Category: My Transcape


​So…I live in an area of Australia once described to me by a gay friend and long-time resident as a “gay ghetto”. He was referring to the fact that our suburb (throughout the 70s & 80s) was a VERY rough neighbourhood into which gay men (mostly), but also lesbians & trans people moved to escape persecution elsewhere. The people in this area were poor and had bigger things to worry about than if their neighbour was gay. I mean who gives a fuck, right – the other neighbour is a drug addicted pimp with links to organised crime!

Over time, the sense of community in LGBTI+ people encouraged so more and more LGBTI+ people to moved into the area and, over time, the neighbourhood changed from a rough, scary place to one of the most inclusive, beautiful places on Earth (well that’s my opinion).

Yes, I get that this was perhaps gentrification of one marginalised group by another, however, our area is still such a mix of gay, straight, rich, poor, euro, asian, indigenous, immigrant and not I feel this process has not been a negative one.

It was into this neighbourhood that myself and my partner moved in 99/2000. We have never left.

Part of the gay culture in our area (I can call it “our” after 20 year I think) has always been drag shows.

Drag shows have been a part of the Sydney gay scene since there was one. The most famous period is still probably the 70s & 80s when Carlotta was twirling out on stage in a feather boa.

Drag and drag culture has influenced LGBTI+ culture worldwide and we have to keep remembering that for YEARS trans women who were not accepted almost ANYWHERE were welcomed and celebrated presenting as who they were on the stage of their local drag show.

Drag has allowed thousands of our trans sisters (& brothers) to be themselves for fleeting hours and though this learn how to accept themselves. And for many, this happened long before many of us had learned what gender was. Long before many of us had learned to crawl.

Many drag performers leverage their link to LGBTI+ culture to make crass jokes & some of these affect trans women negatively – and while this is not cool, I think trans people generally need to try to keep in mind the past and how the world we are slowly educating has changed already. We need to have to look back, take a look at what drag and drag culture has given us as trans people – without drag, without that embryonic phase of self-exploration for so many of our trans sisters and brothers – the concept of transition would still be be all but unheard of. The idea that a person could present themselves as a gender other than that into which they were born would be anathema in far more places than it is.

Please, particularly my gorgeous, brave, strong trans sisters – don’t take drag as an insult to you, nor your identity. I understand that some drag performers are insenitive and hey – if you’re one of those drag performers, please try to do better – but we as trans people need to also learn to have a thicker skin. Tranny is an ugly word, but my Dad used it used to use it far more to refer to a small transistor radio than to a trans woman.

Words have only the power you give them.

Try to look at drag as a form of performance that has, as part of its history helped SO MANY trans people to escape the shackles of their birth sex and societal gender role and learn to show the world the person they have always been inside.

Drag has also allowed people who have never thought about gender before to see another idea and learn that gender is not fixed by a person’s genitals.

PLEASE understand that drag has been a crucial part of our ability to be accepted as the people we are.

Also…laughter is good. Try not to ever let it hurt you, even if it’s an arsehole laughing.

❤️

— IEK

madonna_outfitIt was the big night.

I’d been waiting for this night for MONTHS. The company I worked for organised a June 30 costume party every year and theme was always announced quite a while in advance because these guys were SERIOUS about their costume parties.

The previous year, I’d embraced the idea fully, attending the Superheroes-themed June 30 as Buffy. Because of course! It was the first time my colleagues at this company had seen me presenting as I felt.

This year the theme was 80s, so I was going as Madonna. I had my fishnet gloves, my layered tutu, my leggings and I had THE ATTITUDE.

Well…I thought I did anyway (I did not win best-dressed by any means).

I got myself ready at home, walked to the train station and taken the train into the city for the party. I knew I could kind of almost pass for female if people weren’t paying much attention, so for the most part, I just got the standard woops & crow-calls any woman gets when she’s out in fishnet gloves and a layered tutu (yes, it’s a pretty fucked world…you know unless you’re a white, cis, hetero male). For the most part, when I would present as the gender I felt, I would look down and hope my wig would cover my face sufficiently.

Of course on the train there were a few kids and kids ALWAYS pay attention. They were asking uncomfortable questions of their parents, so I just smiled.

Smiling at strangers is certainly something presenting as my non-birth gender has encouraged in me. I’ve found people who appear to be ready to antagonise or are giving a disparaging look don’t big_smilequite know what to do when the person they’re offended by smiles at them. And of course most people (you know – normal people) just smile back.

When I arrived at the train station in the city, I came out through the turnstiles to find a group of late teenagers chatting loudly along the wall I had to walk past to get to the party venue. My stomach immediately knotted. I knew late teens. I’d even been one (no, really). They tended not to care who they offended so long as whatever they were saying induced a laugh in the crowd they were hanging out with. I really didn’t want teasing or abuse of any sort, so I smiled (of course) and kept walking as fast as I could.

totoro_walkTo my surprise the only thing one of the said was: “Are you a DUDE!?!”

And that was it. I smiled extra wide for him and was on my way.

