuable dent on that 48%. By making that small difference, the little pebble, the effects ripple outward to the wider community. So if we can be a little pebble, all of us can make a difference that can be lifesaving.


© JG Farmer Litt.D. 2016


Putting the T into LGBT (From Swindon Advertiser)

AFTER decades spent living in fear, Swindon’s transgender community has broken its silence in a bid, at last, to put the T in LGBT.

Source: Putting the T into LGBT (From Swindon Advertiser)

Swindon’s transgender community (From Swindon Advertiser)

“WE are way behind LGB,” says Jeremy Farmer in our feature on pages eight and nine today, ‘”The T is forgotten about.”

Source: Swindon’s transgender community (From Swindon Advertiser)

Swindon Says No to Discrimination

No Discrimination

Saturday 22 August was our official launch night at the Mail Coach. All of us had a great time and were in high spirits. Both staff and customers had been friendly and welcoming. Earlier in the day group members had been asked why the group was needed. The following is a case in point.

This was a night that the ghastly spectre of discrimination should not have raised its ugly head. However an Incident occurred at the Brunel North Car Park. For two of our members at least it made for an unpleasant end to a wonderful night.

A group member needed help to release her car from the car park. After a phone call a guy turned up and announced he could only take cash. The car owner duly went to the nearest cash point to get the money. During her absence two other members of the group were questioned about the car owner’s gender identity in an invasive and inappropriate manner.

It soon became clear this was getting him nowhere so he then proceeded to make sexist and derogatory comments about transgender people to the male member of the group present who was in fact a transman and the group chairman. On the return of the car owner the attendant then offered to make a false entry on the ticket regarding her address, this was duly refused.

A complaint was made to Swindon Borough Council about the incident and has been dealt with in an appropriate and timely manner. The group would like to express its thanks to SBC for showing that discrimination of this nature will not be tolerated in the town.

On receiving notification of SBC’s action the lady who made the complaint said “A good result for all showing Swindon council takes incidents above seriously and lets employees know that the behaviours of the man in question are not tolerated by employers or the general public.”



That ‘Boy Meets Girl’ Show

On the 3rd of September 2015, the BBC marked a turning point in British television with it’s new romantic comedy ‘Boy Meets Girl’, which finally aired after it’s successful pilot earlier in the year. While many may be aware that there have been other shows with transgender characters, none of them have really been centralised around, to the point of being the main protagonist in their own story. Additionally, if there were transgender characters they usually never seen more than a one-off episode. (With notable exceptions like: Orange is the New Black with Laverne Cox and Transparent with Jeffrey Tambor, for example) One that leaves the main character, in a awkward social situation to deal with and one they are left to decide how to confront. Transgender characters were left to become the butt of the joke; and a rather often misguided and out of ignorance, joke at that. One that many may deem comical for a few chuckles but without having any real sense of humour and certainly without realising what the fall out would be, especially with regards to transpeople who may watch it.

When I first heard of the Boy Meets Girl show, I had no real interest in watching it, romcoms just are not my thing; preferring stand-up and sketch shows instead. Indeed had it not been from a request by someone else for a radio show (which I’ll mention later) I really don’t think that I would have watched the show at all. I don’t have much desire to watch anything trans related but not because they don’t have anything to offer but I just don’t get anything from them and are therefore not particularly capable of holding an interest for me even as a transwoman; I know that might seem a tad ironic, even though some may be informational or factual. Its just that I know enough to be sure and more importantly happy with who I am. If they are documentaries about celebrities who have transitioned even less so; there’s something of a freak show peculiarity to them, like they are attempting to film and document a rare species of life which have finally been discovered, or rediscovered if you will. Trying to understand from a naive objectivity and not always putting the proper context of the person’s circumstances and life into perspective.

So naturally watching Boy Meets Girl, I couldn’t help do so with a trace of scepticism. Thankfully I did, as I can honestly say that it left me quite positively buzzing and heart warmed. Even if the show had it’s awkward moments and a somewhat contrived ending line: “I think she is the One!” But then its not that hard to expect from a romantic comedy and one that is actually making many attempts at promoting a positive blossoming relationship. However, while there is humour in Boy Meets Girl, at least from what I have seen in this first episode, it wasn’t laugh out loud funny for me. The funny moments that were there had been built up from elements of truth, of which I’m sure many, transgender or otherwise, could identify with. It also meant that for the first time, in a show including a transgender character I could feel myself wearing a wide smile and not rolling my eyes back into their sockets, literally in some instances, as is usually the case with any show that features transgender or transsexual characters.

