R = Reuben
E = Ezchiel
F = Freya
B = Biff
? = Anon
R: I’m Reuben, I’m 20 – nearly said I was 19 then, Tag He and I’m happy for anything I contribute to the project to be used in any which way it is applicable.
E: I’m Ezchiel, Tag He, I’m 18, and I give my consent for this to be used anywhere.
F: I’m Freya, I Tag She, 39, yeah, I know. [LAUGHS] and I give consent, give my consent to what I say being used.
B: I’m Biff, I’m 23, Tag They and I give my consent for my stuff to be used.
INT: Why are we saying ages?
?: You don’t have to, if you don’t…
INT: Well, no, I’ve not got a problem with, I just didn’t realise…
E: We only copied Reuben.
INT: … that we were going to.
INT: I’m [COUGH] years and [LAUGHTER] 34, and I give consent to be used, although I probably won’t really say anything, so that’s cool. All right, so what does it mean for you to be transgendered, or transgender, sorry, in Brighton.
R: Brighton is known for being such a little, safe bubble, and I think it is absolutely is. I mean I came out to like a handful of people before I went to university, like when I still lived in Essex and I made a concerted effort to wait until I lived in Brighton, because I didn’t feel like I was going to be safe until I was in Brighton. There was only one trans person in our town that had like transitioned in the sort of normal sense, well, not normal sense, but like traditional sense and everybody took the absolute mick out of him and he was… it was always a bit of a case of, “Oh you see that guy over there?” “Oh yeah.” “Oh, did you know that’s actually a girl” and that was everyone did that, and I wasn’t going to put myself in a position to be ridiculed like that, so I waited until I was in Brighton, the safe land for anyone.
B: Things are also visible in Brighton, like either… not, there are people that are out as trans, not everyone is stealth, whereas before I’d never met anyone that was like, that wasn’t generally known that they were trans but it’s the same with like the LGB stuff as well, you could actually be in the street and see people, like the same sex couples holding hands, which I’d never seen outside of people’s homes, like they can do it in the street, which sort of gives you an indication that it’s a slightly safer environment than some other places.
E: Yeah, I was like reading sort of stories about people coming out online and stuff and talking to other people who live elsewhere, like in the States or other bits of the UK, like everyone… sort of like a lot of their stories were kind of like hard to read or, kind of like, you feel bad for them, because they’ve got, like, quite a lot of crap for coming out and like people had bullied them, because of their sexuality or like their parents were like, like just didn’t understand, like even what the word bisexual meant and stuff like that, but like… and I kind of geared myself up to be ready to sort of have to like explain to every like, every other person I met, what stuff meant and stuff. But like once I actually came out, like I never really got kind of… I was expecting everyone to be like “Oh, why?” like “What’s that?” like “Oh, you like girls, I can’t be near you any more!” kind of thing, but no one was like, they were just kind of like “Oh okay, cool. What do you want for dinner?” kind of thing.
INT: So, why have you found yourself at Transformers and what does that mean to you as a trans identified individual and just as a person?
E: I found Transformers through Allsorts. Like at the time I was kind of like still figuring out my gender and stuff, and I just thought it would be like a helpful place to go and it really was, like being with other trans people, because I’d never really sort of knowing been around any trans people, and it’s such like a lovely little sort of community bubble kind of feel, and it’s really nice and look forward to it, like when it’s every other week, or whatever. Kind of like being with other people that I have similarity and even if, like, there are other sort of facets that are really different and it’s just nice sort of being with people that understand, because talking to anyone else, like even my close friends, I’m kind of like “Oh, it was really annoying being misgendered and stuff today” and they’re like “Oh right,” because they don’t really understand what it’s like. But people at Transformers really do and it’s really nice have people that actually get it.
R: I think, something that I didn’t say about Brighton was the idea that you have more space to figure out who you are and how you identify and what you feel like if it’s you, and I think that’s a massive… a brilliant thing about Transformers is that it isn’t judgemental, there’s no hierarchy, there’s no, this kind of identification’s better than another. Like everyone has that space to figure out exactly what they want to do and at their own pace as well, and everyone’s really supportive and a lot of the time it goes beyond, you know, our differences and it becomes more about like coming together as a community and as people that we, you know, we know and respect and know they’ll respect us back and it’s nice just to be in a sort of environment where you don’t have to worry, you don’t have to think. I owe Transformers and Allsorts a huge amount for giving me a place where I could figure out how I wanted to be and how I was going to be and how I was going to make myself happy.
B: Yeah, and I guess with me, I’m trying to work things out at the moment, I’m not really out to hardly anyone and I’m not… and I’m sort of trying to work out if I want to transition and what I want to do, but I find talking about it with people that don’t have any experience with it a very comfortable experience, because you don’t know how they’re going to react and you can see, like of them are a bit freaked out or even if you mention it, sort of, in a sort of hypothetical thing about someone that you once knew, and then they say something, you’re like “Okay, well, you’re off that list, I’m not going to talk to you about it”, whereas at Transformers there’s a group of people that you know you can talk about it with and even if, you know, I’m not that comfortable talking about stuff then I know people will get what I mean without me having to really explain in great detail.
R: I definitely agree with that one. Sometimes, when you know you don’t have to give somebody background on the history of pronouns and the history of the terminology and blah, blah, and X, Y, Z, like you don’t have to… so it’s nice that it doesn’t need to be said and I think that’s really important, I completely agree with you on that one.