I arrived at the venue and was a little hot from my walk to and from the station, so I lined up to check in my jacket in the cloak room. It wasn’t a very Madonna jacket anyway. While I was standing there, a lady I’d not met before started chatting to me and after I began responding she gasped and touched my arm.

“OH! I’m so sorry!” she said. “I thought you were a girl!”

To which I smiled and just said “Thank you”.

This lovely co-worker was not the first, nor the last to believe I was a cisgendered female and every time it happened, if gave me a sense of joy.

It was around this time that I realised I needed to learn to walk like a girl.hale_walk

Now I know what you’re going to say: what the hell is that supposed to mean? Well hear me out. I’ve spent a lot of years casually observing people and adapting my own walk (among other things) to the way I wanted to be perceived and I can tell you: on average there are subtle, but important, differences.

When we swing our arms while we’re walking, it is extremely annoying (and destabilising) to bump them into things – expecially things which are connected to us. The shape of the average woman and the shape of the average man are different in quite specific ways. To avoid bumping our hands or arms into the bits which protrude from our bodies, we all hold our arms in a certain way. The average woman has larger hips, a narrower waist, smaller rib cage and narrower shoulders than the average man and so, on average, women hold their wrists and hands further out from their bodies and their elbows fall closer in than men’s do. Conversely, on average, men’s elbows fall slightly further out and they hold their hands and wrists closer in than women because of the specific parts of their bodies which are larger/smaller.

Due to the larger hips on the average woman and the larger shoulders on the average man, the movement we perceive with our eyes is also greater in those areas (because there is literally more stuff moving).

gosling_walkThere is also a difference to the way in which we hold out knees while we walk. Males tend to splay their knees to allow more room between their thighs (because the alternative can be literally painful), while women tend to keep their knees (and thighs) closer together. Women also tend to walk with different rhythm of rise & fall of their body – this is mainly because there are some things on their chests which move as a result of this rise & fall. It’s difficult to explain, but there is an element of breasts having an impact on the rise & fall, but also the woman controlling her walk to reduce the movement of her breasts & any pain associated (yes, boys – pain). Men don’t really have this, so their walk can be more jarring.

Subtle though they may be – these are purely physical differences.

Yes, there is a broad spectrum of body types and walks and I very much know the overt stereotype of both women and men (often perpetuated by people trying to appear more masculine or more feminine themselves), but the physical differences are real and they do have an effect on the way people walk as well as the way people perceive the gender of the walker.

What I’ve had to do (over time) is try my best to not over-play any particular motion. As with most thing during a transition, I got it hilariously wrong in the early stages.

Over the years, I’ve tried to adopt a more feminine gait when I’ve been presenting female, but of course, when you’re not doing it all the time, it’s easy to revert back to the more masculine manner of walking. More recently, I’ve tried to simulate broader hips by wearing clothing which pokes out from my hips (A-frame skirts; longer skater dresses), while trying simultaneously to keep
my elbows in a little more. I’ve tried DESPERATELY not to exaggerate this motion and (I think, after 20 years) I’m starting to get more of a natural flow to it. Heels help because the way they force priss_armour_2you to walk (shorter steps, butt out, straight back, heel first) is something people only ever subconsciously associate with women.

CC hates all of this. Why try to affect something which is not natural?

And I get that, I do, but…

…well…it’s because it feels better to be less noticed and in order to be less noticed, before I step outside, I have to put on my armour.

My walk is just one piece of my armour.

— IEK

YOU. SHALL. NOT. PASS.Up until I was 21, my experiences with presenting as the gender I felt inside were entirely contained within the four walls of my parents’ house. And only when I was the sole occupant.

In the safety of that isolated space, I learned a lot about what would work and what would not, so by the time I began to venture outside, I already had some (albeit untested) idea of how to pass.

My early experiences of going out presenting female, rare and fleeting though they were, taught me a great deal more about what goes into the ability to “pass”.

In short: a hell of a lot.

Passing, for the uninitiated, is what we trans people call being able to look enough like the gender we feel inside to be generally treated as a person of that gender. Some people call the ability to do this “passing privilege”. Some trans people have complete passing privilege and the folk out there who believe they can “tell” a transgender person from a cisgender person only believe this because there are also many trans people who’s bodies simply do not afford them the ability to pass.

I know I’m very lucky with my body in that I’m quite short (for a male…I’m average height for a female), I’ve never been stocky, nor muscular and I’ve never had a great deal of body hair. Some might say I’ve always been quite feminine for someone born with a male body. Even so, there are any number of things which prevent me from passing which is why, like most trans people I’ve spoken to or read about, my initial attempts to pass were quite ridiculous.

If we look back at photos of ourselves when we were teenagers, most of us feel at least some sense of embarrassment. The teen years are when most of us are feeling our way through society’s expectations of us – how to dress, how to behave, what to say, how to style our hair, how much makeup to apply (if any). As we learn, we hone our skills at being able to know what’s acceptable, what’s not and we gradually establish how we ourselves want to present ourselves to the world.

