Smokey Eye Tutorial

This weekend, the lovely Holly Willis reacted to a post we shared on our Facebook page about how to do a Smokey eye look.  So what else could I do when I got to the shop today but prepare a little tutorial ?  Hope you like it Holly, Kate, Alyssa, Sara, Marijke and everyone else !!!

Step one – PRIME !!!

Primer – why aren’t you using it yet ?

Even though step one on all my makeup tutorials is to prime, it’s worth while repeating it here.  Every great artist starts with a properly primed and prepared canvass and you should too !!!  As well as drinking lots of water, adopting a good skincare regime and staying out of sunlight, an absolute essential for good makeup application is to use primer.

It won’t surprise you to learn that I personally use Younique primer, which you can get from my main site here, primarily because it’s a great mid price range product which gives a nice finish, but there are a  number out there to suit all budgets – just be sure to choose one and use it. OK ?



Step two – choose your shade


Pallette 1
Pallette 1 – Warm Peach

Today I’m going to be working on Denise who has the most lovely shade of green eyes.  Green (and brown eyes) are great to work on as a makeup artist as they suit a number of colour pallettes that makeup companies produce.

Pallette 2
Palette 2 – Grey and Silver

I’m using a mix of Palletes 1 and 2 from Youniques range of eye-shadows here today as they’re the backbone of my kit, but in general, you’ll find a single palette is ideal for creating your look.  The only reason I’m using two pallettes on Denise today is that I wanted to use the mid shade of palette 2 to generate more of a contrast around her eye, which you’ll see later.

Step three – lets get started !!

Step two  –

To start with, I’m going to use shade 1 of palette 1 to apply the first base layer, using a shadow brush (I prefer to use this brush to start with, moving to a blending brush for the final stages).  The reason for using this neutral colour today is to emphasise the eye definition which I’ll be applying in stage fourThe reason for using this neutral colour today is to emphasise the eye definition which I’ll be applying in stage four.  The key point is that you don’t apply too much powder and to get it reasonably even (Don’t worry too much about it as we’ll be blending later).  You want to let the colours do the work for you, rather than layer on layer upon layer after colour.  This can cause flecks of shadow to drop of the eye onto the upper cheek area and make you look a little speckly.  In general I apply two layers of each colour and certainly no more than three.  If you find you’re using more, you’re probably using a low pigment colour content powder and it might be time to reconsider the brand that you’re using.  I say this because lots of layers of makeup tend to drag the eye down. make you look older (sounds weird but it’s true) and make it look as if you are trying to hide something with your makeup.  Ideally you want to keep it nice and light.

Stage four – eye definition

Picture 2
Step three – Using a pencil on the lower eye area

So, I’ve got a nice coloured even base, the next thing to do is to start defining the eyes. In order to match palette 1, I’m going to be using the prim chocolate shade of the Moodstruck precision pencil eyeliner below the area for the lower eyeliner, and the proper, dark chocolate shade of the Moodstruck Liquid eyeliner for the upper and lower eye edge definition.  Two things to note here are that you want your pencil to be a soft “kohl” style one, because you’re going to be smudging this out later and the eyeliner itself needs to be capable of generating a really hard line, in order to get the edge definition to blend into.  As you’ll see in the picture on the left, I’ve given Denise a little bit of a “cat eye” ( eyeliner which extends past the outer edge of the eye)

Picture 3
Using a liquid eyeliner to create a strong bold edge definition

The reason I’ve done this is to give a edge to blend the main part of the eyeshadow into, past the eye, which will extend it and make the look more dramatic.  You’ll also see that I accidentally went a bit wonky with the pencil in the corner of the eye.  If the same happens to you, don’t worry about it, the smudging will cover all later !!!! Although some makeup tutorials suggest applying the eyeliner first and then the pencil, I personally prefer the other way around, as I find the edge definition holds a little better.  But that’s just personal preference.


Step five – Little bit of smudging !!

Picture 4
Smudge the lower eye pencilled area to even out the application

Now that we’ve got the eye defined, we just need to smudge the lower pencil line.  Taking a clean brush (this bits really important, you don’t want to drag in colour from other areas of the eye) lightly brush over the pencil line that you applied in stage four.  You might need to add another layer of pencil at this stage to build up a little bit of colour as you’ll probably find that the brush will pull some colour off.  Another good reason for using a clean brush (or a ear bud) at this stage is that it allows you to correct any mistakes that you may have made (remember that wonky edge ? – GONE !!!)


The shape you’re aiming to create blends out to nothing at either edge and about 3-4mm depth in the middle.  I personally find it easier to blend from the inner eye to the outer edge in a smooth gentle motion, adding the odd spot of pencil in the middle to get the shape in the picture.  Don’t be afraid to take it to the edge of the cats eye that you created earlier to extend the eye.  It will all make sense in a bit !!!

Step six – bring the colour !!

