Friday, 23 September 2016

Bi Bending

I don’t know about you, but for me, being trans has opened my eyes to sexuality.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I have never been somebody that you’d be able to say was as straight as a ruler but that doesn’t mean I’ve always been comfortable with my sexuality (well… perhaps one of those bendy rulers!). In fact, I have found it far easier to come to terms with my gender identity than I ever have who I fancy the pants off!
They were very mixed up over the years. Before transition it was much easier to say I was gay… but then probably straight! My experience of sexuality was that I couldn’t understand who I wanted while the people I fancied had no clue who I really was.
Transition gave me the opportunity to understand my sexuality for what it is. Bi.
It wasn’t that I was finally able to say I can be attracted to both men and women. My transition enabled me to think about who I might fancy completely differently.
A lot of people are genuinely attracted to features that may be found commonly in masculine men etc. and as a result they’re able to say with certainty, ‘I’m gay’ or ‘I’m straight’. They associate particular characteristics with a certain gender identity and expression which means they’re more than comfortable with whom they get the hots for.
For me, I was finally able to realise that I fell for the person… that it wasn’t particular body parts, genitals or attitudes that I found sexy, but different ones and for different reasons. Essentially, what I realised was that a person’s gender wasn’t what attracted me, it was the person.
It’s particularly important today, with it being BI Visibility Day.
When it comes to sexuality it’s perfectly possible to say that Bisexuality is perhaps an incredibly natural form, just because it’s about connecting with another human. I don’t say that I’m bi because I am attracted to men and women, I know I’m bi because I can be attracted to people with masculine and feminine attributes!
The reason Bi visibility Day is so damn important though, is because being Bi is incredibly misunderstood and there are ridiculous misconceptions about it. I am not being greedy… I just have more options because I refuse to rule someone out due to what is or isn’t between their legs. I am not confused about my sexuality… I just know that I can find different people attractive for different reasons. I am not going to be straight or gay in the end… I will always be attracted to people regardless of gender (but since I’m in a relationship I’m currently only into one person).
I’m able to finally understand my sexuality through the eyes of my gender identity. It’s only so annoying now that my sexuality is just as misunderstood as my gender.
People who are Bi are valid. Their identity and their sexuality is valid. They’re not simply being promiscuous or acting out of confusion and it most definitely isn’t a phase. At the minute, people would rather say they’re gay than own the fact that they are Bi but this is because of how much prejudice there is around being Bi and realising that fact truly shines a light on the situation.
It’s Bi Visibility Day! So, if you’re not Bi, by an ally. Because it’s time we got over the stupid ideas and ignorant bigotry we have around gender and sexuality. People are people and people love people. It’s simple, really. 

Thursday, 22 September 2016

No Trans-Land: The NHS

There could never be too great a focus on the inability of the National Health Service to provide care for trans and non-binary people. Doctors have no idea how to help trans patients, the NHS provides a postcode lottery system when it comes to availability of treatments and the waiting lists are such a disgrace that it takes years to see anyone who may be able to provide care.

It’s not exactly shocking that my own experiences of NHS care influence this post. My experiences influence the way I have come to campaign and fight for change.

I have now been waiting for medical care and treatment for 3 years. In that time I have seen only one medical professional who can help me. Even now, I am waiting for the treatment which the service is well aware I need.

There are very few areas of medical care in the UK where you will wait more than 3 years to receive the treatment you need (and I am expecting to wait at least another 1-2 years). It is clear evidence of the lack of attention which is given to vital areas of the NHS such as Gender Identity Clinics.

Trans and non-binary people often require support and care through the NHS in connection with their gender and their bodies but all too often GPs and doctors are incapable of offering any help. The individual is simply thrown into the waiting jaws of the gender identity clinic which, believe me, requires the patience of a saint and the mental fortitude of the Dalai Lama. This system means that you’re forced into a never-ending queue of ‘catch-up’ appointments to discuss the toys you played with as a child and what manages to sexually excite you.

When providing gender identity healthcare and treatment the NHS belittles and degrades trans and non-binary service users and that’s if we’re lucky enough to prove we’re worthy of care. It overlaps in the most horrendous manner with other services. God forbid you are a trans patient trying to access care not related to your gender identity.