Imagine having to go through all that for a second time. This is what trans people face when they begin their transition. For most of us, the early stages are embarrassing all over again, only this time – for many of us – we’re grown adults feeling our way through society’s expectations. The disdain we receive from the world around us is that much more severe.

Again, despite the consequences of suppressing my gender identity for so long, I know that in many ways I’m quite lucky in the way I’ve undergone my transition. Unlike some trans people who find that they have to go full-time  very quickly for the sake of their mental health, I was able to gradually explore my gender identity, essentially revealing myself and learning about myself bit-by-bit such that by the time I began to present full-time, I’d spent close to 20 years essentially in training.

Having supportive people around me and never really giving much of a fuck what society expects has helped a great deal. Embarrassment is one emotion I simply don’t engage with.

That said, there is a big difference between not caring what society expects and being willing to deal with non-stop negativity.

Which brings us to my ongoing challenge of trying to pass.

ridiculousness

*FACEPALM*

I can only speak from the perspective of a trans woman trying to pass as a female and, though I know the trials of being a trans man are equally significant, I will focus on what I have experienced and try not speculate on the experiences of others.

When I finally found the courage to go out and buy my first womens’ clothing (at 21 years of age), much to CC’s dismay (because she is WONDERFUL and was helping me buy them), I gravitated toward the shortest of skirts, the tightest of tops, fishnet stockings, lingerie and heavy makeup. It horrified her because, as she put it later: if I was trying to appear like a woman, then this overt sexuality must be how I viewed women!

But that was not the case at all. The reason I gravitated toward all of that (generally risqué) stuff was because it was what I felt was the MOST feminine and the LEAST masculine of clothing. In those early stages, I was trying to retreat from the gender I didn’t identify with – that I’d been forced to live in and conform to since birth – and do it as fast as I could. I’ve spoken to a lot of trans women and people who work with trans women and this story is certainly not unusual for the initial stages of transition.

As a result of not only the risque clothing and makeup, but also the fact that I’d spend 21 years trying very hard to “be a man”, when I first started to presented as female, the comments came thick and fast from everywhere – from those who care about me and also those who very much did don’t. For me, of course, they were all to do with appearing too masculine.

“You walk like a man”

“Your jaw is too square”

“Your voice is all wrong”

“You look like Krusty the Clown”

“Your arms are too muscly”

“You stumble too much in heels”krusty_3

“Your mannerisms aren’t right”

“Your makeup makes you look like a clown”

“No women actually do that”

“You look like a man in a dress”

“You need to sit straighter”

“You have no hips”

“It looks like you’re wearing clown shoes”

“Your chest is too big – you need bigger boobs”

“You have man hands”

“I can see exactly where your undercarriage is”

There are a lot more, these are just the ones which stuck with me. And almost every single one has affected the way I present myself in some way or other.

Did you note the clown theme? Yeah, there’s a reason trans women are so often the comedy relief in mainstream entertainment and a lot of it is to do with trans women in their early stages of transition trying DESPERATELY to embody this sense of self they have inside. OK, yes to be fair drag queens also bear some of the responsibility and I have seen many HILARIOUS drag queens. But still, laughing at the way a person looks when they’re so vulnerable and inexperienced in the Me & Parisworld they’re stepping into really isn’t that funny is it?

If you look at all of the criticisms above you can see that this is EXACTLY the same stream of criticism young girls face as they grow up and develop into women. Of COURSE I know that this isn’t right and that society’s view of women is idiotic. I respect every single woman who has endured this bullshit and yet still grown into a functional person, but my brain-body alignment is idiotic too and I just wanted to look the way I felt.

Did I feel like an impossible Barbie doll shape inside?

No.

Would I have traded my body for ANY female body?

Yep.

No person has “the perfect body” because there’s no such thing. Everyone has flaws and I know this, but when you’re trans and every criticism feels like it’s shoving you back in that place you started, the place you’re trying to escape, the place where you’re “a man in a dress”, the need to conform to this idiotic set of standards can sometimes take over.

It’s a discussion CC and I have had many, many times – do we really want our daughter to grow up looking up to someone who tries to conform to all of these idiotic standards?

Well…of course not.

As I type this I’m sitting here in my jeans, mary janes, t-shirt dress and a Richmond Football Club hoodie (because of course), but I am wearing my wig. I have a teensy bit of eyeliner (no wings today) & a natural lipstick on. And though I’m not presently speaking, if I did, I know I’d be affecting as realistically feminine a voice as I could (which is to say not feminine at all).

…Freak…Man in a dress…

As I type this, I know I want to show our daughter and our sons a world free of the expectation girls and women have to either refuse to conform to or go mad trying to meet, but I wonder if I can be brave enough to refuse to conform to them myself.

— IEK

out_move_onWhen I was a young teenager (as in around 27 years ago), I was sitting watching the ABC (that’s the Australian public broadcaster ABC) and a news report came on about transgender people and the gay community. I was immediately intrigued because, known only to me, I REALLY identified with these “transsexual” people. I remember one of the gay activists being interviewed saying he had the utmost respect for trans people, calling them the “suffragettes of the queer community” because most trans people couldn’t go stealth (ie. blend in with the rest of society & conceal any queerness to avoid negativity). It’s a phrase which has stuck with me ever since.