INT: So, I’m not supposed to be chipping in, but it’s like you’re… when you’re speaking to people who don’t… aren’t really familiar it’s like you’re the expert on it and you don’t really want to necessarily be the expert all the time, do you, you don’t want to have to be explaining exactly what it is that you’re talking about, it’s nice to be in an environment where you don’t have to bother and you can just go [MAKES NOISE] because it just levels the playing field doesn’t it, like, it just makes it…
B: And also it’s a place where it’s okay to talk about it, because like I’ve got a sibling who’s sort of non-binary and it’s kind of weird talking about it with them, because you don’t want that to sort of overtake the whole relationship because it’s like, “Well, actually I want to know you as something outside of that, rather than, ‘Oh, you are thing, I am thing too, let’s thing, thing, thing,’” and then not talk about anything else. You know, it’s nice to be able to separate it a bit as well.
INT: I’m going to pick one of these ones off here. What’s the place of trans people in the LGBTQI community? What’s the “I”?
INT: Intersex, beg your pardon. What are the things that are difficult to talk about in the trans community?
R: De-transition is a massive taboo and anybody who is not maybe 100% sure that they want to transition can be a bit of a taboo sometimes, as well. The idea that you have to be… you have to adhere to all these different sort of categories before you can identify in a certain way, and the idea that certain people are taken more seriously as trans people than others. And I think there is a big hierarchy that if somebody does want lower surgery versus somebody who doesn’t want lower surgery, the person who does want lower surgery can be seen as more trans than the other person. And it’s kind of ridiculous to that we are such an oppressed and marginalised group in, you know, all over the world, and yet we still marginalise certain people within the community that, in itself it’s so small, it just doesn’t make sense to me at all. To me it’s live and let live, do whatever you feel. So, yeah, I don’t really understand why people want to do. I’ve forgotten what the question was.
B: Yeah, it was what is the place of trans in LGBTQI or whatever the acronym we use this time.
F: I think that’s a really, really, really important point.
E: That’s what I really like about Transformers as well, because, like you said before, there really is no hierarchy, like people can walk in and be like “Hey, I’m genderqueer,” or “Hey, I’m not really sure,” or like “Hey, I’m like, I definitely identify as female though I was male or whatever and everyone’s just kind of like “Oh cool” and it’s like not really a big deal, whereas like a lot of the time, like online I found loads of kind of people like “Oh, you’re a fake trans person, you’re not really trans”, because like sometimes I identify more genderqueer than I do transmale or like “You’re not a proper transmale because you wear make-up sometimes” and it’s like…
INT: Why do you think people do that?
E: I’m not really sure, like I guess, their own insecurities, and I guess like sort of being transgender like so much of the… so much of society says that like we’re not normal, like we’re different and that’s a bad thing, kind of thing. I guess that’s what people have sort of been told, so they’re sort of relying it to other people in the trans community, like in… but I just find it ridiculous, because like we’re so… like being trans compared to cis-gender, like is different so being, I don’t know, genderqueer or like non-gender conforming compared to being trans, is different so surely like trans people should know that like how being different feels, if that makes sense. I don’t know it’s kind of the same like when someone’s been bullied and then they go and bully another person, it’s like “Well, know you how it feels, so do you really have no sense of empathy or do you like, even if you don’t have a sense of empathy, surely your can logically think out that like what was done to you, didn’t feel nice, so surely you shouldn’t do it to someone else”.
B: I guess for the intra-trans stuff it’s sort of about feeling at the bottom all the time and wanting one chance to feel that I’m the normal one, you lot are the weirdos. But it doesn’t make it any… it’s still not right, it’s the same thing with bullies, when bullies, you know, when people then go on to bully other people, then it’s like… it’s because they themselves feel the need to have a bit of power, but it’s still, it’s like “Why?”
E: Like there are sort of bigger and better ways to deal with your insecurities than taking it out on other people, and it’s like just makes everything, everywhere such a nicer place if everyone can just sort of deal with their own problems, by themselves, or like seek help in the right ways rather than forcing it onto other people in that way, because it’s just going to make everyone uncomfortable, and no one’s better than anyone else because of how they identify and no one’s sort of like worth more than someone else because of how they identify.
R: Judith Butler, considers – oh yeah! – she says that gender is performative, it’s like you perform a gender, and regardless as to whether you want to perform gender or not everybody does in absolutely everything they do. And I think sometimes people are just scared when people perform gender in ways that they’ve never seen before, so the idea of a trans guy wearing make-up or like a transwoman, you know, performing in drag shows and stuff like that, people find that really difficult because they have never seen a person that fits into that sort of category before and it completely changes the way that they see gender and therefore completely in a sense jeopardises the way they read the world as well, because everything is gendered, everything. Like and also the way that language is gendered as well and even in like the French language everything is male or female, objects are male or female, pronouns, you know, that every person is, you know, unless you use singular “they”, is he or she, and that shows just this massive divide in the world and about how society works as a whole. So, as soon as somebody pulls away from that, and, you know, if they are visibly queer, identify as queer or a trans or however other way, then that’s sometimes really difficult for people to get their heads round and they just don’t understand it. But equally, like I’m kind of moving away from this whole idea of identifying, you know, identity categories, especially when it comes to sexuality, I’m reading a journal I’ve got at the moment that criticises that, a new sort of category based on, you know, sexual preference is oppressive because it means that we’re not as freely able to flow within that as we like, as maybe as some people would do, you know, if you’ve identified as a lesbian or as a gay man for 10 years and then you maybe find yourself attracted to somebody of the opposite sex and then I think it’s very difficult to break away from the category that you’ve identified as for however long. And equally I think that’s the same as gender, like even though I identify as a man quite strongly, I have a few things about myself that I really like and that happen to be quite feminine attributes as well. So I think there needs to be more leeway for people to identify and – if that’s the correct word – or feel and act and perform gender in whatever way they see fits them.
