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What it means

  • Posted on November 10, 2021 at 9:01 pm

This is what it means to be trans
to get up – in the morning, get dressed and
(face the world)
This is what it means to be trans
to face the world – take the car to work
(and drive)
This is what it means to be trans
to drive – and when asked for whatever reason
(show your licence)
This is what it means to be trans
to show your licence, know it represents you
(without questions)
This is what it means to be trans
to face questions – when being yourself always
(means different)
This is what it means to be trans
to be different – yet confident, ready to explain
(but avoiding)
This is what it means to be trans
to avoid – your history, leave yourself behind
(sometimes to lie)
This is what it means to be trans
to lie – with someone you love, find comfort
(and it doesn’t matter)
This is what it means to be trans
it doesn’t matter – when you’re trusted, only when
(you aren’t)
This is what it means to be trans
you aren’t – safe online, in theory or ideology
(because sex)
This is what it means to be trans
because sex – is a word and gender isn’t to some
(you’re unreal)
This is what it means to be trans
when you un-reel, unwind, lose yourself, dare
(simply to love)
This is what it means to be trans
to love – simply, uncomplicated without script
(or licence)
This is what it means to be trans
to be licensed – to be driven and to face the world
(with permissions)
This is what it means to be trans
to be permitted – to be conditional, debated, clothed
(in everyone’s fears)
This is what it means to be trans
to face those fears – go home, take off your clothes
(and address the night)

2021©Andie Davidson

Orientation: Portrait

  • Posted on June 7, 2019 at 8:42 pm

I’m sitting in front of the big portrait mirror, watching the incremental improvement in my hair under the expert scissors of my lesbian hairdresser. I can talk comfortably about my partner – and hers – and indeed about being trans. I told her early on, half presuming it was already obvious from my thin hair on top, my characteristic hairline, and to signal that I was OK to be identified. I started coming here on recommendation of my partner, so ‘coming out’ as gay had already been done by proxy, though it was into my first cut that I realised…

Cereal Killer

  • Posted on June 2, 2019 at 7:38 pm

It came from the supermarket, like every other time. A box of cornflakes. It went into the cupboard to wait for the last packet to be finished. It was one hurried morning on the way to other things that it was opened, bowl and milk at the ready. The flap was opened, the inner pulled apart and wheesh! Into the bowl. My bowl. Breakfast.

Something was wrong and only I seemed to notice. Everyone too busy, but it was my bowl, my breakfast. The milk was already in, and I could hear it. Snap, crackle and pop is how it is usually described. And cornflakes don’t do that. I ate the cereal. I enjoyed it, even though this was not what we usually bought.

The next morning I asked for rice krispies.

No, you don’t like them, have your usual cornflakes. Here.

I took the box and was about to pour my new option into the bowl, when I almost said: these are rice krispies, aren’t they? But I didn’t. Everyone was as rushed as usual, nobody noticed. I enjoyed.

On Saturday I said nothing, and poured my cereal.

Why are you eating rice krispies? Where did you get those from?

Indignation! I explained that all week, I had been using the cornflakes packet and enjoying rice krispies. My mother grabbed the box off the table, scrutinised the outside, scrabbled into the inner, shook it and sniffed.

This is wrong! They’ve put the wrong thing in. It’s too late to take it back now. You should have said. Krispies are cheaper too, so I’ll have to complain next time we go shopping.

I like rice krispies … I began to explain, already halfway through the bowl, my mouth still crackling with a spoonful.

Don’t talk while you’re eating. It’s rude. And you like cornflakes; you always have.

I looked at the picture on the box, feeling chastened for bucking the trend, for departing from the norm.

Serving suggestion. I began to wonder which the variables were that made this a disclaimer from disappointment. Was it the milk? Or that you didn’t have to use a blue-striped bowl? Was the spoon optional so you could drink it up from the edge of the bowl? Or was it the cornflakes?

On Sunday I asked for rice krispies. The box was tabled assertively in front of me.