If you’re trans or you know a trans person, no doubt you know all about the mistreatment trans people are prone to receiving. Sometimes it’s from complete strangers, sometimes their co-workers, their customers, sometimes their employers, even their family and friends. Literally as I started writing this post, I read a news story about a trans woman not being offered any more work as a casual teacher after she began presenting female. As with much of the discrimination against trans people, the argument put forward by this teacher’s superiors was “a lot of people have understandable misgivings”.

I’ve heard this argument before. Not from an employer trying to justify no longer offering me employment (which would have been an awful experience), but from a family member genuinely trying to be helpful. She suggested that I should somehow come out to people slowly & cautiously, allowing them time to process this change in the way I present my gender identity.no_fucks

On one hand I understand this, I mean I have spent decades of my life burying my gender identity within myself (see My Transcape #1) and only slowly, cautiously – GLACIALLY – coming out, both to myself and others. I know this approach is easier to digest for people than a sudden, full-time change, but we also have to weigh up how living and presenting in a way we ourselves don’t even recognise is affecting us. For me, to a certain extent I can take it – I’ve been presenting androgynous for years (even before that my style was called “eccentric”), so the idea of being referred to using either male pronouns or female pronouns doesn’t really bother me (though I do feel better hearing she/her). But I’m not everyone. I know others may not deal with being misgendered nearly as well, and so I equally understand the other point of view which is: who gives a fuck what other people think about what I’M doing with MY gender identity? This is me. Deal with it.

Though it’s a concise argument and one I’m rather fond of, the counter is strong and terrible. Quite aside from the parents who disown their trans children, brothers and sisters who stop speaking to their trans siblings, children who disown their trans parents, the friends who cut all ties with trans people the moment they come out and (as above) the employers who terminate the employment of trans employees, there are some vile people who don’t give you the option of caring or not caring about their opinion because they’re too busy abusing you, hitting you, kicking you, stabbing you, shooting you or legislating against you to pay any attention to what you care about. Though the hostility toward trans people is reducing as the general public become more educated about transgender issues, depending on where you live, there could still be anything from none of these people to hundreds of them and online the more vile people seem to bunch together.

It’s into this hostile environment which all trans people cast themselves when they come out (or as many trans people might put it: go full-time).

So why the hell would anyone transition?

Why indeed?

Well I did (and am). Gradually, over 20+ years, but I did (and am).

If you’ve read Transcape #1, you’ll know that I started out trying to “release” my gender identity by cross-dressing very early in my life, but by the time I’d gathered enough courage to reveal to anyone that even I cross-dressed, I was already 21. And I only told one person then because we had started a serious relationship and I didn’t want any secrets.

At the time I had established, from extensive reading of incorrect studies and opinions, that I was “just a cross-dresser”. The crux of the argument made by most of these fine resources was that if I did not want to immediately remove my male bits in order to escape depression and/or suicide, then I was not trans.

“Oh,” thought I. “Well, that’s a relief then. All of this fantasy about actually being female and presenting female must be just caught up in this cross-dressing thing. Great! Guess I’ll never have to face all of that anti-trans hostility then!”

And that was that. Right?

Spoiler alert: So much of no.

At 21, I was so fortunate to have met and fallen for someone who really didn’t seem to care about my dark cross-dressing secret. She was actually quite amused by the whole thing. Some of you may have heard of her – online I refer to her as Co-Consul or CC (yes – the very same, the very first person I confided in).

i_want_to_be_freeAfter this initial (and honestly TERRIFYING) confession and the resultant…well…ambivalence, I gradually came out to more
and more people because the idea of being able to more regularly present myself the way I WANTED TO made me so happy. My idea was that I wanted to make my “closet” as large as possible. Having been a pretty selective person when it came to friendships (bigot: nope, don’t want to talk to you; arsehole: nope, not you either), most of my friends were either encouraging, amused or ambivalent. Considering the expectation I’d had, it was a generally positive experience for me.

During this time of self-expression, I ended up kind of being forced to also come out to my parents and siblings (something I would not have chosen to do).

I’d been out with friends, you see, drinking heavily (as we did) and I arrived home, very drunk, to a sleeping house and decided to spend some time on the computer dressed the way I had originally wanted to go out (but hadn’t because terrified). Anyway, the hangover I awoke with made breathing & moving feel like an extreme sport. I was in the bath robe I’d hastily thrown on after getting out of bed and
I was carrying a coffee from the kitchen, intending to sit down & stare at it while I worked up the courage to ingest anything. My older brother breezed into the room andspotted the bra I was apparently still wearing under my robe. Being a shy, retiring type, my brother snort-laughed and immediately demanded to know what this was all about. My hangover-soaked reaction of “I…I just can’t deal with this right now” was clearly not going to be a long-term solution.