Picture 5
First application of colour.  Note where it starts and stops and the taper on the front edge

Edges done, its time to add the colour which is the signature of the smokey eye look.  Going back to palette 1, I’m using shades 5 and 6 from the pallete and shade 4 off palette 2 for Denise’s look today.  The trick here is that I’m applying the darker shade first and then the lighter shades over the top of it.  Again, some tutorials that you see will show a transition from light to dark, but I prefer to apply the other way around.  The reason being that it adds depth to the lighter colours and makes the blending that we’ll be doing later really shine.    You’ll see in the picture that to start with, I’m only applying the darker colour from the middle of the eyelid out to the edge of the cats eye that I created in stage four.  You should also notice that I’ve applied it in a taper on the front edge.

Picture 5a
Add shimmer and shine with your lighter metallic shade

The reason for this is that it opens the inner eye up and creates a more natural shape for the eyelid. Next, I’m using shades five from palette 2 and shade four from palette 1 on the inner edge of the eye.  Although I’m using three colours here for my colours, most Smokey eye looks are a blend of two colours directly from a single palette.  If you’d prefer, leave out shade four from palette 1 (You’ll save yourself a little blending later) Again, a couple of key points of this stage are, use a clean brush and don’t take the lighter colours all the way to the inside of the eye.  Remember, you’re not looking for smooth transitions at this point, as you’re going to be blending later.


Step seven – Blend girl blend !!! Get the look !!!


Picture 6
Blend the edges – you can carry it up into the brow area to add shape and arch

Edges defined, colour applied, its time for the most fun bit, blending !!! This is where you bland and smudge (carefully) in a range of stokes across the eyelid.  You can also be a little daring and take it up into the eyebrow area as you can see here.  The nice thing about using shades four and five as I did here is that it creates the “shimmer” that you can see in the picture, which lightens the whole overall eye.  For blending, I recommend you use a specialist brush, like the one in the link, but I also use blending buds occasionally, depending on the consistency of the powder that I’m blending.

Picture 8
And voila !!! one Smokey eye look !!!

You’ll get to work out which one works best for you with practice and depending on which makeup brand you use.


Finish the look with some of Younique’s epic lash mascara to really add to the look – you wont regret it !!!

There really isn’t a product like this on the market at the moment – it’s just that Younique !!!!

Get yours here – You’ll thank me later !!!

Know the basics – Makeup Primer


makeup primerI was asked this weekend by the lovely “Friend of the store” Allison (it’s a new thing for us – go with it !!!) if I could write some articles going over some Makeup basics, which sounded like a great idea to me !!!

I thought for this series of articles, I’d start with (naturally enough) makeup primer. If you’re one of the many ladies who don’t use (or have heard of) this little gem, this essential is a worthwhile addition to your makeup bag. So, come with me into the store and let’s have a play !!! After all, that’s how I roll !!!)

Younique Touch Glorious Primer
As you know, I present for Younique and their version is called “Touch Glorious primer” which you can find here. If you’ve not tried Younique, or prefer a different makeup brand, don’t worry, pretty much all of what I’ll be talking about here is equally applicable to other brands products, so you won’t be losing out, except when I’m talking about ingredients, which I know a lot of girls are interested in, particularly when it comes to using a product that is cruelty free. So let’s get that out the way first shall we ? Are you ready ? Here comes the sciencey bit !!
Younique’s primer contains the following ingredients. Isododecane, Dimethicone, Polysilicone-11, Coco-Caprylate/Caprate, Dimethyl Isosorbide, Retinyl Palmitate, Ascorbic Acid and Tocopheryl Acetate. That’s a lot of chemistry !!! But you needn’t worry, like a lot of cosmetics suppliers, Younique is cruelty free and I’m sure your preferred brand will be too.
Most primers contain silicon-polymers which help flatten out or smooth the skin, so you’ll probably notice your products ingredients will be similar to the above. Taking the above list as an example though, if like me, you have sensitive skin, the ones to look for are Dimethicone and Retinyl variants. The reason for this is that they can cause some skin irritation, or in extreme circumstances and allergic reaction, so it’s worth getting a small sample to check before you start using, particularly if you suffer with acne or eczema.

How do primers work ???

Unlike a moisturiser, which you apply to soften the skin, a primer smoothens the skin, improves the adhesion of your makeup and hence it’s resistance to coming off through the day. When used over nourished skin they create a thin, weightless film on the surface of your skin, which provides the key for your foundation to stick to. It can also help keep your foundation in place in wet or humid environments (it can even help if you tend to sweat your makeup off during the day !!!)

How to apply your primer

Apply your primer in a circular motion over your skin
You should apply your choice of primer onto clean, dry skin, but you don’t need a lot. This is definitely a case of less is more !!!! A spot the size of a 5p coin (or similar) is enough for most people. All you need to do is massage it into your skin with your finger tips in a circular motion. Some people find it easier to apply under their eyes using a small, thin brush (like an eyeshadow brush) but I don’t find a need to do this personally. Some people also find the area under their eyes to be a little more sensitive than the rest of their face and will use a specialist, gentler eye primer, but, even with my sensitive skin, I don’t tend to find I need this. The key after application is to allow it to dry on the skin for a 2-3 minutes to get completely dry before you apply the rest of your makeup.

