Labels

Everyone’s first experience of a label is the one they are given at birth. The one about 99% of us carry with us for our entire lives: our sex and gender. Everything you do and anything you will ever be is determined by that label in a patriarchal society. Those of us who reject the label given to us at birth are shunned by society and subject to systemic discrimination, yet society at large doesn’t seem keen on labels as a whole.

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Fast forward to 1999. I’m 14 years old and I’ve just started a new school. (I had to leave/was expelled from my two previous schools due to being bullied.) I’m into heavy metal and punk, so obviously I gravitated towards that group of people. The other kids called them, “Greebos” or “Greebs” but the most popular of them decided that labels weren’t cool so we never used the term. It was the same with the widespread bisexuality. If we didn’t talk about it or label ourselves we weren’t really different. We were just the same as everyone else, but we wore black and slept with people of multiple genders. (Yes I was having sex at 14.)

This situation didn’t last long for me and I ended up hanging out with the kids in the year below. They embraced labels and were subsequently called losers by the people I used to hang out with in my year group. We were Greebos. We were lesbians, gays and bisexuals and we were proud, even if just within our friendship group. We went through the same struggles together and our bond and our labels kept us together and kept us strong. I fell in love for the first time in 2001 with one of these people. We called ourselves lesbians and that stuck with me for the next nine years, even if the Greebo label faded into metal-head as time went by.

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So what are my labels now at 32 and what do they mean to me?

Autistic

I’ve been using this label since Feb 2017, when I truly accepted that this was who I was. A year later I had an official diagnosis.

I don’t say I am someone with autism. Autism is me. I am autistic.

Realising I was autistic was super validating for me. It explained a lot of my past behaviour and allowed me to find friends who were similar to me.

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Transmasculine Nonbinary

I am transgender. I lean towards masculinity. My transition involves testosterone and masculinising surgeries.

I am however not a man. I’m also not a woman. My gender identity and subsequent presentation fluctuates and sits well out of the norms for binary genders.

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Metal-head

I love all music actually but my focus is definitely focused on metal, punk and hardcore. I often dress in what can be considered as metal-head attire.

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Queer

Truly I am pansexual, but I like queer as an identity.

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Why are labels important?

My labels have brought some of the best people into my life. We have bonded over similar struggles and we have stood strong in the face of transphobia, homophobia and ableism. They give me a blanket of safety I can run and hide under when the allistic, transphobic world gets too much and they understand exactly why I need to do that.

It means when I’m out at the pub with my friends I’m not gonna get misgendered or called aggressive because of my autistic style of communicating. It means I was encouraged to be my authentic self at Trans Pride by being topless . It was the safety of having these people around me which allowed me to work up the courage to medically transition.

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We can also help other marginalised groups. They define who they are and the systemic discrimination they face. We listen to them and lend our privilege to help where it is needed. Without labels, I don’t think we would be able to do this so effectively and this leads on to my next point;

Why doesn’t society like labels as a whole?

In my experience oppressors don’t like labels because for them it means they are not the norm and when we use them, we use them to empower ourselves against their oppression.

For example cis women who reject the use of cis, even though it is literally what they are. They don’t like it because they have always just seen themselves as normal women and that trans women and femme aligned people are deviant in some way. This is often combined with TERf rhetoric. (The F is small deliberately cuz ain’t nothing feminist about their tripe.)

Another example is allistic people. This just basically means you aren’t autistic. Allistic people hate it because they see autistic people as abnormal and they are just normal people. Wrong.

So let’s embrace our labels and the labels of others, banding together to empower one another and bring down systems of oppression.

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My Emerging Male Privilege

I finally admitted to myself around a year ago that I needed to medically transition. What this means for me is that I’ll be masculinising myself with the addition of testosterone and eventually having top surgery.

I’m doing this because the dysphoria of being called she/her/woman/girl everyday is destroying me. I’m not a man either and I never will be. I’m non-binary and I’m transmasculine. However in the masculinising process I expect that I’ll get misgendered from the other side with he/him/boy/man. That doesn’t hurt me nearly as much and it comes with it’s own set of privileges that people who are seen as women do not get.

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So what is male privilege?