It becomes a complicated and drawn out mess with overlapping services seeming incompetent as they attempt to understand why you could possibly need any other care than that which the gender identity clinic provides (or, more accurately, fails to provide.) You are forced to endure delays and referrals which are needless and, more often than not, exacerbate the problems.

The most serious and tragic of situations in which you can find yourself, when you’re trans, is requiring mental health support. Mentioning this in any way to your doctor will sound an immediate and deafening claxon in their head that you should be referred back to the gender clinic as soon as possible. Not for a single second will your doctor consider that your mental health issues have absolutely nothing to do with your gender identity, after all they couldn’t possibly be unrelated!

And this demonstrates the precise nature of what is so horribly wrong with the way in which healthcare is provided for those who are trans or non-binary. The NHS instantly connects everything to do with our health to our gender identity. It treats it as one homogeneous issue while, simultaneously, being incredibly incompetent at providing the care associated with gender identity service users.

The ultimate result is far greater harm being caused to the trans community through additional mental health concerns, long term sickness and, frankly, suicide and self-harm. It needs to change as soon as possible so that doctors understand it isn’t some specialised medical service which has nothing to do with them. Unfortunately, in a time of cuts to services and other pressures, trans and non-binary people are easy enough to side line and divert money away from. We deserve better and we need more. 

Sunday, 18 September 2016

The Unacceptable Face of Transgender

I’m a lucky trans person. I am able to leave the house with my head held high. I am able to walk the streets without facing verbal or physical abuse on a daily basis. I am able to go about my day without fearing aggression and violence. I fit in.

I am often reminded, much to my chagrin, that I ‘look good’ and that ‘nobody would ever know’. By being myself and appearing how I choose to the vast majority of those I pass in the street take absolutely no notice of my ass that won’t quit and my increasing rotundness. Instead I am a woman they ignore like any other.  

I am an acceptable trans person.

It is something I reject. It is something I oppose at every turn. I loudly and proudly proclaim my trans identity. In my job it is something I am now beholden to and it something I will never begrudge. While I am the acceptable trans person, I fight to be unacceptable.

The vast majority of trans individuals, those who identify as trans men, women and non-binary face the greater struggle of belonging to the unacceptable trans bracket. They are those who do not conform to the gender norms. They are those who appear so visibly transgender that the world can all at once pinpoint, belittle and admonish them. They are the reason I fight so stubbornly to be seen not as a woman but as a transgender woman.

Those who are seen as the acceptable trans people are the ones who achieve a sense of tolerance and understanding. When you’re the acceptable version of being transgender you can make a life fighting only those who know you are trans, rather than fighting the entire world. Those who are the unacceptable version of being transgender are the people harassed and bullied by the media, ridiculed in films and television sitcoms and they are forced out of their jobs, evicted from their homes and face unimaginable violence. They do not fit in.

There is a far simpler explanation of the paradigm though. It is not the acceptable vs unacceptable trans, it is instead the people who do not appear trans vs those who do.

When those who are the acceptable trans people are removed in this way we can see that trans people are not acceptable at all. I get by because the vast majority of people choose not to see that I am transgender.

Of course there are no acceptable and unacceptable trans individuals. Those of us who are transgender and non-binary are, unlike the claims of the Tory party machine, truly all in this together. My identity is not accepted by all of those who walk past me in the street without abusing me, they simply do not realise I am one of the persecuted trans community.

This is why I fight to be the unacceptable trans person. Those who are assumed to be transgender are the ones in constant danger and as such, the trans community as a whole is in constant danger. The whole trans community is segregated, it is an outcast from the mainstream of society because it does not ‘fit in’. Trans rights and equality can never be evaluated against me, for I remain a trans person who is ‘acceptable’ to society.

The fight for trans equality is not, and can never be, about fitting in or assuming a role where we do not challenge perceptions of the gender binary because there can never be acceptance of trans and non-binary people that way.

Trans visibility is vital. It must be a visibility exposing all identities, flying in the face of cisnormativity if there is to ever be understanding and acceptance of transgender individuals, if there is to ever be understanding and acceptance of me.