E: I think it’s…
R: Rant over! [LAUGHTER]
E: Like it makes a lot of sense sort of like what I’m studying in psychology like we make schemas about everything from a young age and build them up, like if you don’t know like a schema is sort of a preconceived idea, so like the example we were given in lesson was when you go to a restaurant you presume and you have an idea of what’s going to happen. You get the waiter comes over to you, shows you to your table, and brings you a menu. And then, if that doesn’t happen, you’re suddenly left really confused, like “Where’s the waiter? What table to do I go to?” and it’s the same with gender, because like if people are brought up and assume that gender is binary or that like “this is man, man plays rugby, man has short hair. This is woman, woman has long hair, wears dresses, woman has child” kind of thing, and then suddenly there’s this person that doesn’t fit with that, and is assigned male at birth, but takes female pronouns or the other way round, vice-versa, or like a transman wearing make up or a transwoman who wants to keep their facial hair, or whatever, then suddenly people’s gender schemas are sort of blown out the water and they don’t know how to act and a lot of the times, sort of like human nature is when we don’t… when we don’t have knowledge of something we sort of, we stay away from it and then it breeds fear and then the fear breeds hatred. So, I guess that’s the… any… that’s where like sort of any phobia, in terms of like other people’s sort of homophobia or transphobia or biphobia comes from, because people haven’t been brought up to understand it, so then they’re going to fear it because it’s different. Whereas if people are brought up to accept differences and embrace them and like sort of learn that everyone’s different and that’s a good thing, then they’re less likely to have these really rigid schemers about things and be more open to people who don’t fit into those.
INT: I was gonna… do you think… do you think trans people are under like a critical eye, perhaps more so gender wise than cis-people like, say like if a cis-guy was wearing make-up he might get a bit of… a bit of a reaction or whatever, but do you think if a trans guy was wearing make-up, do you think the trans community would possibly be more critical and we’ve kind of talked about that, haven’t we but…
E: I don’t know about…
R: I definitely… I definitely think that think that the… I mean, you know, talking about the trans community as a whole, like is relatively difficult because people, like our, like… because everyone in the trans community, a lot of people identify in different ways, and there’s not sort of one whole kind of the trans community’s like this, and I think… but I think some people… maybe people identify as transsexual, as an example, might find things like that quite difficult to understand because it’s like, “Well, you were assigned female at birth but you want to transition to live, you know, as a man but then, like, like if wearing make-up is something that girls do then why are you doing it?” because, just because somebody is transgendered doesn’t mean, or transsexual or whatever, it doesn’t mean that they haven’t been, you know, socialised in the same sense that gender is binary, that gender is this and that if you’re this then that means, if you, you know, if you’re a man then you have short hair you don’t wear make-up, and if you’re a woman you have long hair and you do wear make-up like that’s not… trans people aren’t exempt from that and I think that’s where like the hypo… hyper-feminine trans-women or the hyper-masculine transman, like ideals come from, because like the cis community, the wider community, everybody, is so much more comfortable with you, if you fit in a box. So, and then I think cis-men wearing make-up but still identifying as a man, it fits into a box better than a transman who wears make-up and I think that’s why, because like trans people aren’t exempt from the idea of gender or what the gender ideals are, hegemonic masculinity, hegemonic femininity, it still exists for trans people as well.
E: Yeah, like [LAUGHTER] like not from… this is sort of skewing the question, but because it’s not from the trans community but from my mum who’s not really accepting of my gender. I feel I have to kind of prove myself that I am trans and I’m not going through a phase, kind of. So, I like, when my gender is sort of like, I don’t identify really as gender-fluid, but it is fluid and it changes sort of day-to-day or week-to-week or month-to-month and I can be feeling really kind of like super-masculine and being annoyed that I’m not muscley and stuff, and then wake up and be like, you know what, today I kind of feel like wearing a skirt, but I’ll still take male pronouns and still feel male, just more androgynous like before, but I feel sort of like halted and sort of like kept back by my mum, because I know she… like she doesn’t have to say anything, but just the way she looks at me, I know she’s thinking “That’s not very trans of you, wearing make-up or I thought you didn’t like wearing leggings any more. I thought that was a girl thing to do,” and like sometimes she does say that to me and it’s sort of like off-putting and kind of like oppressive in a really small way, because I can’t be myself in my own home, with my own family, because of what she thinks and I feel like I don’t have… I shouldn’t have to prove anything about myself to anyone, especially my own mother. And also like I hate the barriers that humanity’s put on itself in terms of gender because like wearing make-up isn’t feminine, that’s just what we assume it to be like, and things like this have changed so much, like back in Renaissance times or whenever, it was usual, like, high heels, for example, were invented for men to wear, because they make your calves look nicer and make men look taller, which is more desirable, like everyone, back then, wanted like men to be really tall, so the high heels were invented for me. But look how times have changed, now if a man wears like stilettos then he’s going to be looked on as really strange in everyday life and the same thing with corsets, they were invented for men, but men wearing corsets is now sort of a more fetish thing and not really accepted if a man walks down the street, goes to Primark wearing a corset or something.
