What does it mean to be female ?

When I was asked this myself recently, I had to admit the question made me stop and think. Really think. Being Transgender you might expect my answer to reflect my dysphoria, but as a woman I know my femininity is worth more than that. I don’t think I could sum it up in a single word or an expression.

Being Transgender doesn’t invalidate my answer to the question. Sure, there are TERFs who may disagree, but so what ? Sometimes, shock horror, society (and the law) disagrees with them too and you don’t see many of them beating themselves up over it, or changing their opinion.

So what does being a woman, a Transgender woman mean to me ?

It means I know that I am more than just my gender. I’m aware of the obstacles life is going to throw my way and prejudices people will have about me. I can trust my own ability to overcome these too, even if I don’t immediately know how to. I don’t need to do it all on my own either, because I have the confidence and self-awareness to know when to ask for help.

I’m not afraid to show my feelings either, because, hey, we all have them and I’m not afraid to be true to mine. They’re my truths, which reflect my kindness, generosity, compassion, integrity, a willingness to be vulnerable, and authenticity. They help ground me and be true to myself.

As a woman, I know that my strength and value is built on these feelings which give me a kind of confident humility in all that I do. Backed up by my faith in God and passion for loving and helping others, this confident humility means I stay centred, without being arrogant.

Being a Transgender woman, I know that femininity is more than a biological or social construct. It’s about being human and recognizing the complexity of diversity that comes with being human. As a Transgender woman, I’ve had to take responsibility for my life, what I want for my life and how society will see me in a far more fundamental way than most others. I have gone beyond any fears or prejudices to define my own womanhood.

I enjoy being a woman, and I enjoy being the woman I am becoming. I especially enjoy challenging the notion that I can be put in a box. I am training to be a hair stylist and an activist for my community. I want to be married and have many children, all the while maintaining my identities as child of God, a daughter, a sister, and a good friend. But I don’t think that any of this makes me a more special kind of woman or better than any other woman; it’s just MY womanhood. And though it may need some work, for the most part, and until further notice, I love it.

What does being a woman mean to you ?

Be true to yourselves

Joanna

Transgender FAQ (The WTF ones)

Giving talks on any subject can be a difficult proposition, particularly one as potentially misunderstood (or even divisive for some people) as Transgender Equality.  Throw in having any kind of social media profile, where people can add comments to your wall, or message you directly and the opportunity for some truly jaw dropping moments seems to exponentially increase .   Here are some of my “favourites” from 2018 so far…..

Talks and Presentations

  1. Why should I believe there are more than two genders ?  Reply – What do you get from only believing there are two ?
  2. What does Trans stand for ? Reply – I don’t think its an abbreviation, but if it is I would imagine it stands for Respect, Diversity and Equality.
  3. Surely Trans women aren’t real women ? I’m with the Turds on this.  Reply – I think you mean TERFS, but I get your point.
  4. Why should you be able to use the Women’s toilet ?  Reply  – Because it will save me having to pee or poop over your shoes here.  Please excuse me, I REALLY need to go !!!!
  5. You say Trans people are statistically more likely to commit suicide than any other marginalised group, but I’ve known 5 people who’ve committed suicide and none of them were Trans what do you say about that ? Reply – I’m sorry for your statistically anomalous losses.
  6. Can you get me Paris Lees phone number ? Reply – No, sorry, maybe you could email her agent ?
  7. Do you have to buy special makeup for men ?  Reply – Not unless men want it as a present.  Otherwise I just buy and use the same as you do.
  8. So, you’re a Tranny ? Reply – No, you’re confusing me for a Ford Transit Van, but when I wear white, I can understand how you might think that.
  9. Do you watch Orange is the New Black ?  Reply – yes, but only the ones with Laverne Cox in, otherwise I find it’s not true to life for me.
  10. Turn out for tonight’s talk has been lower than we expected so we can’t afford to pay you, would you like a free row of tickets for the raffle instead ?  Reply – That’s really kind of you, but gambling is a demerit in Buddhism, so I’ll have to respectfully pass.
  11. What have LGBT people ever done for me ?  Reply – We’ve given you the word “F-A-B-U-L-O-U-S “ daghlingk and a standard for it to live up to.
  12. Are your parents disappointed with how you’ve turned out ? Reply, I don’t know, since I outed myself to them, they’ve passed away so arguing with them about it has become a lot harder.
(I do get invited back though.  Sometimes)