I took this straight from Wikipedia:

Special privileges and status are granted to men in patriarchal societies. These are societies defined by male supremacy, in which males hold primary power and predominate in roles of political leadership, moral authority, social privilege and control of property. With systemic subordination of other genders, men gain economic, political, social, educational, and practical advantages that are more or less unavailable to other genders. The long-standing and unquestioned nature of such patriarchal systems, reinforced over generations, tends to make privilege invisible to holders; it can lead men who benefit from such privilege to ascribe their special status to their owned individual merits and achievements, rather than to unearned advantages.”

(Obviously I edited it slightly to erase their binary nonsense, but you get the standard textbook definition.)

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What this means is that anyone who “passes” as a man in our society gets certain privileges. This includes cis men, trans men and transmasculine nonbinary folks. This manifests in the way people treat you at work, how people value your opinions, opportunities open to you, how people greet you etc etc.

(Please note that passing is cis normative term that many trans people reject and that trans folks have their own set of challenges regardless of any male privilege bestowed on them by society.)

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At this present moment before I start testosterone, I have what I call “fleeting male privilege.” It’s given to me and taken away at a rate of knots when people realise I have boobs or that my voice is too high to be considered masculine.

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Until recently I’ve never had a sustained period of male privilege bestowed on me. My best friend is a nonbinary trans man and happens to do that weird thing the cis defined as “passing.” We were walking with another friend (who’s also trans) through Cardiff city centre and I guess all three of us looked like young white cis men because people got out of our way. People avoided eye contact. No one bothered us at all. This struck me because neither of them noticed and I noticed with every inch of my being. It made me really uncomfortable.

I think everyone deserves a high level of respect, dignity and opportunity but I guess that’s why I’m a feminist. I’ll be documenting my emerging male privilege as I transition.

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A Letter To My Friends & Family

In June 2012, I came out to my friends and family as genderqueer. I asked everyone to use gender neutral pronouns and never refer to me as female/she/her again. I explained that this means I am not male or female and never have been.

In October 2012 I dressed up as a zombie police officer for Halloween. I gave the character a beard. In fact the beard was so affirming that I wore it the whole of the next day and really didn’t want to wash it off. I remember telling my best friend at the time that I thought I might need to transition. She was supportive, but I was too scared and buried it deep inside me like I had done my whole life.

Over time I watched my trans friends transition and I was secretly jealous of their ability to be who they were. I kept telling myself that I didn’t need to transition. That who I was, was perfectly valid. The dysphoria was eating me alive nonetheless.

Around 2014 I redefined my gender identity as nonbinary. It means basically the same thing as genderqueer and sits as an umbrella term for people for don’t conform to binary gender norms. I liked it better. Enby is also an epic colloquial term. I also decided that this identity was a transgender identity. I now told people I was trans as part of my nonbinary identity.

Frankie came to be in April 2016. I needed to move away from my overly feminine name given to me when I was born. This was tough at work and initially with my friends. My family, never really having got the hang of my gender neutral pronouns, have still not got the hang of my new name as of November 2017.

From April 2016 to April 2017 I was happy just to be Frankie. My gender identity was still nonbinary, but instead of presenting in a fluid way where I would drift between feminine and masculine, I presented as entirely masculine.

At the end of April 2017 I was drunk in Cardiff. I was sat on my own outside of Brewdog enjoying the spring sunshine and everything I had been suppressing about my gender identity came to the surface. I needed to transition. I needed to masculinise physically. I text my mum and then told Facebook.

How I identify now is Transmasculine Nonbinary and I will be beginning my physical transition in April/May 2018. Here are some things you need to know:

  1. The NHS has made this process very difficult. They have been messing around sending me to mental health units and demeaning my experience for the past seven months, when I should have been referred to the gender clinic and been on their two year waiting list by now. I am still pursuing this route because there is no way I can afford my whole transition privately. However, I was able to afford two private consultations which will allow me to begin transitioning in Spring next year.
  2. My transition will start with regular injections of testosterone. This will push my body into what is essentially “male” puberty. My shoulders will broaden. My muscle and fat distribution will change. My voice will deepen and hopefully I’ll get a decent amount of body hair, especially on my face. (There are other changes too but you don’t really need to know about them. :P) I will appear to society as a “man”, but I will still have boobs. They will be flattened by a binder, when I find one that doesn’t cause me sensory issues.
  3. Somewhere down the line I will have what is know as top surgery. I will have my boobs surgically removed and replaced with pecs.  My boobs are a massive source of dysphoria. If I could have them taken off first, I would. People use my boobs to gender me and I hate it.
  4. I will not be having bottom surgery. My cunt does not cause me any dysphoria at all.
  5. This does not mean I am a man. I will never be a man. I am nonbinary. I do not fit in any binary boxes of gender nonsense. I will continue to use gender neutral pronouns.