So later that day, after much coffee, vitamin B pills and bacon, I explained to my siblings and my parents that I was “just a cross-dresser” (because the internet told me so). Though it was daunting, I had made so much ground in coming out to my friends that I did not want to let the fear control my life anymore. You know, because fuck it.

My parents reacted pretty much as well as I could have hoped for: they didn’t get it, they didn’t like it, but equally they didn’t kick me out on the street.

So I was pretty much completely out as a cross-dresser. My concept of having the world’s largest closet seemed to be working rather well.

Then I entered the workforce full-time and from that point, the course of my gender expression became substantially influenced by the culture of my employers.

My first full-time role was working the night shift for an ISP which just happened to have a night-shift demographic of about 50% gay or lesbian to 50% straight. It was the most open, hilarious, welcoming environment you could imagine and so I started wearing skirts, dresses and heels to work because nobody gave a shit. It was awesome. I did pretty well in that company, but found my IT skills were in high demand in the marketplace, so I moved to an insurance company closer to home for more money (win/win). Though it was certainly hilarious and welcoming, the insurance company was not nearly as open and it quickly became clear that my gender identity would have to remain in the wardrobe with all my dresses, skirts and heels.Closet

Over the next several years, I kept my female attire and my gender identity locked away, unleashing it for costume parties only, until a few weeks after I had decided to become full-time carer for CC & my newborn and had handed in my resignation to the insurance company. There was a formal event where I attended presenting the gender I felt. Once again, because of extensive ground-work laid years before, it was a great night and there was next-to no negativity. But once it was over, I went back to presenting male.

For the next 3+ years I was a full-time carer for our children and (foolishly) decided to re-train as a teacher. I knew if I wanted to be employed and survive my first years as a teacher, my gender identity needed to be further concealed, so I hid myself away even deeper, going so far as to delete forum posts, change online usernames, I shut down my website and removed any online content which hinted at being anything other than a cis male and could realistically be linked back to me. Judging by the experience of the trans teacher from the news story I linked above – this was a smart move.

Well…It WOULD have been a smart move if only I’d been able to find any work as a teacher.

In the end even as a cis male I couldn’t find teaching work any closer than 2 hours drive from my home (with 3 very young kids, a 4-hour daily commute was not an option), so in the name of being able to eat and feed our kids, I gave up & went back to the IT industry.

failureThis was a pretty dark time for me. We had just had our 3rd child, I had become seriously stressed after 3.5 years as a full-time carer (not realising that part of it was the fact that I’d been suppressing my gender identity almost completely), my “dream career” as a teacher was dead in the water and I was having to take ANY entry-level IT job  just to bring in some money. Every IT recruiter I spoke to had the misconception that 3.5 years out of the IT industry meant I had been left behind (“Oh – that’s like an eternity in IT. Everything’s changed now”).

I truly felt like I’d failed in almost every aspect of my life.

As it turned out, the first “entry-level” job I landed was hugely challenging and rewarding. Within 12 months, I had been promoted and I was training the people who were coming in to do the work I had just been doing (teaching degree came in handy for something at least)…(also – take THAT, recruiters! Turns out the basics don’t change & even the advanced stuff doesn’t change much in 3.5 years). Despite all this renewed success, for whatever reason, I still wasn’t happy. In fact I seemed to be getting angrier and angrier – particularly with my kids. I’ll never forget one night, I completely lost control of myself and was yelling, red-faced at my two youngest – who were terrified – and all because they were playing silly buggers instead of getting ready for bed. It was ludicrous.

There were several times when I was alone, I broke down and cried because I didn’t think I could handle it anymore. They were probably the only times I’d cried in ten years. I thought of leaving, just up and going – take my anger away from the kids. But I could never do that to my beautiful family. I could never leave them. Somehow I just had to do better.

Some weeks later, alone in the darkness of CC and my bedroom, I decided I would try being who I felt I was inside and see if that helped with my anger.

Why did I decide to start to transition? Because I began to find burying myself unbearable. Because continuing to bury who I was no longer hurting just me.

Over the next year I did calm down. I booked in to see a counsellor because I felt I needed help working through everything and though I ended up having only around ten sessions with the counsellor, I think it did help. In the months following my resolution in the dark, I gradually presented more and more female. I took to wearing a hat all the time to cover my male pattern baldness, but otherwise I wore whatever I felt like on the day. I eventually bought some wigs to wear instead of hats (because what? It’s just LIKE a hat!). I’m not perfect, I still get angry with the kids, but haven’t lost it like that night again and I have a LOT more patience than I had before.

Over the past six months (yes, only six months!) I’ve transitioned fully at work. My swipe card has my preferred name, my email address has my happypreferred name and I am COMPLETELY accepted as female at work. I cannot speak highly enough about my current employer. Becuase I’m still a bit privacy-oriented, I will not (at this moment) reveal which company it is. Rest assured I promote them very well in my professional life as an inclusive employer of choice for pretty much anyone (because they are).

I told my parents what was happening with me and initially it seemed as though they were confused, disappointed, but accepting. But recently it’s become clear that “accepting” is not a word I could use to describe their attitude toward my gender transition.