Advantages of Using Makeup Primer

As a makeup artist, makeup primer is an essential piece of kit, which I always keep to hand in my makeup bag of tricks.  Why ? Well, here’s my top 3 reasons……….!!!
  • It reduces the appearance of pores – I’m not proud of it, but just to the side of my nose, I have a large pore (You could probably serve dip out of it at parties, gross but true). If like me, you have the occasional deep pore, you’ll find that using a primer will seal, fill and reduces their appearance. Even if you’re one of those lucky women who are blessed with small pores, you’ll find that it a useful to use a primer, particularly if you use a liquid foundation, which can sometimes magnify their appearance.
  • It smoothens your skin and evens its tone – Using a primer will make your skin smooth and soft to the touch – Glorious !!!! (See what I did there ?) If you have redness, burst blood vessels, moles or freckles on the face, a primer will help minimize all these. Using a Primer, gives your skin a smoother more even tone. It will also help with evening out fine lines around the eyes or edges of the lips.
  • It makes the makeup more resisilient – The main task of a primer is to make your makeup more resistant. A primer helps reduce sweating through the pores; it helps the makeup remain longer held in its place. A primer also acts as a certain shield for dust, water, and dirt, which erases makeup.
So, finishing up, a makeup primer is really simple to use. It dries instantly without leaving a sticky sensation. And reduces the appearance of fine lines, pores and skin redness. Don’t think of it as adding more time to your daily beauty ritual. Think of it as adding 2-3 minutes, which will give you extra confidence that smudged makeup is a thing of the past, as well as the need for constant re-applying !!! (And if you are worried about the 2-3 minutes, use it to work on your nails with some lovely Jamberry Nail wraps !!!!)
I’d love to know what your experience of using makeup primer is, or, if reading this you’re tempted to try it – why not pop me a line and tell me ?
Love always

2017 UK Pride dates


Eleanor popped us a message on Saturday, asking if we knew when a pride event was happening in her area, so we created this little list of the main 2017 events to share with you – if you’d like some help looking fabulous for your big weekend – be sure to let us know !!  You can contact us through our main page at


This years pride events !!

  •  Belfast Gay Pride                              2017-07-28 to 2017-08-06
  • Website :-                                 
  • Birmingham Gay Pride                   2017-05-27 and 2017-05-28
  • Website :-                                 
  • Blackpool Pride                                 2017-06-11 and 2017-06-12
  • Website :-                                 
  • Brighton Pride                                   2017-08-04 to 2017-08-06
  • Website :-                                 
  • Brighton Trans Pride                       2017-07-21
  • Website :-                                 
  • Bristol Pride                                       2017-06-30 to 2017-07-09
  • Website :-                                 
  • Burnley Pride                                     2017-05-26
  • Website :-                                 
  • Canterbury Pride                              2017-06-10
  • Website :-                                 
  • Chester Pride                                     2017-08-19
  • Website :-                                 
  • Coventry Pride                                  2017-06-10 to 2017-06-11
  • Website :-                                 
  • Cymru Pride                                       2017-08-25 to 2017-08-27
  • Website :-                                 
  • Doncaster Pride                                2017-08-19
  • Website :-                                 
  • Dublin Pride                                       2017-06-24
  • Website :-                                 
  • Durham Pride                                    2017-05-29
  • Website :-                                 
  • Eastbourne Gay Pride                     2017-07-22
  • Website :-                                 
  • Essex Pride                                         2017-06-24
  • Website :-                                 
  • Exeter Pride                                       2017-05-13
  • Website :-                                 
  • Exmouth Pride                                  2017-07-01
  • Website :-                                 
  • Flintshire Pride                                  2017-05-27
  • Website :-                                 
  • Gloucestershire Gay Pride            2017-06-10
  • Website :-                                 
  • Hampshire Pride                               2017-02-25
  • Website :-                                 
  • Hereford Pride                                  2017-07-29
  • Website :-                                 
  • Herts Pride                                         2017-09-02
  • Website :-                                 
  • Hull Pride                                            2017-07-22
  • Website :-                                 
  • Lancaster Pride                                 2017-05-20
  • Website :-                                 
  • Leeds Gay Pride                                2017-08-05
  • Website :-                                 
  • Liverpool Pride                                  2017-07-29
  • Website :-                                 
  • London Pride                                     2017-06-24 to 2017-07-09
  • Website :-                                 
  • Manchester Pride                            2017-08-25
  • Website :-                                 
  • Newcastle Pride                               2017-07-21
  • Website :-                                 
  • Norwich Pride                                    2017-07-29
  • Website :-                                 
  • Oxford Pride                                      2017-06-03
  • Website :-                                 
  • Plymouth Pride                                 2017-08-05
  • Website :-                                 
  • Pride Cymru                                       2017-08-25 to 2017-08-27
  • Website :-                                 
  • Pride Sheffield                                  2017-07-29
  • Wesbite :-                                 
  • Reading Pride                                    2017-09-02
  • Website :-                                 
  • Rotherham Pride                              2017-07-15
  • Website :-                                 
  • Sheffield Pride                                  2017-07-29
  • Website :-                                 
  • Southampton Pride                         2017-08-26
  • Website :-                                 
  • Sparkle                                                 2017-07-07
  • Website :-                                 
  • Totnes Pride                                       2017-09-02
  • Website :-                                 
  • Walsall Gay Pride                             2017-08-26
  • Website :-                                 
  • Warwickshire Pride                         2017-08-19
  • Website :-                                 
  • Weston Super Mare Pride            2017-07-29
  • Website :-                                 
  • York Pride                                           2017-06-10
  • Website :-                                 

October Cover Girl

Well !!! What a month September was !!! Not only did I have a wonderful holiday travelling through Australia and Samoa for over three weeks meeting friends and just generally relaxing, but when I got back, I received the wonderful news that we had raised over £100 for the transgender charity “My Umbrella” and as if that wasn’t enough, I had the pleasure of announcing that the lovely Sara-Jayne Crawford as the winner of our cover girl competition !!! Just look at her lovely smile !!!

