A normal transgender person

  • Posted on February 8, 2012 at 10:32 am

I have left a poem Front Page News that is part of this story. It came about after the Metro newspaper landed on commuters in and around London in September 2011, juxtaposing two headlines:

‘The £1 million man from Atlantis. Walliams completes his torturous Thames odyssey … and raises a fortune for charity in the process’

– and

‘Boy, 10, who went back to school a girl’.

It made me think: why is it so normal to swim the Thames, and why does it make you such a hero, compared with a 10-year-old who braves the opprobrium of parents, friends, family (and, under headlines now, the world) and causes a sensation? Most real heroes, when asked, say that their act was not a matter of choice, but instinct, so you judge who is most heroic here. It felt such an irony to see these two together, and quite sad too.

Since then several children have made headlines, and with immense bravery shared by their parents, have pressed forward the case for transgender identity to be normal. Not just normal, but acceptable; beyond sensational headlines, beyond despicable use of words that make trans people different, reviled or just a subject of ridicule. This has been the most difficult year of my life. It’s odd that for fifty years I have struggled with not feeling normal, and now I feel completely normal, I struggle with a society that says I have become abnormal. So I applaud organisations like Trans Media Watch who tackle the prejudice, deliberate sensationalising, or even the sheer thoughtlessness and ignorance, of journalists and editors everywhere. I wish I was one of them: I wish I was up there at the front being bolshie and noisy about being normal, and making others like me a bit safer and more accepted.

So I admire these children and their families for risking so much to be seen, to be listened to on their own terms. I know who is the heroine in the headlines.


I immediately know that the statisticians among you will say that normal has a definite meaning: the majority group in the middle of the bell curve of variance. What I mean by normal is that ‘this happens: rather a lot more than most of us know’ and that as a result, being trans is an everyday part of diversity. There are many places you can read up the stats on transgender people, intersex incidence etc., if you haven’t, just be aware that you will likely have met, maybe know, people whose transgender identity, past or present, simply isn’t apparent to you. Part of the reason for this is that it can be so difficult to reveal or fulfill a transgender personality. By doing so, you make a statement that still shocks, that so runs counter to preconceptions it tears families apart. There is no blame, there is no cause: it just happens, and because we don’t accept it as normal we have to set it apart, in case it’s dangerous or subversive.

If we all accept that there is a bit of the feminine in all men, and a bit of the masculine in all women, we are inevitably faced with the question: ‘yes, but how much’? And how much is ‘too much’? Too much for what? Our personal gender security? Even if it could be properly measured, how could we ever determine a maximum percentage for a definition of normal?

So as I watch, support, and follow the children who recently have made the front pages and the breakfast TV, my heart is with them. I wish I had known at an early age that there is a language for this, a space in life and society, and that it’s OK: you can be loved, you can express who you are and you can live a normal life. Meanwhile, I am still up against the buffers, where people can choose to be associated with me or not, on grounds of my kind or normality (‘Don’t let anyone think I’m the kind of person who finds this normal’!).

I can’t walk away from being transgender, but they can. If they can only feel safely normal by distancing themselves, they will. I am a normal transgender person – why do you feel your personal sense of gender is so betrayed? I hope these children work a miracle in the popular mind, until one day there is no media sensation, no permissible transphobia, and it is perfectly normal to love, be seen with, be a parent – as a transgender person.


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2 Comments on A normal transgender person

  1. Andie15 says:

    I really feel for you Kathy. I hope by writing here that people can see that being trans is normal, if different. I write and live openly so that I am seen, and so people can learn that there are so many like us. Then people won’t only discover themselves late in life, partners will not fear ridicule by proxy, and being authentic will be valued and respected.

  2. kathytv says:

    You may remember that in the dim past, homosexuality was actually illegal. After a long campaign it was eventually decriminalised in England 1967. Homosexuals were never figures of fun or ridicule but indeed were figures of horror and disgust. However, a lot of years had to pass before a great many people ‘came out’. Until at the present day homosexuality is just about universally accepted as ‘normal’ by the mainstream population, even to the extent of including ‘gay’ characters in soap operas and as openly gay TV (no pun intended) presenters. Yes, there are of course still many homophobics.

    Transvestism (to dress in the clothing of the opposite sex),on the other hand has never been illegal, just vilified and frowned upon. The media have always treated transvestites (or transgendered if you prefer) as figures of fun and ridicule, portrayed as either obviously male in a dress (Carry On Nurse) or feminised enough that all the characters in a film etc, believe them to be women, but we are in on the joke and know that they are actually men (Some Like it Hot). There is no mainstream soap (that I am aware of) that now or have ever portrayed a transgender person in a any way, though Eastenders once represented a drag artist for a short time. There are a few souls such as Eddie Izzard who are brave enough to present cross-dressing as normal, but this makes no headway in the public’s general perception of transgendered people being pathetic and weird.

    So in 40 years time, will transgender issues be where gay issues are now? I fear not. Most transgender people remain hidden for the sake of their loved ones or work and remain either in the closet or have (as in my case) the door open a small crack. The partial open door allows my wife to know, but at her request not to see, she wants a “normal” man. She fears the ridicule and humiliation from family, friends and possible devastation of our business.

    I hope these brave children do make a difference and at least can be content in their own lives, even as I doubt if they will never be classed as “normal”.

    Am I normal? Yes I suspect that I am a normal TV/CD/Trans person; with all the guilt tearing me apart and the fear of humiliation and shame that society would heap upon my shoulders if they knew my secret adding to the burden! This is normality for a TG person is it not?

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