These days, I present as myself doing drop-off and pick-up for the kids, at the shops – you name it. I am very fortunate (or perhaps geographically selective…or both) to live in an extremely open, friendly area and I have (thus far) had nothing but support, curiosity (which is COMPLETELY FINE FOLKS!) and concern (which is usually also fine). I have actually only really explained what’s going on to a few folks, the rest I’ve just let work it out as I show up at school or pre-school presenting as myself. For most people it’s not been so much of a surprise and as an explanation to my historical style choices.

I’m still not truly full-time. Or perhaps I just don’t feel like I’m full-time. Perhaps after decades of slow progress, I don’t even know what “full-time” means anymore. I also don’t know what my own endpoint is. At this stage I’m happy working toward a goal of being accepted presenting the end of the gender spectrum I feel. Perhaps at the moment, that’s my goal and perhaps, as with many things in life, there really isn’t an endpoint, just an ever-changing experience.

Whichever way, coming out to people in any capacity has usually scared me, but since I finally allowed myself to accept it, I haven’t let fear hold me back. The challenge involved in coming out is not related to the act of telling people I’m trans – I totally prefer that people know I’m trans! Rather the challenge for me is holding myself back, ensuring I move slowly – glacially – enough to continue facing my biggest challenge of all.

…but I’ll leave that for another day.

— IEK

bbq_eye
So for the uninitiated – I’m transgender. I was born with a male body, but I have always identified more with the female end of the gender spectrum. I identify these days as transgender female (as opposed to cis male or female). I present female and I like to be treated as a female (she/her), but I don’t seek to claim that “I am a woman”. There is so much about growing up female and being a woman that I can never truly know, nor know how it feels. After all these years, I don’t want to be a cis woman, I don’t long for it (anymore) – I just want to be who I am. Of course from a gender perspective, who I am is a complex equation. In fact my own gender identity is something I hope to explore further as part of this series of posts.

Just as there is so much about being a woman I could never truly understand, so too there is a lot about growing up trans, fighting it with everything you have until finally you just accept it and start to transition that no cisgendered person could truly understand. In this series, I’m going to try to put down in words my own experience so that hopefully it can help people of all types better understand the world of a person who is transgender.

I fully realise that no two transgender stories are the same and please accept that the experiences and understanding I will put down here in no way invalidate, nor prove the statements or experiences of other people. These are just my experiences and I give them as is.

Yes, this is 12-year-old me being a fucking robot. Shut up it was my first cosplay.

Yes, this is 12-year-old me being a robot. Shut up – it was my first cosplay.

I’ve been told by many people that my story is a little unusual (even for a trans person) and hell – why not? My brother always thought I was a robot!

I was born in a small city (which has a very country attitude) to middle-class family and I was brought up as a male in a comfortable, yet rather homophobic, macho, patriarchal environment. I consider myself to be reasonably intelligent and very early on (after much listening, some teasing from others and trial and error on my part) I learned that to be male, you had to be strong and tough and that anything which could possibly be considered “girly” was somehow undesirable. My experiments with tights, Barbie, being loving & attached to soft-toys, desiring the company of girls over boys and being FASCINATED by the beauty and colour of girls’ clothing and school accessories all convinced me that I had to avoid all of these things (yes, all right – except the soft toys)…(and the colourful clothing – who could avoid that!?!).

I tried my VERY best to be as male as possible so that nobody discovered what I was actually feeling inside – which was that the idea of being a girl made me feel great!

Well at least until the guilt set in.

I became pretty focussed on being more male and acting tough. Yes – this is absolutely normal behaviour for a young boy, but I had a habit of over-doing it. I tried to stand tough, walk tough, sit tough, talk tough. My Dad used to record our family saying “hi” and talking about our lives for his brother and their family who were living in the USA and when I heard the recording of my voice, I usually became upset that my voice sounded so high & girlish – so I re-recorded my part & tried to speak with a lower tone. I was probably six. When every boy in my class’ voices were breaking rather violently in late primary school (elementary school for US folks), my voice still sounded like a bird chirping, so I faked a voice break and started affecting a deeper voice. In the end, I never actually had my voice break, it just gradually became deeper (so again, I forced it to go further).

As I grew older, my muscles were not developing NEARLY as much as I wanted them to, so I started going to the gym every day. Well apparently my genetics really aren’t conducive to huge muscles and (thankfully, in hindsight) I just ended up with much stronger spaghetti arms and chicken legs.

Right when I started puberty, my desire to change the way I looked became too strong to ignore and I began to experiment with dressing and presenting female…to my mirror. When nobody was home. I had a tiny box of clothes I’d made myself which I would sneak out if I was ever by myself in the house – ONLY if I was absolutely by myself in the house. I became an expert at concealing what I was doing. Before I took out my box from under my bed, I ensured that I knew exactly what was in front of it, what position everything was in and where it needed to be in order to most quickly return it to its position. Nothing was overlooked. Though I longed for a day when I could finally begin to be female outside my own room (preferably full-time, outside my own house), I was so absolutely terrified that someone would discover my secret that I hid it deep under my bed and even deeper inside myself.