Sarah will be featured in our October “YNotBu” magazine, which will be the first release since we acquired the rights to the magazine in August, something we’re super excited about – we cant wait to share it with you and some of our new ideas for it !!!

Trans – a memoir by Juliet Jacques

TransI bought this book recently and was so pleased it came just before my short break in the lake district. I’ve been a fan of Juliet’s for ages and was absolutely thrilled when I heard she was working on a book and even more excited to get my hands on it.

For me, Juliet is one of the unsung heroes of the trans community here in the UK. Just one of those people who have moved beyond the label of transgender and lives her life. Intelligent, well written and insightful, I got through the paper copy in just under a week of night time reading and then bought the kindle copy so that I could conveniently take it around with me and return to it often, which I look forward to !!! (There’s even an audiobook now !!)

With the mainstream media adopting an increasing number of transgender personalities and their stories into their regular broadcasting, it would be easy to lose sight of  something as special as this book.  But what makes it so good ?  Well, firstly, it’s written in such a personal, enjoyable style, but if you knew her, you’d expect that.  She is a talented journalist and writer, regularly appearing in UK national newspapers and magazines.  Even with that expectation though, you still aren’t prepared for how good it is, which is for the second reason.  “Trans – a memoir” is Juliet’s own personal and very detailed account of what it’s like to be transgender.  Even being trans myself,  I learnt a huge amount from reading it, not least of which was once you pick it up, you can’t put it back down again !!!  A definite must read for anyone interested in learning about transgender issues.

I would describe it as an honest, funny, brave and moving story through gender expression and maybe even feminism.  More than that, it’s about gender variance and it’s difficult interaction with social acceptance. It beautifully describes Juliet’s experiences in such a moving way, you’re struck by not just how likeable and brave she is, but also how much you want her to be her friend (seriously – she’s SO nice !!!)  She deals with really difficult situations through her transition with an inner calm and voice which should act an inspiration and model for people going through their own transition.  It’s all in here, self acceptance, the frustration with the NHS, recognition from family and friends, feeling good in your own skin afterwards, it’s all in here.  Intimately told, it’s a fascinating personal stories that will linger in the mind and memory long after you’ve archived it back to your library shelf to look at with happy memories.

I genuinely hope you don’t just read this review, either here or on Amazon, I wish that you go out and buy it.  It’s a great addition to the increasing library of meaningful trans literature and manages to explain the intricacies of a huge variety of genders and sexualities, the history of feminism and transgender, ethical dilemmas of confessional journalism, and a lot of Trans film and culture while weaving it all through her own story. Personal and political and incredibly well executed. Her writing on depression is incredibly sensitive and eloquent.  This is written so well. Gives a very detailed experience of what it’s like to be transgender – I learnt a huge amount from reading it, and could not put it down. A definite read for everyone.

Would happily recommend this as a worthwhile addition to the libraries of trans people out there from an important woman. Read it, treasure it and celebrate it.

You can buy “Trans – a memoir” at the following link – as I said, it’s available in a variety of formats – pick your favourite and dive in !!!

Care of elderly trans people

elderly care

Picture the scene.  You look into a room and see a care worker struggling to help an elderly woman out of bed and dressed.  The woman is scared, and actively trying to stop the care worker helping.

The scene is punctuated with increasingly vocal protestations from the woman “Get off me !!”, “They’re not mine !!”, “Leave me alone !!”  Frustrated, the care worker eventually gives up, at a loss to know what to do and instead turns her attention to trying to calm the situation down.  Eventually, some 10 minutes later, the woman is back in bed rigid and tense beneath the covers and the care worker has retreated to the relative safety of her other residents and her colleagues.

You’re probably thinking the elderly woman is suffering with something like dementia or maybe altzheimers. And in truth, you’re partly right.  But the reality is a little more complicated.  The elderly woman is transgender, she transitioned some time ago, but now, because of failing mental health, no longer remembers a thing about it.  “It happens quite a bit with Mrs Cairson” (Not her real name) when I ask the nurse.  “It’s very unsettling for the staff and the other residents here.  So we try to give her some time and talk to her when it happens and let her calm down.  But it’s not always easy.  We’re struggling to balance her needs with others who have similar issues” .  “Although we want to try and integrate her into the home, she regularly gets upset or confused and it affects our other residents.  We’re finding that to keep her separate makes it easier for us to manage the peace in the facility.  We know it’s not the best answer for her, but, it’s the most practical solution we have at the moment”

Here in the UK many residential care facilities are ill-equipped and poorly trained to manage the needs of elderly transgender people, who fear that a move to assisted living may leave them vulnerable to discrimination and harassment.  Worse still, because of issues with her family and friends when Mrs Cairson transitioned, she is isolated and alone.  When I ask, the staff nurse tells me “You’re the first person who has visited her this year”.  Think about that for a moment.  She has family. It’s now June. That’s a long time to be alone and for anyone to hold onto hate.

