• Posted on August 3, 2014 at 10:45 am

Pride flagsI have only actually fully participated in one Pride event. I never knew in advance when it was. My mother always knew: ‘Pride comes before the fall’, she used to say.

Maybe that’s it. Pride was a bad thing, signifying arrogance. It meant putting yourself above others. And to be honest, being brought up like that, where even to say you loved yourself was a sin, I could hardly look at gay men in weird strappings and think I belonged in any way. That was before I knew what a lesbian was. That was before I knew why I didn’t belong with men in suits – or just jeans and trainers – either.

Last year I was fully mid-transition, and with a free ticket to read poetry, I joined the parade up to Brighton’s Preston Park. It was really good to feel free, amongst a very jolly (pre-inebriation) crowd, heading to the start. I went alone. Most people were in pairs or small groups. But I chatted freely with anyone, and I guess I probably looked trans enough to explain why I wasn’t ‘with a particular friend’. I had a great time, met lots of people I knew, and some I didn’t. There were plenty of trans people of all varieties. But what was I, your average Dorothy Perkins without a girlfriend?

Importantly, what was I being proud to be?

Big cats

Maybe this was like being in a pride of lions. Powerful, superior, confident, with paws big enough to kill. There is a confidence in being in a very large crowd of people who would look ‘different’ if there were enough ‘normal’ people around. Even if you don’t look that different yourself. Birds of a feather and all that. Yes; I felt safe, but still in a small minority. Compliments on my appearance were welcome, but in that context you ‘pass’ by looking unusual.

Of course the big cats were the gay men. Lots of them, strong, independent, unencumbered by families, flamboyant and extravagant. This was partly balanced by a strong dyke lesbian contingent. There was something about power present. Not threatening, but a feeling of dominance, of hierarchy. Where was I in this? A literary lesbian? A polite trans woman? Or simply female, trying to find a place to belong? I guess I was comfortable in the middle ground of happy women in larger groups, just enjoying the sunshine and activity.

Out and proud

The lesser sense of being proud is just a counter to feeling shamed. I was never ashamed to be trans; just intimidated, to an extent abused, rejected and feeling unloved, even unlovable. What was there to be proud about, though? Was I trying to be proud just not to be alone?

I have frequently made the point that if your sexuality is being defended, if you want to hold hands or kiss in public, then you need to be noticed and accepted. You want to be able to walk up a street with a rainbow flag and a same-sex partner and know that it is OK. You want to live this ‘difference’ openly, share a bed in a hotel or guesthouse, be recognised as a couple. You need to – if you want to meet other non-hetero people, find love, have fun.

I know a lot of trans people who enjoy the status of being gender queer, gender transgressive, indeed who want to be flamboyant themselves. I will support this just as much as the LGB people; it enriches society.

But it just isn’t me.

Being transsexual is, to me, an accident of birth. There is no lifestyle attached to it, let alone driving it. I could never imagine going to Sparkle, however much I support people who do. It is theatrical to me. Why would an ordinary woman go to a place where men dress up as parodies of a presumed femininity in pink feather boas and tutus? Some do, I’m not saying most do, and I’m not saying that trans people who go there are men in dresses. But some are. It’s OK. It just isn’t me.

I am available as transsexual in that I am always ready to talk about it, help another, increase understanding, write a very pubic blog read by thousands; but I am neither ashamed nor proud, and have no need to be ‘out’ in my daily life. I have no need of a club or a weekend. Or indeed of Pride.

Trans Pride

Europe’s first ever Trans Pride march took place this year just a few miles down the road from where I live. I missed it, because I was in hospital for my gender confirmation/reconstruction surgery – the best of all possible reasons. And after seeing a hundred or so photos on Facebook, I felt really left out.

These were my friends, people I knew online, and mostly very ordinary. These were by and large the non-flamboyant people I mix with, people on a journey, people well past their transition, people who understand that it’s OK to have been born different and have to make life-changing steps simply in order to maintain their own integrity and authenticity in life. In this Pride, many of the people you see or meet will have tragedies in their lives too: suicide attempts, rejecting families, broken marriages, separated from their own kids, lonely and longing for intimacy, agonies over clinical attention, uncertain in their employment – but here? Here they can be together for a very different reason than the main Pride event. This is life at its most real, its most gritty, and its most safe; having fun.

This is the Pride I like, because it is honest, uncommercialised, uncommodified, and an example to everyone that we transgender people exist in significant numbers, and that we are not weird, untrustworthy, separatist or even unsettling in simply being present. We don’t need acceptance for being forever different, we just want to be included as ordinary people. Proud? Well, unashamed.


« Snakes, patterns, labels Up front about sexism »


Leave a Reply