I had seen the isolation, abuse and hate transgender people experienced and I wanted no part of that. My life was pretty good and despite the fact that I felt my body was all wrong, I didn’t feel losing my family and all of my friends was a reasonable price to pay to change that. What I really wanted was to find some magic amulet which allowed me to change in an instant.ranma_2

Oh how I envied Ranma Santome.

Many times, for whatever reason (hormones, some experience of the day, whatever), I would feel such guilt about my secret box that I would take the entire contents and throw it away, being careful, of course, to ensure each item was concealed in the bin, wrapped individually in garbage so that no one could ever find it. Of course shortly after throwing away all of my carefully collected and modified clothes, I would feel the need to dress again, to be myself again and I would have to start creating new clothes from scratch and  would inevitably feel stupid for getting rid of them in the first place.

Now here’s where it gets tricky – there are many people in the world who are cross-dressers and not trans. I do think, though, that as being trans becomes more common, understood and accepted in general society, people like myself who are trans and would have turned to cross-dressing in private as a means of expressing who they are because the world was too hostile will more commonly accept that they’re actually trans much earlier. We can only hope.

As much as any trans person can suppress what they feel for a time, they can never get rid of it, no matter how much they or the people around them may want to. Being trans isn’t a choice, it’s just who we are.

Since puberty, I have been through many phases of suppressing and alternately embracing my transgender identity, buying dresses and high heels, hiding them at the back of the cupboard or throwing them out, dressing as a female for a costume party and feeling so happy and comfortable, then crashing back to Earth the next morning (usually with a raging hangover to boot) and pushing those feelings away for months. Of course by the time I started attending costume parties, my hair had mostly fallen out (thanks, testosterone) and I had resigned myself to the fact that I could never realise my gender identity.

I convinced myself that I could get by dressing occasionally as my “release”. I always chose a female avatar in computer games (in those 5 games in which I could choose one), I always chose female rollplaying characters and I ensured I was gender-neutral in web forums. I came out as a cross-dresser to most people I knew (including my family) in order to allow that “release” more freedom of movement. Interestingly, the overwhelming reaction to the revelation of “my dark secret” was amusement more than anything else.

This was a state I spent a long time in, though the sense of myself inside became louder and louder.

Until around 3 years ago.

Call it a mid-life crisis, call it what you will, I was sitting on the end of my bed staring into my open cupboard and feeling desperately unhappy. I’d been angry with the kids and basically a bundle of rage for several months without explanation, nor understanding on my part. In that dark room, alone, the thought of having to put on a suit or a pair of baggy jeans and boxer shorts upset me so much that I decided I didn’t want to do it again.

Though my fight to suppress my internal gender identity is not the biggest challenge I face in my transcape, at the time, this fight had been the biggest and longest challenge of my life (yes, that includes being primary carer to 2 children under 3).

That night, sitting alone in the dark, I stopped fighting.

I was 38.

— IEK

pride_heartI tried to stay clear of social media yesterday (Monday in Australia). Early on Monday morning, the world had crept up on me and punched me in the face. Not the first time I’d been punched in the face, but the first time I’d had no idea it was coming (I’ve been in a few fights, let’s just say).

Yesterday morning my Dad called and he was terribly upset. A relative who I had known since birth and with who’s family I had spent a lot of good times as a child had died. It was a shock. His family are some of our closest relatives, despite the distance between us. I’d known he had been experiencing heart trouble, but I guess things like that are never real until all of a sudden they are. I was immediately and very deeply saddened.

Later in the morning, I read about the massacre in Orlando.

50 people.

One dipshit and an assault rifle.

Again.

It was too much, so I stepped away. I needed to process.

Once I’d had a chance to at least get a sense of my own grief and was able to think about the Orlando shooting, my immediate reaction could be summed up in one image:

pride_fist

Because fuck that dipshit, fuck his assault rifle and fuck the people who would support him and encourage his viewpoint. Fuck people who think that lesbian, gay, bi, trans, intersex or any other group discriminated against because of their gender, gender identity or preference should be treated as anything other than equal to every other person. The time for love was done and the time to fight was now. I was going to change my avi to this fist and start fighting for the rights of LGBTI people – people like my friends, like the victims in Orlando. People like me.

But I wanted to stay away longer. I wanted to stay out of the storm which was happening on social media and spend the time just with my family. So I did and in that time, I realised that I was just buying into the same mentality which had created this dipshit – the same mentality which creates and drives a lot of these dipshits with guns: that the world is against you and you have to fight it. You have to fight, hurt and kill if you want to be heard, you have to fight, hurt and kill if you want to be taken seriously.

Well it’s not true.

It’s a lie.

It’s a lie built on centuries of macho self-importance and the desire to be stronger and/or more heavily armed than everyone else because it’s the only way some people can feel safe.

