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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.”