Tag Archives: trans
This is a story from one of my readers: I think it’s amazing, I hope you do too.
My life, as it stands now, is kind of boring. I’m a 21 year old soon-to-be arts degree graduate facing the horror of The Real World come graduation this summer; I have a decent group of friends to drink with, dance with and do the crossword with, and am not ashamed to say that I live a comfortable and happy life. That said, getting to this point in my life probably took a few different turns to most of my peers. I’m a trans man. For those who don’t quite understand what that means, there are a few ways of describing it. People refer to me as a transsexual man (more of a mouthful), a female-to-male (bit clinical and cringe-inducing), a “man born in the wrong body” (kind of clichéd) but I find that trans man suits me best, and sounds the least awful. For the most part “man” does pretty well. Hopefully by writing a bit about my life up until this point will give some people an understanding of what it’s been like for me growing up as a trans man. It’s not intended to be a description of what it’s like for every trans man or trans person by any means, since every experience is different and what it’s been like for me might be completely different for someone else. Anyway, here’s my story:
I think that I realised something wasn’t quite right when I was very young, and then again when I was a bit older, and then again a bit older still. When I finally read some stuff about other young people going through similar feelings, and watched a few crude documentaries about this thing called “transgenderism”, like a slow-motion punch to the face it dawned on me that maybe this could explain what I was feeling. I was an angry teenager; after puberty I began to hate my body and appearance more and more, I became very withdrawn and secretive and it felt like my identity had been smashed up into fragments and that I was going to have to build it up again without knowing what form it should take. I’m quite a practical thinker, so these strong emotionally-driven pangs of angst didn’t really help get my head around what was going on with me. I needed answers, god damn. I asked support forums, I had extremely awkward chats with friends but I knew that no one could really tell me what I was or wasn’t.
People always seem to want to know how I knew, and when I knew, but for me it wasn’t really as simple as an “Ah, that’s it!” or some point in my life where I can identify as knowing. For a long time all I knew was that something was wrong. It was the realisation that things started to feel less wrong that I knew I was heading in the right direction. This knowledge only became more solid after my appearance started to change. Fresh out of school, I began to realise that I could buy and wear whatever clothes I wanted, and look however I wanted to look. Without understanding why or overthinking it too much, I wore baggy men’s clothes, cut my hair shorter and shorter and started to hide my chest as best I could. It wasn’t until afterwards that the big questions started to follow, which I think is something important. Being comfortable in myself was happening regardless of my name or perceived gender then. It was liberating and empowering. In one sense it was amazing that I could walk around and not feel so awkward, not feel like a clown and just feel comfortable in how I was beginning to be recognised. I was being recognised as a man, and that felt good. The feeling that something was wrong started to go and I began to realise that the reason I never felt right being perceived to be a girl and I felt right being perceived as a young man was because I was a young man. It wasn’t that I felt like a man, nor that I wanted to be a man; that’s a misunderstanding of what was going on. I was a boy, I am a man, and one day I will be an old man. So while on the one hand it was incredible because I could live and dress and be in a way that didn’t make me seriously unhappy, on the other hand it began to dawn on me that this wasn’t going to be some novelty which I could enjoy for a while and then give up when I got bored. It went deeper than that; I looked into my future and tried to imagine myself at 20, 40, 60 and I knew that this was Quite Big. If I could go back to that awkward 17 year old and tell him something it would just be “brace yourself.”
I count myself lucky that I knew what I needed to do for myself after that, with the help of a few LGBT support spaces. To give an idea of a timescale, it was my second year of college when I told my friends and my mum, and not until about four weeks before I started university until I told my dad. In between times my parents announced their divorce and I was facing moving out and moving to a new city, all amounting to me absolutely bricking it. Without going into the boring details, it is not easy, even with decent medical and legal knowledge, to go about changing things. It’s daunting looking at what you need to do (and learning that you will have to know more than the services you are accessing in order to get stuff done) to begin to move on with your life. And it is a long process which is so hard to see the end of as a scared, angry teenager. I just wanted to live. I’m 21 now, and my gender history is something of very little significance in my life, because all I want to do is live. It’s taken four or five years to get here , and even that is a pretty quick time period compared to a lot of people. But to a miserable unhappy, awkward teenager trying to figure himself out that might as well have been eternity.
I have no doubt at all that I couldn’t have got to where I am without the level of support I’ve had around me from when I first came out up until today. Without trying to sound like an Oscar speech, my family have always wanted me to just be happy, even if at times they don’t fully understand it. I wouldn’t have had a clue how to do anything practical if it wasn’t for some incredible support spaces online. I wouldn’t have been able to start university under my name and gender if it wasn’t for an incredibly understanding woman at my university who changed all my records and accommodation three days before arriving. It meant I’ve been able to live here without my friends or flatmates needing to know about my past. I had an amazing GP who trusted me and did everything she could to make the nightmare of the medical world as easy as possible for me. But I don’t think of it as some sort of success story. Or as a “transition”, or even as a journey. No more than anyone else’s life, whether they’re trans or not. Like I said at the start, to get to where I am and preparing for the next stage of my life just took a few different turns to a lot of my peers. I have amazing days and I have still have my own problems and I’m pretty sure that what makes up my everyday life is generally as boring as the rest of the world’s.