But I feel safe. I don’t worry that someone is going to take out a gun and execute me and my family. I don’t feel like I have to have an assault rifle to be heard. I’m quite OK without an assault rifle. In fact I rather prefer life without those awful things. I feel lucky that I live in Australia where shootings still occur, but the numbers of dead are 1 or 2, not 10, 20 or 50 because it’s damn near impossible to buy an assault rifle in this country and such weapons are certainly beyond the financial and logistical means of dipshits.

I have realised that if you want to create a better world – a world where everyone can feel safe, where dipshits like this guy who killed all of these innocent people in Orlando don’t feel like they have to fight, hurt or kill to be heard, we need to start by opening our hearts, not closing them off.

I changed my social media avis to a simple Pride flag over the last couple of days to show my support for the community which has shown me such amazing support in my times of need. I haven’t started any fights online and I haven’t become involved in any (yet). I’m sure there will come a time when I need to stand up for the communities and for the basic human rights I believe in, but I have come to realise that violence and the promotion of violence is not something which can ever truly end violence.

I commend the people who have taken this stance of love over hate even as I was boiling away in my indignant rage, ready to punch on. I commend them for not letting their anger get the better of them, for directing their passion toward making the world a more loving place, not a more hateful one.

So from here on, I’m going to try to follow their example.

I’m going to try to love just a bit more and hate just a bit less.

— IEK

g_greerYou may well ask: How can someone who identifies as a trans person support an organisation which allows a person with clear and stated transphobic opinions to give a lecture?

To me it’s obvious – she is not being asked to speak about transgender issues.

Germaine Greer is an icon of the womens’ liberation movement; a product of a very ugly time in our society’s past when women were treated as little more than property, an accessory to be admired, yet not heard. Greer grew up, as all women did in those days, seeing the hatred and violence directed at the suffragettes who came before her, suffering and seeing the hatred and violence directed at her – all for nothing more than being female and daring to imagine she could have a say. Greer chose to use all of that frustration she felt as a woman living under this oppression and to direct it into making a stand.

Many of the things she has said and written have been bold, confronting, angry and made her the target of hatred from almost every male who heard about it. This seemed to make her only more staunch in her views. I don’t agree with a lot of the things she says and yet I respect Germaine Greer for what she has done and the voices she has allowed to be heard.

Like many heroes of a time and of a moment, however, Germaine Greer is not perfect. Obviously for all of you people who are flawless of character, this must seem strange. Greer harbours many opinions which, though they allowed her to focus and drive through the ocean of negativity she had to navigate during the infancy of feminism as we know it, they have no place in the world today. Greer’s belief in herself and her bravery in the face of untold opposition is what has made her a hero of feminism and she will not change her stripes today just because a comparatively small number of people demand that she do so.

I don’t believe Germaine Greer will ever change her opinion of trans women (though it would be interesting to know her views on trans men). From what I derive from her stance, she believes that to be a woman, one must face the challenge of being a woman from birth – make your way through sexism, the absurd expectations of society that you must “look your best” all the bloody time, menstruation – all of the challenges faced only by those who grow up female.

Though I may not agree with it, I actually understand this argument. I don’t believe that being born with a vagina necessarily makes you a woman (there are many exceptions to this rule), but I understand that very, very few trans women could possibly understand what it truly is to be born as and grow up as a female.

Equally, though, very, very few people born female could understand what it truly is to be born in a gender you do not identify with and face the hate, violence and negativity which so sadly often accompanies the lives of trans people.

In this respect trans people and women are not so very different.

In looking over all of this, you may well say “But hey – you just said her opinions have no place in the world of today!” and you’d be partially right: her stance on the very existence of trans people has no place in the world of today, in fact she has not repeated her hateful opinions for decades and she said as much very recently. She is an intelligent person and I believe she realises her opinions don’t gel with today’s more open and understanding society which is why she hasn’t aired them for a very long time.

And her lecture at Cardiff University IS NOT ABOUT TRANSGENDER ISSUES – the lecture is entitled “Women & Power: The Lessons of the 20th Century“. It is a historical look over the womens’ liberation and feminist movement in the 20th century and how women have managed to fight their way to the right to vote, to legislated (if not real) equal-pay, to legislated equal rights and to the highest, most powerful jobs in the world. It is also a lecture on the work still to be done. I personally think it would be fascinating.

But now (misguided, in my opinion) activists are backing Germaine Greer against an opinion wall. If I know anything about Germaine Greer it is that she is at her most vocal – her most forthright when she is backed against a wall. And so she has made it clear that she has not changed her opinion of trans women. Important note: her opinion.

But if her task at the university is not to discuss transgender – why must we silence her on all subjects? In reality the trans movement only started gaining traction in the last 5 years, so it has little place in a brief university lecture about women in the 20th century!

I would absolutely support a ban on Germaine Greer if she were being asked to speak on the subject of transgender* because I feel her opinions are deeply negative, spiteful and ill-informed, but this lecture is absolutely not that. It is a lecture the subject of feminism and womens’ rights and on the history of the issue. On that subject, I think you could find few more important voices than Germaine Greer.

— IEK

*  Unless it were a debate because I love arguments and I also love winning them

Powered by WordPress

All content including images are © I. E. Kenner 1997 - 2017