You can have cornflakes as usual, OK? These are cornflakes. And it you have to pretend, pretend, but you can see what’s on the box. Now eat your cornflakes.

I quietly enjoyed my corn krispies. That’s what I called them now, and everyone made a jolly joke of it. So I laughed with them. And the thing is, the same happened the next time we bought cornflakes. Only this time we had friends to stay for a few days, and of course we had breakfast together. There was a choice of cereal, but not rice krispies. They had to be called cornflakes (but not very good ones, so choose something different). It was too much to own that you had something mistaken. Too much that you might like something that is not what you wanted it to be.

I stuck to my imagined serving suggestion and covertly enjoyed this brief period of corn krispies. The joke lasted a childhood, but these day?

I buy rice krispies.

Being transgender isn’t a serving suggestion. It isn’t a choice or a mistake, and not a trend or a joke. It’s what is actually in the box that matters.

Trans is not a word to understand

  • Posted on September 14, 2018 at 11:28 pm

I think some people try to understand what it is to be transgender by trying to understand the words. If they can construct an argument about the words, their origins and use, they have grasped how real, people like me are.

Surely, I would be happy to have made no changes to my body or life if only this social construct of gender did not exist. Yes! I could have lived happily with a male body, dressed as I wished, shaved, gone bald with age and maintained all that cut and thrust of testosterone – because no-one would have minded. I could have just ‘been myself’!

Not so, dear reader, not so.

I am not a term to be understood. Etymology and use do not come near expressing what it is to be trans. Like old shoes, words get baggy with much use and don’t fit anymore.

I was not ‘born in the wrong body’ at all, any more than someone with red hair who hates it, or someone with a disability, or someone who has simply grown too tall from hormone problems. It is not the wrong body. I am what I am. It is just that brain and body development got a bit out of kilter somewhere early on. I can’t change my innate sense of self, but I can change my body.

What about you? Are you definitely a woman, or definitely a man? Are you sure? Or is your first question prefixed by ‘physically’, or ‘biologically’? If you do, you need to read up on the many aspects of what define ‘biological’ sex. Big time.

Or do you just know? I don’t think you need a mirror in the morning, or to have a feel around just to be sure. I don’t think you need a second opinion, and if it differed or was doubtful, I don’t think you might change your mind. When did you last dig out your birth certificate just to check out that your opinion of yourself matches that of the doctor or midwife?

Even if you live a non-binary life and dislike the idea of actually ‘being’ non-binary … you know what you are not.

Do you understand what it is to know if you are male, female or neither or a bit of both?

  • Seven years ago I began to understand.
  • Six years ago I began to live in a new way.
  • Five years ago I lived alone.
  • Four years ago I had transforming surgery.
  • Someone told me: ‘this is just the beginning’
  • Three years ago I began living with someone I deeply love.
  • And since then I have understood that for all the beginnings and endings, some will never understand.

I have been told that I am not a woman. I have been told that I am a man. I have been told that I am trans, or deluded, and many other things. I have been told that I am not lesbian, that I must be gay, or that I am still a hetero man because I used to be married while registered as a man.

I have been told many times what I am, what I am not, and effectively what I am not allowed to be.

What do you think? And where did you get your ideas from?

When my children were much younger, they had a friend who was the most tomboy a child I have ever known. A little later, my son had a trans friend at school. That was it. No issue or problem. Unlike me (yeah, well!), they had gay and lesbian kids in their school, and that’s just how they were. Friends I had at university were gay, lesbian and bi. I came to know people with intersex conditions. I discovered that there are men born with micro-penis, women born without a uterus. A colleague had a hysterectomy at a very young age, and so could never experience what most women share. And friends with polycystic ovaries and hormonal imbalances. More and more women who divorce men and begin lesbian relationships.

I wonder what their many life experiences have each been like. Could I segregate them by their life experience confidently and exclusively as women and men? If I DNA tested them and mapped their chromosomes, would that help? What about their sexual attractions (or lack of)? Would that help me divide them into straight, bi, gay and lesbian? I wonder how clearly I could research and gather physical, psychological, social and mental attributes in such a way as to divide them up?