Below are some great links that he recommends for further support
Gay Youth UK www.gyuk.co.uk/forums (LGBT support forum, very inclusive of T despite being called Gay Youth)
Queer Youth Network www.queeryouth.org.uk (LGBT support forum)
Gender Identity Research and Education Society www.gires.org.uk (information website for trans people and their families and friends)
Press for Change www.pfc.org.uk (Political lobbying and educational organisation, also contains great information about confusing legal stuff)
FTM Guide www.ftmguide.org (Massive guide for people on the trans male spectrum)
Just want to say a MASSIVE THANKS for writing this. If you would like to ask questions or get advice in the comments below you can. If you want to ask anonymous questions then you can click on Ask Bish above and I’ll get this guy to help me answer your questions.
To learn a bit more about the terms in this post click here
It was when I first started listening to The Velvet Underground that I first started to understand that there’s more to this gender thing than meets the eye. Here’s the first line of a song called ‘Candy Says’
“Candy says I’ve come to hate my body and all that it requires in this world”
Candy Darling was an actor, Warhol superstar and trans woman. The first line of the song sums up what a lot of people feel about themselves: that they were born into the wrong body.
Maybe you find this difficult to imagine but try this. Imagine waking up from tomorrow morning in the body of the opposite sex to you. Everyone looking at you sees the other gender to you, you would have all the expectations of the opposite sex forced on you, you would have to wear clothes you didn’t feel comfortable in, you’d have to go to the ‘wrong’ toilets, you’d be referred to by the wrong pronoun, people look at you differently.
The idea of there being just two genders, man and woman, is a very powerful one. The idea of fitting in and being part of a club is also very powerful. People who were born into a body which they feel happy with, in body and soul, are fortunate or privileged (in this context). So this post is about trying to understand a bit more about gender and to try to think of it in more diverse ways.
Below are some definitions for different ways of doing and thinking about gender. They are labels and so aren’t perfect. Language and definitions in sex and sexuality are always evolving so your comments are welcome. I’ve referred to ‘famous’ people below: it’s a bit crass I know, but I thought that an example might be a good way for people to get the hang of it.
Cisgender are people who are born into a body that they are happy with, feel comfortable with and are generally happy behaving in the socially expected way for that gender to be. Most people would probably consider themselves as cisgender (pronounced with an s at the beginning). They might not be happy with the expectations they have on their gender (for example ‘boys don’t cry’), but they don’t have an overwhelming feeling that they were born the wrong gender.
Famous examples are actor George Clooney and singer and all round pop superstar Madonna.
Generally this term applies to people who are born into a body that they are not happy with. It doesn’t refer to the particular travel of gender but a trans woman is a female who was born a male and a trans man is a male who was born a female.
It is a very broad term so it refers to lots of people who choose to deal with this in lots of different ways. Some people identify as trans but live as cis. Some people want to ‘pass’ as a their trans self (on a permanent or temporary basis) or to ‘transition’ to live as their transgender forever.
Some trans people decide to go for gender realignment, which is where they decide to have various treatments and sometimes surgery to help them to feel more comfortable in their bodies. For more about that visit the NHS page on transgender.
‘Famous’ transgendered people include ‘Nadia’ from Big Brother and the character Hayley Cropper from Coronation Street.
Transvestite is not the same as transgender, but it’s in a similar ball park. Generally transvestites are cisgender people who like/love dressing as the ‘opposite’ sex or having a gender identity which is occasionally different to their own, or an alter ego. People who do this as part of being an entertainer may sometimes be referred to as ‘drag’ artists or be described as ‘doing drag’ or ‘Drag Queens’.
Famous examples are brilliant artist Grayson Perry (also known as Clare), Eddie Izzard (in the past), Lily Savage (Paul O’Grady), DJ and hostess Jodie Harsh.
Intersex refers to people who, biologically are not clearly born ‘male’ or ‘female’. This includes people who have sexual anatomy which are not male or female (or a combination of both): people with this are known as Hermaphrodites. For more go to The UK Intersex Society here
Genderqueerism is about refuting and rejecting that there are only 2 genders. It’s about seeing gender and identity in a more fluid and interesting way than the binary world of ‘your’ sex and the ‘opposite’ sex. It’s for people who don’t see themselves as male or female. It’s a really interesting idea. For a fantastic article about this go to the SexEtc site http://www.sexetc.org/story/lgbtq/5809
Transphobia is the fear and hatred of people who are transgender, transvestite or genderqueer, or where people who are ‘trans’ are discriminated against because of who they are. This might include name calling (for instance ‘tranny’ is a term of abuse), or violence, or discrimination or harassment or bullying. It’s just like sexism, racism, disablism, homophobia or religious intolerance. It sucks and if it didn’t happen the world would be a much cooler place.
Hope this makes sense. It’s a very broad topic and I wanted to try and provide a beginners guide to it. I hope that you’ve learned something and that you enjoy listening to The Velvet Underground.
For further reading check this out from the always excellent Scarleteen
More Bish Bishy
Sexualities – a similar guide to different sexualities.
Story of a Trans Man – a story written by a reader about their experience of sex, gender and transformation
Self-Esteem – not feeling like you aren’t what is expected of you can have a serious effect on self-esteem
Guide to Relationships – how to negotiate and maintain them
Here’s a tribute to Candy Darling below.
And here are some other tunes which feature ‘trans’ as a theme.
© Bish Training, 2010