So, it’s like I don’t believe that like sort of the way we perceive gender as non-static and it does change and just because make-up might be a female thing today, doesn’t mean it will be ten years down the line, or two years down the line.
R: What do you think, Biff.
B: I did think of stuff, but I’ve forgotten what I was going to say now. [LAUGHTER]
F: Do you think it’s like a generational thing then, the sort of interpretation of gender?
R: I think… I mean if you look at how third-wave feminism… like there’s some people argue that we live in a like… that things like post-modern, like you know, post-modernism as in art, you know, movement, doesn’t exist any more because we live in a post-modern society. So, post-modernism as an art form is dead and that is now our world, and I think eventually not… we’re definitely… I definitely, definitely don’t think we live in the post-feminist world by any stretch, but the idea of like third way feminism, having more, you know, power in like, you know, showing people that the world isn’t, you know, it doesn’t need to be how it was in the fifties or the sixties, like and like third way feminism looks at that sort of difference in a much better way, and it’s like anti-racist, anti-homophobia, like ant- anything… a lot of it is like anti-categorising people in any sort of way, other than, you know, however way that they decide.
I can’t remember what I was going to say, I got really into what I was saying just then. What was the question. [LAUGHTER]
F: Oh, do you think it’s a generational thing, like these new interpretations of gender?
R: Oh, I think we’re moving towards more of genderless society, but I don’t think we’re anywhere near it now. But I think gender as a whole has become less relevant than it used to, because the wage gap and things like that are reducing, hopefully, eventually… I mean compared to like my parents when they younger, they said, “Oh, you know, you’re lucky that you’ve, you know, been born now and you’ve been able to transition now because if that happened when we were younger, you would have just been labelled like you had something wrong with you, or that you were a freak or something” So the idea of… I’m thankful that we live in the contemporary world that we do, but we’ve got a long way to go.
I’m sorry, that took me so long to say that.
B: But it’s not just about time as well, it’s about place, because…
R: Yeah, totally.
B: … the… it’s a very… the binary is very westernised thing and actually that we, you know, British Empire, we managed to roll that across the whole world and, you know, oppress loads of people not just with our culture, but also with our set agenda and so we’ve sort of taken that as standard and see that as normal, but actually, in history, and throughout the world there’s been many different ways of viewing gender, not just male or female.
R: Because isn’t it in… was it the Greek or the Roman times, or something, that they were seen as one sex, which was the male sex, and that like vaginas were seen as like inverted versions of the male… of male genitals. So it’s basically like everybody was the same sex it was just different forms of it. I think that’s really interesting actually, but I’m also reading something about like romanticising transgender people and like the use of the term “third gender” and I think that’s actually really interesting and it talks a lot about like western ideals and western culture and like the binary genders and how like across the world it’s not like that and about how people who identify as this third gender are categorised as a third gender and are treated in general, like quite, sometimes quite a bit better than trans people are in western culture. So I think it’s important that people don’t see westerners as spearheading the genderless movement or spearheading like anti trans-phobia or anything like that, because there’s cultures like all the world that have been doing a much better job at that…
E: Yeah, we’re only really spearheading our own, not anyone else’s… I think also…
INT: We’re trying to undo the harm… sorry, trying to undo the harm that we’ve already caused rather than actually spearheading anything.
E: Yeah, also like to do with the place, like I think, like in a really good way, Brighton is like this sort of safe bubble for like it’s more liberal and it’s more accepting of gender and sexual minorities but at the same time it makes leaving it really scary, because I’ve been here the majority of my life, like moving, because I’m like sort of figure out moving to different universities at the moment and it scares me moving somewhere and finding out that it’s actually really oppressive of my gender, or like moving somewhere and then finding out I have to explain to every single person, like about me, all the time, and having to be that that sort of like fountain of knowledge for everyone, where actually, you know, Google exists [LAUGHTER] like you have access to the internet you can do it yourself and I still have to do that here sometimes, but to a much lesser degree, and sort of moving elsewhere, like kind of scares me, because I’ll be less accepted because not everywhere is like Brighton.
R: Something else that I like about Brighton in that sort of same sense is that, you know how we said earlier about how with Transformers it doesn’t need to be said, a lot of things, I feel like with Brighton a lot of things don’t need to be said, don’t need to be explained, not necessarily because everybody here is 100% educated on absolutely everything, LGBT or queer related, like… but things just have such less relevance in your place in the city. I mean when I go back to Essex I have to explain to a lot of people about a lot of different identities, like beyond my own as well, I’m absolutely their fountain of knowledge because… and also I feel like I need to justify myself a lot more when I’m in Essex or in other places in the country versus Brighton, because it so diverse, and people come in all different sort of shapes and sizes and identities and expressions that it just doesn’t need to said, things are what they are and they don’t need… always need a massive history attached to them, which is really nice.
E: Brighton’s kind of like sort of got its little stereotype associated with it, like I didn’t really realise growing up here, but talking to other people, they’re kind of like “Ah, you’re Brighton” it’s sort of got its own sort of like little quirky stereotype. And usually I’m against stereotypes but in that sense I think it’s quite funny, it’s quite good just like, it’s not really a negative one, it’s just Brighton’s known for being different and more local, and more open.
R: I love being in Brighton, I’ve only lived here like a year and a half, but I’d never want to leave, and I do sort of…
E: I’m proud of growing up here.
R: Yeah, no, I would be as well.
INT: If you had your time again, would you choose to be trans or not?