But why?

Surely their needs are different. Medically? Socially? Surely a trans person is not as really the gender they claim, as someone born with unquestionably clear genitals and chromosomes and sexuality? I mean, it is so confusing that someone born with enough of a penis but XXY, who used to appear straight male, lives as female and has a female partner and calls themselves lesbian. I mean, surgery doesn’t really change your sex does it?

You say it is only confusing because we squish people into socially constructed boxes. If only the boxes didn’t exist, we would all be happy; no conflict of definitions. Well, I place myself in society where I feel I belong. Why do you want to place me where you think I belong?

I find this kind of narrative about sex, sexuality and gender no different from nationalism. Once upon a time there was a golden age, where everyone lived and worked happily together, the sun shone equally on all, there was a roof over everyone’s head and bread on the table. Wars did not happen, no-one was cheated or downtrodden; a benevolent king was on the throne and life was … good. That must have been before others came in, invaded and spoiled it all, with different languages, different ideas.

Was there not also a time when men were men, women were women and we all knew our place? Well that wasn’t so good for women, was it? So now we have feminism, we must protect at all costs what it means to ‘be a woman’. And that’s where the parallel golden age of gender breaks down. It was never good. The patriarchy still rules, just as first nations people all over the world constantly face erasure and victors rule the historical narrative.

Keeping transgender people out protects nothing, and only ingrains trans resentment against the gender nationalists, even those who define ‘woman’ and throw gender out as false. Let’s be clear, a feminist who is more radical and excludes trans women as not being female or women, is a trans-exclusionary radical feminist. It isn’t just a slur, it isn’t derogatory, it is a description of a formula of feminism, originating in 2008, to distinguish feminists who were, and who were not against inclusivity of trans women.

However, if we are to be a society that listens, accepts diversity and seeks unity rather than division, it is no good boxing people up. But why not do it by letting people choose their boxes, and letting them choose their own mix? That isn’t a threatening or undermining thing to do, and it’s the way the human species has ultimately made its way all along. What we haven’t done so well, is add equality. ‘If you’re going to be that, you can’t do this.’

That takes us on to rights. Rights. Trans rights. LGB rights. What are they? Principally, they are protections to ensure equal treatment of people who are disliked and discriminated against, not for what they choose to do, but for what they are, in their being, in their humanity.

But I don’t want rights. I just want equality. And that comes from understanding that it is me you need to understand, know and respect, not words and ideas you don’t like, or feel are confusing. You don’t need to get your inner construct sorted, or your philosophy of gender or sexuality. Don’t fit me to your ideas in order to understand what I say I am, because that will only make me acceptable to you in your terms.

Anything else simply puts me in a ‘reserve’ box because you don’t really want me to belong anywhere too close to you.

Trans is not a behavour.
Lesbian is not a behaviour.
I don’t need accommodating.
I am here.
I am.
Just like you; no less.

Subject to debate

  • Posted on May 13, 2018 at 1:42 pm

As an avid blogger for over four years, I always felt there was something important to say, something that would help incrementally educate people socialised into transmisunderstanding. I hope that I did, by being a pretty ordinary person, articulate and reflective, from the inside of my own trans experience. Well, I don’t claim to be pretty, but I am still terribly ordinary. Time has passed, and being trans is no longer a significant pert of my daily experience. I have a life to live, and this was mainly something I (belatedly) sorted out. So I don’t talk about it much any more.

Except I am still subject for debate.

A lot has changed since my realisation of late 2010, that there was a perfectly valid reason for my discomfort with myself. Overall, in this neck of the woods, and indeed in a number of other countries, understanding of gender diversity has improved. I have often written about the constant undermining by religiously-constructed culture, and we see that writ large in Trumpism and authoritarian regimes rooted in traditions. Any regression in law, in perception, in support of bigotry, is directly harming the well-being of trans and gender queer people. But it isn’t just religion or tradition, it is other ideologies, some born of resentment at the aeons of patriarchal domination, violence and subjugation.