While positive and humorous as it was, it unfortunately, does not fully portray the variety of lives that transpeople experience, whether they be good or bad. Indeed there were moments were Judy’s mother and sister go on about her ‘crazy psychiatrist’ and a sleuth of ex-boyfriends that have mistreated her in the past, in reality many transpeople are cast out, beaten and sometimes killed, simply because they are attempting to embrace who they are. My hope is that the story line does progress and help portray this, with as much accuracy as possible without subtracting from the story and humour and it doesn’t simply gloss over the many problems that many more transpeople suffer on a day to day basis. Then again this is meant to be a light hearted romcom, so perhaps expecting more from the a short six episode series could be left as an exception, one in place of just having a for once a simple story line about a transperson who isn’t the punchline to a bad quip about not having been born with the right equipment; even though this was in fact used quite bluntly in the first few minutes, it was used to get it out the way rather than using it as a cheap plot twist. Furthermore, while I was smiling and cringing slightly, I also could feel that minor pang of that inescapable uncomfortable sensation, when Judy was describing what it feels like to be “in a prison without a release date”. Something I’m sure many transpeople would identify as feeling and of whom suffer with the occasional bout of Gender Dysphoria. In this example of emotional revelation from the character, it further highlights how beneficial it can be to having a transgender actor(ess) perform as the character, due to the level of empathy they themselves do possess and bring to the role.

While I hope not to judge an entire show based on the merits of one episode even though it has already been marked as an important step in terms of television. I do wonder if this show will last and not be simple written off as a fad. Unfortunate as it is, transpeople alone won’t be able to carry the show into more series, assuming that they like it too and will undoubtedly require as many non-transpeople enjoying the show as well due to them making up the majority of the vast viewing public. This is why it will be all the more important that the image and the social acceptance of transpeople is developed as much as possible. I hope that this will also provide some momentum for general acceptance for not just transpeople but everyone, to show that transpeople are still fundamentally very human. That we are just trying to live our lives as normally as possible, just as anybody else would.

So the next day after it had aired, I had the rare opportunity to talk about the show on BBC Wiltshire, with my friend and TransSwindon’s front man Jeremy. It was for me personally one of the most nervous thing’s I have had to do, excluding of course the whole ‘coming out’ business in my own story. But despite that, it did feel great to be able to share my views on something that will, underneath it all, affect my life. The public perception of transpeople will need to continuously improve should we all collectively, both transgender and non-transgender, want a better society. The opportunity to talk on the radio as a member of TransSwindon shows that the opportunity for transpeople to give their opinions are being far more respected than they once were and that the combined efforts of TransSwindon admin team, including it’s growing members, is clearly working to give transpeople that much needed voice. Hopefully it is evident that we are now, as a community, slowly but surely being given the chance to make the most of our lives from opportunities that we have been seeking for so many years.

Laura Steel

Unequal Marriage

UnEqual Marriage Pic

In the UK we now have ‘equal marriage’ because a man can marry a man and a woman can marry a woman. That is fantastic and truly a remarkable step forward. However I refuse to call it equal marriage because it is far from equal for some people in the UK.

What has ‘equal marriage’ done for transgender people? Yet again transgender people have been marginalised and ignored by LGBT equality changes.

Since 1971 transgender people have been without the rights of either their assigned or new gender. Yes you read that right – without rights! In 2004 the Gender Recognition Act created the Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) that enabled transgender people to obtain new birth certificates and some protection in law such as anti-discrimination in the workplace.

However a transgender person remained unable to obtain a GRC if they were married unless the marriage was ended before application for gender reassignment.

The Equal Marriage Act has not eliminated that injustice. Instead there is Spousal Veto. What does that mean? A transgender person can remain married but the marriage can only continue with the spouse’s consent. Without spousal permission the transgender person can only obtain an interim GRC until the marriage is ended. Given a transgender person will be well into the physical transition to new their gender by the time they apply for GRC spousal veto is a mute piece of legislation that can only make the transgender person feel discriminated against by the Equal Marriage Act, an act that does not make marriage equal.

Laura’s Thoughts on Launch Day



So yesterday was yet another long day. Spending it in the company of friends at the Central Community Centre in Swindon. Who have formed the activism group called TransSwindon, in which yesterday saw it’s official launch.

The group is dedicated to providing information on Trans issues, support and a crisis line for those in need and ultimately raise awareness and acceptance of all Transpeople in the Swindon & Wiltshire area. The jumble sale held yesterday helped raise enough money to not only cover the cost but to raise a profit, which will help fuel the group’s future activities.

Later at The Mail Couch, there was live poetry, which dealt with the pain of being Trans. A brilliant statement from one of the groups qualified councilors; highlighting many of the problems Transpeople still face. As well as a little bit of of a buffet and karaoke for added entertainment.

There will also be an article in a few weeks in the Swindon Advertiser, which had a journalist covering the event and those involved.


by Laura Steel

Pride 2015 and Group Launch


This month has seen TransSwindon begin its role as an active group within both the LGBT community and the local community. Everyone who has spoken to or messaged me had only positive things to say.