E: That’s a really hard question.
INT: It’s ridiculously hard isn’t it?
E: I think it…
INT: Don’t take it too seriously.
E: I think it also changes as well, like depending, like sometimes I’ll be like really kind of like “Yeah! I’m trans, I’m different, it’s a good thing” and other times I’ll kind of be like “Why me? Why do I have to be the one that’s constantly misgendered? Why, why do I have to be in a female body, whereas every other guy gets to have the body that they identify with,” yeah, I think it really depends whether you’re feeling dysphoric or not.
R: It’s a funny question because I really hate the thought of being born like a white, straight, cis-gendered man, and the thought of that just makes me feel awful. So, in that sense I’m kind of… I’m not happy that I’m trans, because I don’t think anybody would choose that for themselves, but I’m happy… I’m glad to be like gender progressive, if I can use that term, like it’s exciting to be part of…
INT: [WHISPERS] Please do.
R: … something that’s so important, and to be able to educate people so that other people’s lives are better and I mean it’s doesn’t mean that I, you know, I’m happy that I’ve been put in this position, because I don’t think anybody’s happy, that’s why people transition, because they think they’d be happier, you know, having a gender in a different sort of form, but in a sense I’m… if it had to be anyone, I don’t really mind that it was me, that I’d never wish it on somebody but now that I have it, like I’m not going to wish away either, so…
INT: That’s beautiful.
B: For me, it’s… well, again, the not being in the middle of stuff at the moment as well, but also that my whole life it’s all been a bit of a muddle of different things that, you know, you wish had never happened, but actually if they hadn’t happened I definitely wouldn’t be who I am today. So it’s sort of like if they hadn’t done that and this hadn’t happened and hadn’t lived through this, then I might not have all these sort of mental health problems, and I might feel… I might be a bit of a happier person. But on the other hand, I might not understand people as well, and I might not appreciate what I’ve got in the same way that I do now.
E: It’s really kind of like that Matrix sort of like red pill or blue pill kind of like do you want to be sort of like happy but not knowing things or do you want to know the truth and maybe not be happy and I think I’d always… it’s just sort of the way I am, I always seek knowledge and like whatever the consequences and I think this sort of fits with that, because like although there are negative consequences of being trans, like there’s the added risk of like say if I went to Russia and was out as trans I’d like, God knows what would happen to me…
R: Or Greece or…
E: Yeah, or…
R: … even, you know…
E: … even bits of America…
R: … even parts of America.
E: … Yeah. Like that there’s the safety issue and like the mental issue of like just how difficult it is sometimes, just like sometimes I just don’t want to leave the house because I know how people look at me and how people perceive me and it makes me feel horrible. But at the same time, had I not been trans I wouldn’t have known a lot of what I know now, and I wouldn’t be able to educate other people, even thought that’s kind of annoying sometimes, but it’s a good thing being able to sort of like spread your knowledge about gender and stuff and I really wouldn’t be sort of like proactive in sort of like spreading that as I am now, I don’t think, because I didn’t really know anything about gender minorities at all before sort of researching things, because of what was going on with my own gender.
R: Equally, I think my answer to this question would be different if I didn’t live in Brighton.
R: I think that like because I know I’m safe here, you know, compared to other places, I mean it’s only four years ago a transwoman was murdered in Brighton, so you know, but compared to other places it is very safe, and I think maybe if I was in, you know, Russia or Greece or even, you know, parts of America, or even other, like, up north in England or in like not so progressive cities my answer might be different because you have to decide like is this worth me being unsafe and that’s the question, so it might be different if I was somewhere else.
B: I do find learning about all the gender stuff really interesting, like you said, you know, might not have look into it but it’s just really interesting, like exploring the, like how we’ve come to this position where we’ve considered that there’s male and there’s female and then there’s the whole history of like when people first started transitioning and then you realise, well, hang on a minute, people have been trans forever, like you know, you read these articles that say “The first person in 1920…” like what? I mean I remember being a teenager, and, you know, that I found a history and there was a story in the history book about what was a trans-man, like from like 1600s or something, but… and it was just like “Wow!” but you know, of course it wasn’t a trans-man, it was a woman, it was a, you know, a woman who was a lesbian, it’s like… you know, but actually people have been doing it for centuries.
INT: It’s like like people have always been fluid, but you only get transgender by virtue of having imposed a binary system on it, like, otherwise it wouldn’t be trans.
R: Exactly, that’s something else that Judith Butler thinks, is like the idea of de-constructing gender as a concept, so then we just become people and we don’t have to categorise ourselves in… and if people… I’d like to raise a question, if you don’t mind.
INT: Don’t mind at all.
R: If the gender binary system didn’t exist, would you have still transitioned? And I’ve been asked this question before, like, if you didn’t feel… if society didn’t push the idea of being male or female on you, would still have a transitioned? And I think equally, this also runs parallel with the transgender/transsexual argument as well, so I think it’s pretty much the same question. But go! [LAUGHS]
INT: If there was no gender binary – I’m being pedantic – you wouldn’t be transitioning, would you, you’d just be settling in a place.
R: But like would you be like… in my…
E: Would you still take hormones or…
R: Yeah, exactly, in my case, like I, as an example, I probably would have still have medically transitioned because I was unhappy with my body, but wasn’t unhappy about being a woman in society, and I wasn’t… but it was about myself and my body and person that I would have still wanted to change, I think, because regardless as to what my body meant in the world, I still didn’t like it, but whether I would have realised that I didn’t like it, because it wouldn’t have been relevant, I don’t know. So that’s why it’s like an open question, but anyway.