“Ruby’s” (Mrs Cairson to you and me) situation is only one aspect of the problems facing Trans people in care.  She at least transitioned and is congruent with her gender identity.  A considerable number of trans people actually don’t complete their transition with surgery, either because of the cost, or other difficulties (such as decreased sexual function).  This is particularly true for Female to Male (FTM) transgender people.  When these people disrobe in a care home setting, they’re automatically “outed” which creates problems supporting trans people in residential care. As Kyle told me

I think women would have a problem with me sharing with them and I’d have a problem with a men unless I transitioned.  In truth, I don’t think I would want anyone to know about me, but with what I expect to be the level of gossip in such a confined space, I wouldn’t expect my “secret” would last a minute.

Bi-gendered people also struggle to thrive in care homes too.  They often fear that the homes policy will force them to be totally one gender or the other and exiled from the gender identity bringing them more distress.  As an attempt to appease the situation, one care home I went to told me “we allow trans residents to dress in appropriate clothes in their own rooms.  That is, when their room-mate is agreeable”.  Does this really sound like a solution ?

Many people I have spoken to have said “they would prefer to be left to die at home rather than be in a residential care home facility”.  When I asked why, the most common concern is the type of care they think they would receive, as well as if their gender identities be respected, allowing them to live their last moments with grace and dignity.

Past research has found that many transgender people avoid seeing a doctor for fear of being ostracized. Of those who do seek health care, a survey of transgender people found that 22 percent had suffered harassment in medical settings, including ridicule or rough treatment. 15 percent said that they had been denied care altogether by doctors and other providers, and 50 percent reported having to educate their medical providers on transgender care.

Isn’t it time for a better solution ?

Gender Conversion Therapy


Recently, a book club that I belong to featured a book called the “Miseducation of Cameron Post” which is a story about a young woman who is sent to a religious school for “conversion therapy” in response to her homosexuality.  Conversion therapy, (sometimes known as reparative therapy) is a range of discredited practices which falsely claim to be able to change a person’s gender identity, largely through prayer or other religious efforts.

Although the practice has been rejected as “pseudoscience” by mainstream medical and mental health organisations since the early 1990s, some practitioners continue to practice the technique.  The highest-profile advocates of conversion therapy tend to be fundamentalist Christian groups who use religious justification for the therapy in partnership with such organisations as the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) and People Can Change. These groups promote the concept that an individual can change their gender identity either through prayer, or through so-called “reparative” or “conversion” therapy.

Minors are especially vulnerable, with conversion therapy often leading to depression, anxiety and in some instances, suicide, as in the case of Leelah Alcorn.  Leelah’s untimely death in 2014 prompted President Obama to support calls for “Leelah’s law” which sought to ban conversion therapy across the USA.  Since these calls, California, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Oregon and the District of Columbia have passed laws to prevent licensed mental health providers from offering conversion therapy to minors, and more than 20 states have introduced similar legislation. Oklahoma however, has introduced legislation which would specifically legitimize conversion therapy and immunize it from state oversight.

Since the introduction of legislation, there have been a number of challenges from supporters of each side of the argument.  Those campaigning against the law tend to focus their efforts on challenging the law directly, such as in the instances in California in  2013 and in New Jersey in 2015 and 2016.  Those campaigning for the law have based their efforts on enforcing consumer protection law, by alleging advertisements and business practices which claim they can change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity constitute deceptive, false, and misleading practices which can cause serious harm to consumers.

There is significant anecdotal evidence of harm to LGBT people resulting from attempts to change their sexual orientation and gender identity. Based on this body of evidence, every major medical and mental health organization in the United States as well as the NHS here in the UK have issued statements condemning the use of conversion therapy.  Even  Psychiatrist Dr. L. Spitzer, who once offered a study on reparative therapy, has since denounced the practice and has apologized for endorsing the practice.

Consider these statistics, that Trans people (and other LGB classes) who are subjected to “conversion therapy ” are  :-

  • More than 8 times as likely to have attempted suicide.
  • Nearly 6 times as likely to report high levels of depression.
  • More than 3 times as likely to use illegal drugs.
  • More than 3 times as likely to be at high risk for HIV and STDs.

Opponents of a ban (hard to believe they STILL exist isn’t it ?!?!) on the practice believe gender identity in gender-nonconforming children is as-yet unformed. They point out that some grow up to be gay or lesbian, rather than transgender, so therefore efforts to change their gender nonconformity may result in happy gay and lesbian adults, rather than transgender adults “doomed” to what they believe is a a sad life of hormone treatments and surgeries.  For these critics, conversion therapy in pre-pubertal children focuses on changing gender-nonconforming behaviour, asserting that pre-homosexual and pre-transgender children can’t be distinguished before puberty.