Social Media

  1. Do you like Dick ? Reply – I don’t know anyone called Richard, sorry.  I’m sure if I met him and got to know him, I might.
  2. Are you gay ? Reply- Yes, In England gay is just another word for happy though.  Are you ?
  3. Will you marry me ? Reply – No. Never in a million years, because I’m a once in a lifetime woman.
  4. Do you do Cam work ? Reply -No, I am a makeup artist and cannot manufacture any form of mechanical timing or actuation device.
  5. Are you flirting with me ? Reply – No.  Just NO
  6. Can I have your number ? Reply – yes 5.
  7. Do you know Farrah Mills, can you get me her number ? Reply, no, we’re friends and I couldn’t do that to her.
  8. Can I call you Cindy ? Reply – no, I like my name just fine thankyou.
  9. Do you like S&M ? Reply, Yes, their bras aren’t just any bras, they’re M&S Bras.  I wouldn’t buy any others.
  10. Didn’t I hire you as an escort once in London ? Reply – Probably not, I don’t do impersonations of cars from the 1980s.
  11. Would you like to see my cock ? Reply, no, I’m a vegetarian, Poultry has no interest for me.
  12. If I sent you underwear would you wear it and then return it unwashed ?  Reply, no No NO NO NO !!!! Ewwww !!!
  13. Show me your tits.  Reply – Sorry, I don’t have any pets, feathered or otherwise.
  14. How much for sex ?  Reply – more than you can afford since it would cost me my dignity.
  15. Can I cum round ?  Reply – Corners ?!??!?
(funny how when you report these, they are seen not to violate “Community Standards” – what community ?!!?!!)
Would love to know what your own experiences have been !! Drop a comment and join in !!!
Love always

Prison visits

Occasionally, as part of the talks that i give, I get asked what we do as part of the Beaumont Trust Trans prisoners project that i run.

As you’ll probably expect, i can’t go into specifics of prisoner details, but i thought I’d share with you some general details about what a visit is like.

Using the Prisoner Voicemail system, prisoners will usually reach out to us regularly asking for help, information, or maybe just as someone to listen to their general routine and progress on classes or rehabilitation programmes they are working on. We can then listen to these messages and respond to them, keeping an exchange of info going between the prisoner and Trust, which on it’s own might not seem like much, but, when you’re inside and abandoned by your family and subject to abuse, can make a real powerful difference.

About once a month, prisoners will reach out for an arranged visit. Usually on a weekend, when there isn’t much going on, or when it’s mutually convenient. At this point I’ll ring the prison to let them know I’m coming (experience shows this is a good idea) and then arrange the specifics of any visits. Some of those I’ve done up until now have been

  • Makeovers
    Training
    Book reading
    Meditation class
    Pride and scene updates

Talking about each in turn briefly

Makeovers. In these sessions, (which require a lot of pre planning and willingness from the prison director) I’ll take in a range of samples and sponges and makeover a prisoner, while other transwomen look through the makeup and any books i bring in while they’re waiting. We’ll then chat about looks they may want to try the next time I come visit. It’s a pretty fraught hour and hard work !!!

Training. Sometimes the prisoner will want to arrange training for the staff of the prison as part of a coaching or mentoring activity. These visits tend to be a lot more straightforward than any sessions which require you to bring in physical items and usually take the form of a TED talk around a table with whatever officers are able to attend.

Book ReadingWhere we do book readings ill being in a number of copies of a book and, w we’ll take roles and sit around a table, acting out the story. These are great fun, as the inmates get to express themselves, practice their feminine voices and thespian skills.

It’s great fun and quite a scene. (I wholeheartedly apologise to some of the authors we might have offended !!)

Meditation
Meditation classes help with improving prisoners mental health. Something which is particularly important for trans prisoners who will often experience feelings of isolation and abuse while inside. Reactions to these conditions vary, but will usually include self harm, or violence against others and in the worst cases attempts of suicide.

On top of these activities, I also try to collect magazines to send in to prisoners, particularly trans magazines like Transliving, which help inform prisoners of the trans scene outside of their prison and help make them feel part of something. We’ve also historically sent in clothes, by special arrangement, but this is type of activity is reducing because many prisons are now actively preventing this.

Would you like to be involved in this ? Maybe you have an idea of somethig you would like to share that would help us improve the lives of transwomen in prison ? I’d love to hear from you ! Drop me a message with your details and I’ll be happy to get in touch.

Press Release – YNotbU Angel Investment in Transortium

Transortium

We were delighted to hear about Heather Flanagan’s work in establishing a new organisation in the United States called Transortium. Speaking to Heather it quickly became clear that not only did she share a lot of the same values we do, but also had a compelling vision for improving the issues Transgender people face when it comes to integrating into society, pre, during and post transition.

Heathers goal for Transortium is that it should be a hub for bridging the gap between the Trans community and wider society. This bridge is not only made up of information and resources, but training for organisations and the trans community as well.  Through these initiatives they hope to be able to facilitate and ease integration between the transgender community and the wider society.

Because we share in Transortums values and mission, we were only too pleased to be become not only a founding Angel investor in the organisation, but also their partner in the United Kingdom.

You can find out about the Transortium organisation by clicking on any of the following links, or by dropping us a message.  We’ll be only to pleased to help you.

Website

Facebook

2017 UK Pride dates

WP2017_03_17_093

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 

https://www.facebook.com/TransMakeupandBeautyAdvice/

 

This years pride events !!

