Out and about: a new year

  • Posted on December 31, 2014 at 11:44 am

I looked across at my friend on Christmas Day. ‘I don’t really do groups any more’, she said. ‘No, nor do I’, I replied. We agreed that we would help any trans* person needing support, but we just didn’t need to belong to anything trans* any more. We are who we are, we find our acceptance, and we get on with life. Out and about, no-one really notices us, and we have no need to be noticed or avoid being noticed.

Neither of us is an activist, though well-known and visible in online groups, still commenting and observing with similar people. Things changed as our clinical requirements were resolved, and as we moved aside from social situations that involved this thing called transition. Does that mean we aren’t out? If not, what are we about?

This week there was a film adaptation of David Walliams’ book, The Boy in The Dress. It was fun as a film, but had nothing really to do with trans issues. The boy was clearly intrigued by clothes across the genders, and happy to be different, but did not exhibit gender dysphoria. His headmaster, on the contrary, was very much a closeted cross-dresser, unable to be out at all, and effectively blackmailed by the two children who knew. In a beneficial way, of course … Broadly, among those of us who discussed it online, we found it pretty harmless and fun, though with reservations about the impact on trans children watching with parents unable to accept their struggles with gender.

And then a US teenager committed suicide, posting her suicide note on Tumblr. She had been unable to transition, had been through what amounted to conversion therapy in the form of Christian theology-based counselling, repressed by her parents’ faith and beliefs.

My friend and I have been lucky. I gather this week that, at least at some point, I had been referred to by my daughter as ‘that thing’. But if this and a bit of street abuse is all I had, then I was very lucky indeed. I just lost my family, with a few exceptions, and a lifestyle I had liked and been comfortable in. And I feel I have grown since, in ways I never could. The whole point, though, is why any of us need to be ‘lucky’ at all.

As I consider becoming available-but-otherwise-invisible, I wonder where this blog might go. There are things I want to add, but I keep wondering: can I go on writing about gender issues? Do I want to? For three years (since January 2012) I have written every week, sometimes more. In that time, I have seen page reads climb to over 14,000 per month. Comments below entries have been troublesome and spammy, but people have messaged me in other ways, and told me personally, that I have touched their lives. I feel simply gratitude, rather than any glow, that anyone, anywhere has been helped by my openness. You don’t have to agree with all I say; my tag line is simply that I am observing.

This week, attention has been turned on parents of trans* children, naturally because there is fluidity in growing up and in self-realisation. My son had a friend who was such a tomboy that today she may well have been referred for gender counselling. But she is not transgender as far as I know, now. The boy in the dress was not transgender, was heroic, and the headmaster remained closeted and ashamed. Cross-dressers appreciated the film in their own defence, in a way others with severe gender dysphoria could not. Next week, transgender children will return to bullying at school. This new year, parents of the US suicide victim will mourn the loss of their child, never knowing their daughter, perhaps wracked by guilt. Many hundreds will join the gender clinic queues in the UK this year. Rather fewer will emerge the other side in a way that they wish.

I just continue a normal life, thankful that this year I am waiting for no-one and for no interventions, watching friends for whom this is ‘their year’. I just name this as a year in which I want to be courageous. Yes, courageous. Last year wasn’t that, it was just flowing from a river into an ocean. But how can I not write? How can I not be ‘out’, when I know the river is full of people like me? Can I take some rocks out of the river, reduce the rapids a little, even for one little boat? Maybe. I am still learning, so I shall share, and you can pick the bones out for a better meal for us all.

cat and book learning to be presentSo here is my thought for a new year, even though that is a false notion, unrecognised by the moon passing as it does every day.

We often feel like having a fresh start, rectifying mistakes, resolving to change for the better. You may take a traditional coal to a neighbour, write your wish with a sparkler, or raise a glass and a promise to yourself or absent friends. Whatever you do, the only worthwhile resolution can be to live as authentically as you can. Don’t let other people or organisations rule your life, pretending they own you or that you owe them anything. They do not, and you do not. Be present, because this life that you have is all that you have, and it is only now. Your past is merely your interpretations, and the future is merely your imagination. This, where you are now, is where you truly become yourself. Go, and be.


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