B: I think I might not have sort of… I think I might have been more hesitant to taking hormones, which I haven’t done yet, but I definitely want to, but like the longer I’ve sort of had the decision to make and the longer I’ve sort of thought about it it’s more been, I’ve been more sort of like definitely doing it for myself, not how anyone else views me, like I don’t want to take hormones so people are definitely straight away like pronouning me “he”, although that’s part of it, because it makes life easier, but it is a lot to do with the way I view my own body, and like what makes me happy and comfortable and ultimately I know the like having a more male appearance is going to make me happier and that’s the reason why I want to take hormones, but I think also I might not have really sort of discovered my gender identity as much, or maybe later, if there wasn’t gender binaries or maybe I would have sooner, I don’t know. That’s difficult to imagine.
R: I sort of see myself as like, as a transsexual in the sense of like feeling like my body is the wrong sex versus like I’m unhappy with my gender, if you know what I mean. But equally like, I feel like I’m politically transgender because I believe so strongly in queer theory and queer politics and, you know, being gender progressive and developing the idea of what gender is, that it’s quite difficult for me to like, I never tell people that I’m a transsexual really…
R: I can’t remember what I was saying.
B: A political stance on…
R: Yeah, yeah. So like politically I feel transgender because I believe so much in that, but for myself individually I feel like my… like how I felt about myself was more the reason I transitioned versus anything else.
B: This is slightly unrelated but I work in a school and so I spend… the gender binary feels so ingrained in the schools, especially if you’re a member of staff, you get called “Miss” or “Sir” the whole time and if they say “Sir” they apologise straight afterwards, it’s like “Really? Okay, fine” but it also means that if I transition, then it’s like try and work who I do I tell first, you know, then there’s going to have to be like a bit where I tell them it’s “Sir” now, not “Miss” or do I just carry on just not correcting them whichever one they say? It’s… whereas if there wasn’t… if there wasn’t like binary in place I probably just wouldn’t worry about it that much, whereas actually it’s like every day, like each lesson they probably say “Miss, Miss” about like, I don’t know, 100 times. So, you get it like all day every day. But… and that probably makes the desire to actually do something about it stronger, than if it was not something that you had to…
R: A bit more passive.
E: I think, yeah, I agree with you, like school is really sort of like that… like it’s really ingrained in terms of gender like thinking back like the changing rooms “male” and “female” like PE “male” and “female” like separate, like it wasn’t even that long ago that girls couldn’t play football, they could only do netball, and the boys couldn’t do netball, they could only do rugby or football and that only stopped like a couple of years before I went to school. Like everything like that, like there’s never any unisex bathrooms, apart from the disabled ones, which I kind of resent having to use because…
B: I think at [Stringer] they’ve got a…
E: Unisex bathrooms?
E: That’s really good.
B: Just the one though, but…
E: At least that’s one. Yeah, I resent I having to use disabled toilets like, not that there’s anything sort of bad about the connotation of being disabled but it’s like my gender is not a disability to me, it’s just another thing, like the same way that I prefer the colour red over the colour pink, for example, the same way, like I… I don’t know, it’s just like something about my personality is my gender, it shouldn’t have to… I shouldn’t have to…
B: Well, the other thing is you get split off from all the other guys.
B: It’s not just that it’s your gender, it’s that actually you’re separated from everyone else and that’s the same gender as you.
R: I used to feel quite lonely in school I think.
E: I definitely felt lonely, and I didn’t realise then it was to do with gender, but looking back it definitely was because I never had a place that I fit into and I always thought it was my personality and I guess my gender is part of that as well, and it wasn’t just because I was a bit awkward during school and I made sort of… I wasn’t the best at sort of making or keeping friends, but it was also just because like without knowing sort of my gender, I didn’t really have a place that I felt like I fit, because I wanted to play to play football at break with the boys, but also I didn’t… I knew that they would really accept me and I wouldn’t really feel that comfortable because I don’t really feel like I’m sort of one of the guys, my personality doesn’t really work with theirs, and the same I never really felt comfortable with hanging out with the girls either.
At college it’s a lot easier because are older and sort of realise more about themselves and I hang out with like queer people and it’s so much nicer, like being with people like me.
R: I mean, I… during my first year of university, my first year of uni in general, because I changed my course, but I was… I had to use a disabled toilet because I wasn’t allowed to use the men’s because I’d make people feel uncomfortable, apparently…
E: What about what makes you uncomfortable?
R: Apparently it doesn’t matter, but that was kind of annoying, like to be undermined in the sense of like, well actually you’re not really a man, and one of our tutors used to sort to talk to me about the illusion of gender quite a lot and about how like… and basically he sort of saw that like if somebody… if I passed, I hate that term, but if I was assumed as male by others, then that was because I was tricking them into thinking that I was a man when I’m not and that he was basically one of those people that believed that your born a sex and you can change you body, you can mutilate your body, you can have operations, you can take hormones, but that doesn’t ever change what you are. And that I think really, really bothered me and I carried that around with me for ages, and that was probably the first time I ever really, really felt that whole idea of being trapped in your body and the idea of like your body as a cage, or I was born in the wrong body, or whatever the media like to use, that was the first time I ever properly felt that I think when I was told that you can never, ever change that. And that… I don’t think I’ve ever let go of that, honestly, and it’s been more than a year now, and I still haven’t.