The reality is though that conversion therapy has been shown to be extremely dangerous and, in some cases, fatal. In 2009, the APA issued a report concluding “the reported risks of the practices include: depression, guilt, helplessness, hopelessness, shame, social withdrawal, suicidality, substance abuse, stress, disappointment, self-blame, decreased self-esteem and authenticity to others, increased self-hatred, hostility and blame toward parents, feelings of anger and betrayal, loss of friends and potential romantic partners, problems in sexual and emotional intimacy, sexual dysfunction, high-risk sexual behaviors, a feeling of being dehumanized and untrue to self, a loss of faith, and a sense of having wasted time and resources.”


Why is the bathroom so important to transgender rights ?

ToiletsJust recently in the USA, the ever thorny issue of transgender peoples use of the bathroom once again flared up with the news that a US judge has ruled against a Virginia transgender toilet ban.  This reversal has simultaneously re-invigorated transgender activists, galvanised conservative opinion and led to confusion among legislators across the USA.  It’s also led to a project to develop a mobile app which maps “safe toilets” for transgender people to use.  Sometimes referred to as  “bathroom bills”, this type legislature has emerged as one of the most contentious remaining battlegrounds over transgender rights.

But why have toilets become synonymous with the fight for transgender rights in the USA and polarised opinion ?  Well following on from my previous blog about my own experiences, I thought it would help to summarise the most recent incidents, offer some statistics and commentary.


Last month, to much fanfare, legislators in Charlotte, North Carolina passed a law to make enable transgender people could use toilets of the gender they identified with.  But then, shortly after, North Carolina state legislators effectively over turned that by passing a bill  which removed that (and other) protections for various minority groups.

Going the other way, an appeals court overturned a Virginia school policy that barred a transgender student from using the mens toilet,  referring to it as discriminatory.  Previously though, a federal judge had earlier rejected the students sex discrimination claim, saying Title IX ( a federal law which prohibits gender discrimination at schools that receive federal funding) only protects students from discrimination based on biological sex, not gender identity.

These incidents are by no means isolated either.  In Florida, a House committee passed a bill on March 4 that would make it a misdemeanor for anyone to knowingly enter a bathroom that didn’t match the sex on their driver’s license or passport.  In retaliation, a number of trans people have started posting pictures of themselves in restrooms across America to highlight the discrimination laws like this facilitate.  In Maine, the state governer stopped his administration from promulgating new rules that would punish schools that do not allow transgender students to use the restrooms, showers, and other accommodations of the opposite biological sex

The two views

Those that argue in favour of “anti” legislation justify their position with the following points.  Firstly, they argue that legislation which allows transgender people to use the bathrooms of their gender identity puts women and children at a higher risk of attack, violence or abuse. Secondly, they point towards transgender people being “deviant and deceptive” and that they have no place in a largely gender binary society.  (Those on the more extreme fringe of the second point actively campaign for the benefits of conversion therapy)

For those that argue in favour of “pro” legislation, the argument is much simpler.   They argue on the basis of equal rights, supplemented by the three key points.  Firstly, in common with all decent, fair minded people, men and women, all transgender people want to do when they use a restroom is use the facilities.  Secondly, labelling transgender people in this way facilitates a misunderstanding of the issue, since there is no documented evidence of a link between people being transgender and being a rapist, abuser or murderer.  Thirdly, transgender people are more likely to suffer attack and abuse in a restroom, than the people laws like this are purported to protect.

Some statistics

  • Currently 18 states have laws protecting people from discrimination based on the sexual orientation or gender identity.
    • Of the states that have passed legislation – media matters presented the following graphic.
  • Three more states have laws which cover just sexual orientation.
  • When polled, Americans
    • Overwhelmingly support LGBT rights.  78% of people support  giving transgender people protections from discrimination in schools and the workplace.  However,
    • They narrowly oppose allowing transgender people to use bathrooms and locker rooms different than the gender they were assigned at birth by a 38% to 37% margin.
  • Transgender people
    • Are more likely to suffer abuse or violence than any other community
    • 45% of hate murders are against transgender women
    • 87% of transgender people have reported being the subject of abuse or violence.


I did a short and admittedly unscientific survey across the groups that I support about hurdles transgender people face in their journey an found that after coming out to friends or family and experiencing violence while out, fear of going to toilet while out was the next biggest fear transgender people worry about.  Kyle Lauder, the facilitator at the Norwich group I support recently made “bathroom etiquette” the subject of a meeting with the graphic to the right. trans toilet

He observed “When you think about it, toilets have a natural order that promotes privacy. Public toilets for the most part are very private places; there are stalls and standard customs that put invisible walls of privacy all around us. I can’t remember the last time, if ever, when I looked at a stranger and decided this was the ideal place to start a conversation.  Lets face it, all that any of us want when we enter a stall, is for it to be clean, have enough toilet paper and water and towels to wash our hands.  Pass a law on that !!”

When you research the “anti” campaign argument in more detail, you notice the point about women and children being at more risk of abuse is often based around assumption that it will come from “straight men dressing as women”. Either from them exposing themselves, staring or verbal/physical violence.  Think about that for a moment.  It’s specifically not singling out transgender people !!!