  •  Belfast Gay Pride                              2017-07-28 to 2017-08-06
  • Website :-                                           http://www.belfastpride.com/
  • Birmingham Gay Pride                   2017-05-27 and 2017-05-28
  • Website :-                                           http://www.birminghampride.com/
  • Blackpool Pride                                 2017-06-11 and 2017-06-12
  • Website :-                                           http://www.blackpoolpridefest.com/
  • Brighton Pride                                   2017-08-04 to 2017-08-06
  • Website :-                                           http://www.brighton-pride.org/
  • Brighton Trans Pride                       2017-07-21
  • Website :-                                           http://www.brighton-pride.org/transpride-brighton/
  • Bristol Pride                                       2017-06-30 to 2017-07-09
  • Website :-                                           http://bristolpride.co.uk/
  • Burnley Pride                                     2017-05-26
  • Website :-                                           http://www.burnleypride.co.uk/
  • Canterbury Pride                              2017-06-10
  • Website :-                                           https://www.facebook.com/events/719463241551943
  • Chester Pride                                     2017-08-19
  • Website :-                                           http://chesterpride.co.uk/#main-event
  • Coventry Pride                                  2017-06-10 to 2017-06-11
  • Website :-                                           http://www.coventrypride.org.uk/
  • Cymru Pride                                       2017-08-25 to 2017-08-27
  • Website :-                                           http://www.pridecymru.co.uk/
  • Doncaster Pride                                2017-08-19
  • Website :-                                           http://www.doncasterpride.co.uk/
  • Dublin Pride                                       2017-06-24
  • Website :-                                           http://www.dublinpride.ie/
  • Durham Pride                                    2017-05-29
  • Website :-                                           http://www.pridedurham.com/
  • Eastbourne Gay Pride                     2017-07-22
  • Website :-                                           https://www.facebook.com/events/218400055237592/
  • Essex Pride                                         2017-06-24
  • Website :-                                           http://www.essexpride.org/
  • Exeter Pride                                       2017-05-13
  • Website :-                                           http://www.exeterpride.co.uk/
  • Exmouth Pride                                  2017-07-01
  • Website :-                                           https://www.facebook.com/prideexmouth
  • Flintshire Pride                                  2017-05-27
  • Website :-                                           https://www.facebook.com/FlintshirePride/
  • Gloucestershire Gay Pride            2017-06-10
  • Website :-                                           http://glospride.org.uk/
  • Hampshire Pride                               2017-02-25
  • Website :-                                           https://hampshirepride.com/
  • Hereford Pride                                  2017-07-29
  • Website :-                                           https://www.facebook.com/events/188128131631829/
  • Herts Pride                                         2017-09-02
  • Website :-                                           http://www.hertspride.co.uk/
  • Hull Pride                                            2017-07-22
  • Website :-                                           http://prideinhull.co.uk/pih/
  • Lancaster Pride                                 2017-05-20
  • Website :-                                           http://www.lancasterpride.uk/
  • Leeds Gay Pride                                2017-08-05
  • Website :-                                           https://www.facebook.com/lgbtleedspride
  • Liverpool Pride                                  2017-07-29
  • Website :-                                           http://liverpoolpride.co.uk/
  • London Pride                                     2017-06-24 to 2017-07-09
  • Website :-                                           http://prideinlondon.org/
  • Manchester Pride                            2017-08-25
  • Website :-                                           http://www.manchesterpride.com/
  • Newcastle Pride                               2017-07-21
  • Website :-                                           http://www.northern-pride.com/
  • Norwich Pride                                    2017-07-29
  • Website :-                                           http://www.norwichpride.org.uk/
  • Oxford Pride                                      2017-06-03
  • Website :-                                           http://www.oxfordpride.uk/
  • Plymouth Pride                                 2017-08-05
  • Website :-                                           http://prideinplymouth.org.uk/
  • Pride Cymru                                       2017-08-25 to 2017-08-27
  • Website :-                                           http://www.pridecymru.co.uk/
  • Pride Sheffield                                  2017-07-29
  • Wesbite :-                                           http://www.pridesheffield.org/
  • Reading Pride                                    2017-09-02
  • Website :-                                           https://readingpride.co.uk/pride
  • Rotherham Pride                              2017-07-15
  • Website :-                                           http://prideof-rotherham.webs.com/
  • Sheffield Pride                                  2017-07-29
  • Website :-                                           https://www.facebook.com/SheffieldPride
  • Southampton Pride                         2017-08-26
  • Website :-                                           http://southamptonpride.org/
  • Sparkle                                                 2017-07-07
  • Website :-                                           http://www.sparkle.org.uk/
  • Totnes Pride                                       2017-09-02
  • Website :-                                           https://www.facebook.com/events/1710972252528016/
  • Walsall Gay Pride                             2017-08-26
  • Website :-                                           http://www.walsallpride.org/
  • Warwickshire Pride                         2017-08-19
  • Website :-                                           http://www.warwickshirepride.co.uk/
  • Weston Super Mare Pride            2017-07-29
  • Website :-                                           https://www.wsmpride.com/
  • York Pride                                           2017-06-10
  • Website :-                                           http://yorkpride.org.uk/

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

Conversion

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.

Background

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.

Discussion

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.