For the first time Trans had a presence at Swindon Pride. So many people of all ages came up and talked to us about transgender issues. There is no way we can say our group is not needed.

Our own launch day was an amazing success. An emotional, exhausting, nerve-stretching, and did I say emotional day for us all. It was also a day from which we can all take a sense of pride in what we can do, what we have achieved and in ourselves.

Already we have had contact from people asking advice or seeking support – that is what we are here for. We also have a fantastic relationship with the local media and for those of us who talk with the media it may be difficult to be open about our personal journeys the fact is it is by being so we reach out to someone who feels alone, depressed and needs to talk.

The speeches and poetry readings at our launch event emphasized the problems transgender people and their families face and the lack of equal rights transgender people deal with on a daily basis. Bringing about an awareness through information and education is the strongest step forward we can make.

The T in LGBT cannot afford to be silent anymore and we are making the noise now. We are not going to be silenced.


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We Are TransSwindon – Jez



Jez, a trans man, is 49 years old and is currently what he calls a work in progress at just over a year in to the medical process of transition. He started his journey at 25 after his relationship broke down. Initially presenting as a male in his private life when the urge took him. Jez has two sons, now adults, and once they were both past 18 he started living as a full-time male occasionally stepping back into neutral when he had to avoid being ‘out’. He now works as a writer, trans advocate and activist for transgender rights.

Jez knew at the age of 6 he was a boy but back in the 1970s no one understood that so it was never heard. His parents labelled him a tomboy and any expression of male identity was frowned upon. “I do not blame anyone it was just how it was back then.”

Telling his parents their only daughter is in fact a man was the hardest thing he has ever done. His mother still sees it that he has killed her daughter and that has been a bitter pill to swallow, he is under therapy to helped him through that.

He rarely has any prejudicial problems as he was blessed with facial hair and a deeper voice. However, on his blog and as a support group organiser he does get a fair bit of hate mail from across the internet.

He uses the gel Tostran as he wanted to be proactive in his transition and hates needles. “My morning routine is shower, apply gel, shave and dress and I really do feel part of the process.”

He has been on T for 8 months now and the noticeable changes are his voice is much deeper, goatee is thicker and at last he has a mustache. Jez is also developing coarse and more pronounced body hair on his chest, back arms and legs. He gets aches and pains in his upper body, my arms and legs where the muscle density is changing.

Jez is more mentally and emotionally balanced than has ever felt in his life and thinks that is partly the T and partly being so active in the process. He has loads more energy and goes cycling and weight-training on a regular basis.

We Are TransSwindon – Laura



Laura is a 29 year old transwoman who has been transitioning since 2011. As well as being one of the core members of the TransSwindon admin team, she is a student starting at Bath University in the autumn. Her interests include video games, socializing, digital painting and comedy.

Laura never really considered herself a trans person until after she came out to her parents at 24. She had an inclining of who she was around the age of 8; as I was under the impression that I was a woman in a past life. She would also imagine myself as female characters in the books she read, such as She-Ra from He-Man rather than He-Man himself. In her teens Laura would also try on female clothes, as she found them to be more comfortable. At 16 Laura found that she couldn’t form relationships with women leaving her confused with regards to both her gender and sexuality. However a work accident put any attempt to discover herself on hold.

Laura’s feelings never really stopped, as she could never stop thinking about who she was and how she should express it. She managed to partially surpass them in her schools years due to bullying although that nothing to do with being transgender but was provoked by her small stature making her an easy target. After nthe accident at 18 left her needing to focus on getting physically and mentally better she was forced to focus on rediscovering who she was; in terms of being trapped in the wrong body. This turned to depression as Laura could not think how she could tell her parents.

After Laura witnessed her sister’s pregnancy and held her niece for the first time the feelings of awe and jealousy made her identity and she knew she had to embrace it to be happy in her life.

Telling my parents took years and almost resulted in Laura taking her own life due to the stress. Fortunately she thought she should at least tell her parents before taking that decision. Being completely open with her family put Laura on the path she is now. Then came the coming out on to her friends and family on social media – so far none of them have given a negative reaction.

The biggest problem has been the inevitable waiting which has been by her hiding away and the condition of osteopenia. The medical professions consider her a “pretty straight-forward case.”

For Laura the effects of HRT have been breast growth, smoother skin and softer hair. There has also been a small but significant shift in body shape. On the negative side she has had to deal with minor aches and pains due to muscle changes and nausea.

“Over the years I have been given the opportunity to not only be myself completely but to grow and develop who I am through constant analysis of the world around me and and place it in. I have also become a lot more open to other people and have made many friends since the start of my transition, both transgender and cisgender. It ultimately has allowed me to finally start living my life the way I chose and as much as possible.”

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