Even if it was, the fear it infers is based on a definition of Transvestite from the 1960s which suggests “people who dress in clothes (typically underwear) more often associated with the opposite gender, for the purpose of sexual gratification”.  However, most people now understand and accept that “Transgender” (Gender variant) covers a broad spectrum of people – those that wish to move (transition) permanently from one gender to another, those who wish to temporarily wish to present as either gender and those who wish to be neither or even both genders.  None of those definitions have anything to do with the sexuality or motivations of a “straight” man…….  Don’t prejudge them as Transgender simply because you don’t understand the label.  If you want to label the perpetrators of these incidents as anything, label them as perverts or deviants, prosecute them as abusers, sentence them as criminals, reform them as offenders.

Further, I don’t know about you, but I’ve found whenever I catch the tube in London at rush hour, I’m far more likely to be leered at, brushed up against and at worse surreptitiously groped “when someone reaches for something in their bag” (please) than I am in the bathroom.  I’m seldom expectant or demanding that the government passes laws to keep certain people away from me.   These incidents, if they happen, happen at all manner of places and there are existing laws in place to protect ALL of us when they occur.

People being put at risk of being abused by other people is the issue. Transgender people just want to be treated fairly, like all people, not legislated against and have the law protect them.  They need, deserve and are fighting for the same protections as everyone else has. When you see the issue from this angle, you realise that both campaigning interests have the same agenda, protection of people from harm and abuse.  Therefore, they should be campaigning for it as such, rather than trying to score points off, or encourage discrimination against the other !!!!

Here in the UK we have seen in the last few years a number of reported cases of abuse in care homes.  By people who were trusted with the care of frail and vulnerable.  No-one anywhere in the UK has campaigned for care workers to be banned from access to care homes.  It simply wouldn’t work.  Instead, training, registration, background checks, regular surveillance and registration were all parts of the solution.  No-one is or should be suggesting registration of transgender people, but there are other options than legislation.

Moreover, while the transgender community in America is over focussed on their basic rights to use a restroom, bigger issues are being ignored. For instance access to the right medical care, being fired in many states for just being transgender or even the right to exist. On the subject of equality and diversity, surely there’s more significant issues to tackle and work towards resolving ?




Older Transgender issues

Doctor explaining diagnosis to his female patient. Concept of health care for elderly old people, disabled.

Recently, I was chatting to a really sweet friend of mine, Susan*, who I’ve known for almost all my adult life. You’d like Susan.  Everyone does.  She’s generous with her time, home and just one of those nice people that you want to be around.  But she hides a secret, which many in the transgender community would be surprised about.

In her own home, she potters around doing her thing.  Susan is the woman she knows she has always been. However, at work, it’s a different story.  She goes to work in “drab” and uses her male name.  At the male dominated environment where she works, the talk in the canteen is laddish and regularly makes fun of gays and trannies, leers at women, talks of beer and football.  She feels isolated, desperate not to give any signs away.  If you were to ask her, she’d tell you the day she ventures into work as Susan would probably be the day she quits, or is dismissed.

Now approaching retirement, Susan is starting to think about what life after work will look like for her. Although she’s excited about the opportunity she expects retirement to bring in terms of finally being able to express herself as a woman full time,  she wonders if she’ll be able to fund her transition (her plan is to downsize to a flat and put some money away in case she needs to move into care) she worries about the possibility of losing contact with her family and precious grandchildren, even the effects of taking hormones at an older age will be.  She also wonders about the quality of care she can expect to receive if she moves into a care home.

Susan isn’t alone in thinking about these things either. As more and more transgender individuals get older, the challenges they face are becoming more apparent.  But while mainstream media focusses attention on the issues the younger generation face, the challenges early trans pioneers like Susan are facing goes largely un-noticed but grows more urgent.  It’s a situation which has three key elements.

Firstly, studies have shown transgender employees are two and a half times more likely to be unemployed than mainstream society. Moreover, where they are employed, they are more likely to be in jobs which pay on or close to the national minimum wage.  At best, many will live in rented accommodation or worse an unstable housing situation.  Life as a trans person can bring a huge financial disadvantage which can continue to spell trouble for them as they age, retire and enter end-of-life care.  Although Susan is one of the lucky ones in terms of her employment status, she’s concerned about what she sees as a life descending into the poverty trap by funding her own transition.

Secondly, there’s the subject of on-going treatment.  In general most of the information or data on hormone replacement therapy is based on experiences for post menopausal women which is some 30 years old.  So there’s a noticeable gap in knowledge surrounding transgender specific health concerns.  Doctors are literally having to learn by seeing their patients. Hardly surprising when you consider that the average time dedicated to LGBT health issues within most graduate medical training programmes is less than a day over their entire curriculum, though this figure is improving. I recently heard at a support group that a transgender woman had to stop taking her hormones, having discovered a blood clot in her leg.  Her doctor told her this could be just one of the little-known side effects of extended hormone therapy.

Thirdly, there’s the subject of end of life care itself.  Research suggests transgender people are afraid of  residential care facilities.  As Susan herself explains “I’m afraid of growing old in care and being psychologically abused because care staff will refuse to let me live in my preferred gender identity, if I can’t afford to transition, leaving me vulnerable to harassment and mistreatment.  While researching this article, I came across the following statement “Transgender people are three times more likely to kill themselves rather than enter a home and be at the mercy of staff”

So, what can be done to improve these situations ?