E: Yeah, I wouldn’t be able to, if I even sort of think about that, it kind makes you tear up because it’s such a like a horrible to like have said to you or something that like actually people think that, it’s just like it really does make you feel really trapped and lost, that like whatever you do you can’t, you can’t change. But I don’t think that’s true, I think we’re always changing and we can always choose what changes and sometimes we can’t choose changes, like sometimes I wake up and feel more of a certain gender and I can’t choose that, but it’s still something that’s gone on in my subconscious and I think change is a good thing and we always have to progress further and being static or regressive is never a good thing, I think we always have to move with the times and with society and move things forward.
R: I think sometimes I take for granted the idea of being like a passing… I hate that term so much because it’s not about… it’s passing, makes it sound as if, “oh like they think I’m a man” and actually you are, you are anything that you feel you are…
B: But also it makes it sound like you’re failing if you don’t.
R: Exactly, and it’s not about that.
E: It’s like a sort of test.
R: Yeah, exactly, like yeah, and I really absolutely detest that term, but in… I can’t remember what I was going to say, but yeah I really hate that term. But and also sometimes I do forget that I’m in a privilege of a passing person, in the sense of like I can live and function in society as a man, most of the time, I haven’t been misgendered by a stranger for a considerable amount of time. I’ve got a beard now, hooray. But it does, it does… it makes me really thankful that I don’t have to… I mean I think people who are gender queer or identify as non-binary gender or maybe do identify as a gender but aren’t assumed so by others, have it a lot worse in society because it is so much easier for people just to put you in a box and everyone always wants to force you into a box and as soon as people find that difficult to do… because I can keep my, like the sex I was assigned at birth to myself, if I so choose, and often I do, but like people who are androgynous they don’t have, always have that ability to do that and I think that’s… people need, they want an answer to their question and the question is “What are you?” and people don’t ask me that question any more but they used to and I’m really thankful that I’m not in that position any more.
E: That’s something I really, really detest and I’ve seen it, like it’s happened to me and I’ve seen so many other people kind of like follow queer people online and people pester them and pester them like “What’s your gender now?” it’s be like I don’t really identify as any… they’re like “No, but what is your gender?” I’m like “I don’t identify as one.” “No, but what is your gender?”
R: What’s your real name?
E: Yeah, “What’s your real name? What genitals do you have? Do you have a dick? Do you have boobs”, like, 1) it’s none of your business; and 2) it doesn’t matter, like. If you like a person it doesn’t matter whether they have boobs or tentacles coming out of their cheeks, like you like the person, whatever.
R: Like in context of that it really makes me laugh that I had gone to uni for maybe like three months and then gone back to Essex for the first time after coming out via social media and things and people were like “So, do you have a penis now?” and I was a bit like, well, I’ve been gone three months and like I just woke up and it was there! [LAUGHTER] I love that, it just… but it shows like how like black and white people’s view on gender is, like you’re either one thing or you’re the other and if you’re telling me that you’re a man you must have a penis and I mean that’s really funny, like it really… maybe I was equally horrified and amused honestly, but like when…
E: It’s like “Oh God! Are you that dumb?” but also…
R: I was like, no, like I haven’t even… I don’t even take hormones. It just… it did make me laugh, but I’m pleased and I always sort of said to myself, like pre-hormones, like at very early stage of the transition, like I said to myself it will never be as hard as it is now, and that was the only thing that got me through it, because I knew that as soon as I start fitting into like this box of “male”, it was going to be so much easier for myself, and I was right. And but just the idea that some people have to live in that limbo, grey area, to society that, you know, you’re not one or the other forever, that must be really difficult. So I have utter respect for everyone in the world. [LAUGHTER]
INT: We’ve got five minutes left, does anyone want to add anything before we wrap this one up?
E: I think another thing people, like a lot of… mainly… like well yeah, cis-people do when you kind of tell them they’re like, they assume it’s their business whether…
R: Cis privilege.
E: Yeah, they assume that it’s like their business whether you’re going to do this or what surgery you’ve had and it’s like, “I’m trans”, “Oh does that mean you’re going to get surgery to get a dick? Like do you have a fake now?” Or “Oh I’m trans,” “Does that mean that you’re going to get boob implants? Or are you going to take them pills that make you male now?” and it’s like…
R: “I’m already male…
E: Yeah, and…
R: … that I don’t need anything else and no it’s an injection, God!”
E: Yeah, and it’s like that… it doesn’t, it doesn’t matter, like I am who I am, it’s like saying “My favourite colour is green,” “Oh you’re going to wear everything green now? Are you going to get your skin coloured in green?” No one asks that, it’s just ridiculous, so like I don’t see why people have to ask whether I’m going to get a fake dick put on or whether I’ve grown a dick overnight because that’s apparently what happens in cis-people’s brains. If you wish hard enough it’ll be there.
B: Because when you meet a cis-man, you don’t ask them about their dick, you don’t…
B: … and you don’t like go up to like just people that you’ve never met before, “So, you know, what size… what cup size are you? It’s important that I know this so that I can put you on a scale of how female you are”.
R: It’s totally… it’s really true. It is this privilege though and privilege, at uni we talk about the idea that privilege is the privilege to not know, like you don’t… like the ultimate privilege is to not know you have privilege, and I think that’s exactly what cis-privilege is, it’s like they have absolutely no idea that they’re privileged because they identify as the sex they’re assigned at birth, and then therefore we are so othered it’s unbelievable, like, like, you know it’s so easy to other anybody you want over anything, hair colour, like ginger people, oh, they’re othered, for absolutely no reason like…
E: I’ve never understood that.