Whatever the origins, it runs deep. Just as we have seen strides forward in media presentation of the trans and gender queer experience, so the media has facilitated the notion that human experience is up for debate. Maybe it is fear in some that equality ground gained and held by one group might sometimes be held by another, even though against the same opposition. One of the great successes of scientific method, is that any discovery, any assertion, any finding – might be upturned by another. Certainty is only as far as the next piece of research. Social understanding is far, far less fluid. We hold onto our beliefs so dearly, because our personal values are described by them. And we won’t protect another person or group, if doing so makes us eat humble pie, and step into shoes like theirs.

It feels much easier to dither. Well, maybe these trans people have a point, but maybe those feminists who think the trans people are just predators have a point too. Let’s listen to both and see if we can compromise on this?

That may be well and good, when done respectfully and reflectively. We should be thoughtful and balanced people if we want to create and maintain a fair society. What media want (social, news, documentary opinion), however, is ‘lively’ debate. Let’s be provocative, let’s be controversial, because that creates audience and audience response, and that creates financial value. And so it was that financial value was the offset to plain human respect in the Channel 4 debate in the Genderquake series this week (8 May 2018). In these debates, the subject essentially is the validity of gender being what you experience, rather than an assessment of what sex-related body parts you have, or have had, or never had. The background is mainly male violence and protection from it. That is rarely the debate though; the debate is who gets to set the game rules for being safe against male violence. Panels are therefore typically selected for being controversial feminists (called ‘well-known/respected feminists’) or for being public trans figures (called ‘trans activists’). Maybe none of them represent the groups they are associated with. Maybe they are the ones guaranteed to grate with broader opinion, or to be particularly outspoken. If the trans minority voice is heard in a less than minority way, then the ‘activists’ are perceived to be suppressing debate. Because a feminist view is more important?

Let’s rather debate the options for tackling male violence. No; let’s rather debate the problem of male social acceptability. Not just violence, but what it means to ‘be a man’.

Also this week, I watched Peter Kay’s Car Share, in which the humour is the dialogue in the confines of a daily commute. Normally scripted, the final one (and it isn’t unfunny) was not. The dialogue revolved much of the time around what was on the local radio station. This featured the music-overlaid sob stories sent in by listeners (a pale reflection of the original on Radio 2). Today’s was sent in by a woman who discovered her partner was trans the day she walked in on [them] dressed in her clothes, with two others. Apart from the narrative about this (as it transpired) genuinely trans person being misgendered, it turned out all friends in the end. Maybe Peter Kay and fellow actor were role-playing, but it was a bad one, saying how pervy and disgusting it was for men to dress as women, and then to be accepted as a friend. You know the score. Entrenched, this view encapsulates with it that men must never be feminine, that gender, that sex, is heavily polarised, and that anything else is undermining and disgusting.

We really have to talk about gender, and about what it is not. Most of all, we have to focus not on gender, but on attitudes to each other. Jesting about a trans person is abusive. Shouting ‘you’re a man’ and ‘penis’ repeatedly at a trans woman on a TV show, and not being challenged, is abusive. Instructing your child not to associate with a trans child as a friend, is abusive. Putting gender up as the subject for debate, rather than challenging male attitudes to women, is abusive. Painting trans women as all being potential predators, as being essentially male, and painting trans men as failed butch lesbians, is abusive. Disenfranchising intersex people by not even including them is thinking about sex and gender, is abusive.

Making my gender legitimate, whatever I hold it to be, is not a medical thing. Refusing my gender on grounds of male attitudes to women for thousands of years, is not the right focus. False arguments about men making a legal pretence to be female in order to legitimise invasive and abusive behaviour, is a nonsense. And yet this is precisely the context of the current proposals for changes to the Gender Recognition Act, and why discussion of it has become abusive.

Let’s just talk about respect between human beings, about what attitudes are not acceptable, and about social privilege, whatever its form. Let’s talk about why men do not really want women to be equal. Let’s imagine what this world would be like now, if we had been equal determinants of it for thousands of years.