Although its a long term fix, getting more transgender people into full time, well paid employment will help.  This will require more companies to embrace LGBT diversity recognising it as a business advantage rather than a penalty.  Work and the jobs employees do require skills and behaviours which are independent of gender identity and progressive companies are beginning to recognise this and support and reward it.  Improved support for families is an important aspect too.  There are an ever increasing (and changing) number of organisations which support transgender people, but still comparatively few that offer support to their significant others, siblings and children.  Further, there is the subject of training and education for care home support staff.  These people have enormous power to ignore (and thus erase) an elderly transgender persons identity, for example by using the wrong pronouns or names, an uninformed staff member essentially negates a lifetime of struggle.  These people are often lowly paid and under immense pressure in their roles and, in most instances receive no training on specific trans care issues.  Lastly, more research into the effects of the physiological effects of long terms hormone replacement therapy needs to be undertaken to improve the understanding of this on transgender peoples health.

Still so much to do.

Transgender Day of Visibility 2016

Trans day of visibility

Today is International Transgender Day of Visibility, a day to consider the trans people in their community, hear their experiences and understand the challenges they face.

This years theme for the day is More Than Visibility (#MoreThanVisibility). This recognizes that while visibility is important, we must take direct action against transphobia around the world. Visibility is not enough alone to bring transgender liberation.

Rachel Crandall started the Day of Visibility in Michigan back in 2009 in reaction to the often-negative portrayal of transgender people. While some consider the event to be a pre-cursor to the Transgender Day of Remembrance in November (commemorating transgender people killed in the previous year) as Rachel herself explains “While TDoR is absolutely vital, we needed something else, something that celebrates life and transgender cultural achievements, and that’s the Day of Visibility !”

I love the fact that transgender topics are now broadcast, analysed, and debated. Mainstream society actually SEES us, they may not agree or approve, but they acknowledge we exist, and that’s important.  Accurate representation of transgender people is becoming mainstream. We’re seeing an explosion in TV shows dealing with trans topics that have trans people in them, and casting of trans actors is way up compared to two years ago. From “none” to “few” is still an improvement; remember, we’re looking for the upside, here!!!! While mainstream representation has been making slow progress over many years, we’ve made a lot of gains in the last year.

Take for example the news that broke here in the UK about Channel 4s announcement that they were appointing Amy Stanning as an announcer for the station (you can catch the announcement here) this coming off the news that Bethany Black had landed a role on Doctor who (see link), Paris Lees appearing on question time and Juliet Jacques and Caroline Cossey publishing memoirs.  Internationally too, people like Laverne Cox, Tiq Milan, Janet Mock, Jay Kelly and Kye Allums have challenged traditional thinking, even Caitlyn Jenner (love her or hate her) has moved the transgender debate forward.  Indeed, so prominent have these people been that time magazine featured Laverne Cox on the cover of their magazine under the banner “25 trans people who influenced American culture“.

Image credit TSER 2016

I’m also going to include a very good friend of mine in this list, Sumayyah Dawud.  Sumayyah regularly puts herself in danger, actual physical danger protesting for the rights of Transgender people within Islam.  She routinely suffers emotional abuse too – but she still finds the courage to keep putting herself out there to promote her beliefs and convictions.  You can learn more about her through your favourite search engine and by joining in the #IstandwithSumayyah campaign.  It’s a really worthy cause.

As a trans person, you may not always agree with these people or their views, they may seem to live in a world of privilege or opportunity that you are excluded from, but on this day of Transgender visibility, now is the time to recognise their contribution, take courage from it and pride in who you are.  The consequences of not doing so are born out in the statistics shown in the graphic to the right.  Taken from last years event – they make sobering reading (don’t forget also the 250 or so people whose murders are commemorated each year at TDoR)

There’s also the underlying work that needs to be done to allow trans people to enter mainstream society.  Did you know for example in the majority of Australian states and territories, trans and gender diverse people cannot change the gender marker on their official identification documents without providing evidence that they have had surgery and are unmarried ?  Also,  transgender youths and their families must apply to the Family Court of Australia for a court order to access second-stage hormone treatment, despite the consent of parents and medical practitioners. This process can cost approximately $30 000.

Here in the UK, there’s the well documented backlog of people waiting for gender reassignment surgery, estimated at 7-10 years at the current rate of progress.  Remember, this is just the number of people “in process”, there are also a number of people waiting to be admitted onto the process !!!  Reported hate crime too has risen in the 2015-2016 year, indicating there is still much work to be done on the acceptance front.

So how can you help ?  Well if you’re a trans person yourself, put yourself out there – safely – be proud of who you are.  If you are in secret, tell a close ally about you.  If you’re more open, blog about your experiences to help people see there is a path to acceptance.  You could even join in one of the numerous events that are being advertised on Facebook, or perhaps volunteer to a transgender organisation and make a contribution to the community local to where you are.

If you’re not trans there’s no need to feel left out, there are things that you can do too !!!  You can promote transgender voices in your community or organisation, maybe you could write to a transgender organisation and ask for some literature or a presentation from a transgender person to show that you are accessible to transgender issues.  Going further, you can support the Transgender people in your life by educating yourself about Trans identities and how gender diversity is different to sexual diversity.  There are almost as many ways to be a trans ally as there are trans people !!