R: … it’s ridiculous. And race, and ethnicity and nationality, anything you can other anyone for anything, but I think there’s greater othering than that from cis-people because they don’t even realise they have privilege and I think that’s a massive issue.
E: What I detest almost more than anything and it makes me feel so belittled is when they become aware of their privilege and rub it in your face. Like, “Oh you’re a trans, thank God it’s not me. It must be so bad for you. Luckily I’m happy with my gender.” It’s like “Wow! Good for you, no one cares! Go away with your happiness and your privilege. I don’t need to know.” Like why do they find the need to rub it in my face, like do you not think I have it hard enough…
B: They think that they’re empathising, is that the right… empathy? Yeah…
B: … they think that they’re empathising.
E: They think that they’re being sort of inclusive like…
B: That they, that they like really understand what it’s like for you, like they understand what you’re going through…
R: Oh God!
E: And when they pretend to understand like “Oh really, you’re trans? Once in a school play, I’m male but I had to wear a skirt. I know what it’s like.” No! No, you don’t. You really don’t know what it’s like. I hate that.
R: Oh God! I just want to add something to the thing right at the end, is that President Mugabe’s son has just come out as gay and I think in 10 years’ time when this might or may not be listened to ever again, after then, it’s important to include that in the time line that President Mugabe’s son has come out as gay.
B: If we’re doing it… we need a bit of context who that is in case in 10 years’ time people don’t know.
R: Oh, he’s the President of Uganda, isn’t he, and he wants to – just checking – he wants to… he wanted to pass a death penalty for homosexual activity and he thinks that gay people are like below animals, and I’m sure that’s included in the trans people but people don’t know we exist. So we just get lumped in as just gay people, so that’s why it’s relevant, just for the sake of the recording.
E: I hate it when people lump gender and sexuality, like you say, I’m trans-gender, “Oh you’re gay.” No, did you read what I just said, did you hear me? I said trans-gender, how does that sound like gay? Did I stutter? No, I didn’t. [LAUGHTER]
R: This is something really… I watched this documentary the other day and it was this couple and the couple consists of this trans guy and this transwoman, and this transwoman was on there talking and her mum was there, and her mum was saying “Oh yeah, when Katie was little she used to hold her penis and tell me off… like tell me that she didn’t want it. And then I told her dad, ‘Oh, you know, you better get ready for having a gay son.’” And I was like in what world does not wanting your penis mean your gay? [LAUGHTER]
R: Because if you’re attracted to other male people then that’s… doesn’t mean that you’re not male and I was so confused at that, like just be… yeah, that’s weird. [LAUGHS] But I think it’s just because people are so obsessed about categorising people that it becomes, it becomes that and I think that’s something that really needs to be education on, that like being trans and being gay, or being anything is not the same thing. You can be trans and gay, whoo!
E: Or trans and not gay, or gay and not trans…
R: Yeah, it’s like it doesn’t…
E: And like I think it’s because sort of like the whole sort Gay Pride all the other ones are sort of marginalised and aren’t really… like I saw this sort of diagram of all the things included in LGBT and it was like Lesbian GAY bi trans? And they got smaller like the bigger the words, kind like the more sort of people accept it and like being gay is, well in the western culture is being more and more accepted and trans people are sort of like getting there but the majority is still left behind a lot.
E: Yeah. We’re here.
INT: What makes you happy? We’ve got one more minute.
R: What makes me happy?
INT: Yeah, because we can’t leave it on sad.
R: No. My girlfriend makes me happy and me saying to her “Do I look like a man today?” and she says “You always look like a man! Stop asking me this question! You always, always look like a man. Stop, stop it. You don’t… stop worrying, you don’t have to worry,” and then it’s always… and she always says to me, like “What will I have to say, for you to believe me?” And I’m always like “There’s nothing that you can say.” And then she says “Well, I’ll just keep telling you then.” And that makes me happy.
E: Mine is sort of similar, my… if I’m sort of telling things to my girlfriend, sometimes I kind of go on a big rant and list all things that I hate about myself, and she goes “I don’t care about any of that, because you’re still my boyfriend.” And it always makes me really happy, because she never once has misgender or misnamed me and she got it like that and I love her for that.
R: And also she… my girlfriend doesn’t… I never have… again it’s the idea of things that can be left unsaid, and it’s really nice and she’s probably the first person I’ve been really close to where I just don’t need to explain anything ever and I never did. I never had to say to her, like, “Oh when I’m getting dressed or when I’m doing this, like can you not do this, or can you do this or can you not say this to me.” Like I never had to do any of that, she just… she just knows and I think that’s important and I think eventually everyone’s going to be like that and you won’t need to explain anything to anybody because they’ll already know and that’s really nice. I feel like that about Transformers as well.
B: With me, it’s just… it’s like I recently… I’ve got a fake name on Facebook anyway, and then… and I’d picked my birth name middle name, because I was in a panic and I had to change my name on Facebook for one reason or another and then I realised that’s the most female sounding name and I didn’t… I just left it for a while and then when I changed it I got like a message from my dad, saying “Is it a hiding thing, or is it a trans thing? Or is it both?” And I went “Both”, and he said “Okay, good to know” and he didn’t like push it and didn’t like grill me, but was just like “Okay” which was really nice.
R: I love you all! [LAUGHTER]
INT: You too. Shall we stop this now?