 

I need you all to know that I have gone through a lot of emotional pain to get to this point. I NEED you to respect my pronouns and my name. Making mistakes was fine to start with, but it’s been a year and a half and mistakes are starting to look more and more like they are deliberate. If you continue to dead name and misgender me, I will have to remove you from my life.

This has been your final warning.

Frankie

 

 

Trans Liberation Now

In June 1969 the movement for LGBTQIA+ equality and liberation began. A series of riots took place centering around the Stonewall Inn in New York. These riots were instigated by transgender women of colour and the next year, the first Pride Parade was held.

Let me just say that again for the people who may have missed it:

 

The LGBTQIA+ rights movement was started by TRANS WOMEN OF COLOUR.

 

Why then for almost two generations did we refer to Pride colloquially as, “Gay Pride” and the LGBTQIA+ rights movement as the “Gay Rights Movement?”

The western world revolves around cisgender white males. It has done so for thousands of years. White cis men invented the patriarchy and white supremacy to keep the rest of us in our place and subservient to them. Don’t think we as queer or trans people are exempt from that, because we aren’t.

Every movie or documentary ever made about the Stonewall riots has been filled with cis white gay men. The most recent, “Stonewall” movie had a white gay guy throw the first brick that started the riots. Martha P Johnson will be rolling in her grave.

Even the famous UK charity Stonewall spent years fighting for the rights of lesbians, gays and bisexuals without  giving a single thought about the trans women who started the whole damned thing.

The Stonewall charity are now fighting for trans rights too, but like many gay centered pages such as Pink News, they are allowing rampant transphobia to go unchecked in their comments sections.

It makes you wonder why 48 years ago trans people even bothered. Our rights have come along at a snail’s pace whilst the “gay charities” gain popular opinion, legal recognition and specifically in the UK almost entirely full equality with heterosexuals.

Are we content to be shut off like this? Well we have been I suppose. Waiting for our gay comrades to turn around and help us, the way we have helped them.

 

Now is our time. Lets fight for our rights and for inclusivity for the most vulnerable in our community. Lets call out the LGB bigots who make jokes about gender neutrality and dismantle the online spaces rife with transmisogyny. Lets support and help raise up our trans siblings of colour.

 

 

Fuck racism. Fuck cissexism. Fuck transmisogyny. Fuck transphobia. Fuck the LGB community out for themselves without a second thought for the TQIA.

Let’s make 2018 our year!

A Gender Revolution?

When National Geographic magazine announced they were going to do a whole issue on gender, I was understandably excited but sceptical. Here I examine the good and bad parts of The Gender Issue.

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They start out pretty badly to be honest. They have interviews with Gloria Steinem and Sheryl Sandberg. Gloria goes on to state that, “the idea of race and gender are divisive.” That’s a really privileged comment to make in my opinion and has no place in modern feminism.

The magazine goes on to ask questions of them both about binary gender:

What advice would you give girls and boys today?

Nice one NG! Erased in the first interviews. At this point I want to throw the fucking thing out the window and hope it hits a TERF in the face. ARGH!

Page five comes with a diverse image of people of different genders and races from across the world and a list of terms relating to them. For example it gives definitions of gender expression and gender fluidity. There could have been more of this. It’s 4 pages long and probably the best thing in the entire magazine. It was nice to see my identity covered too. That’s not something I’ve seen in a mainstream magazine before.

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So now I’m hopeful. They get that gender isn’t binary, right? Nope. The next few pages are filled with binary gender statistics. I could have been erased entirely by science anywhere, but in the pages of a magazine claiming to be exploring gender, it hurts a tad bit more. I dunno if I’m just over reacting now. What did I expect? A magazine about gender to actually explore other genders than cis male and cis female properly?

A few pages later and I come across an article about intersex butterflies. Interesting. They explained what intersex was earlier and that the term, “hermaphrodite” is considered offensive. So what do they go on to do? Describe the butterflies as hermaphrodites. Are you fucking serious? What actually is life?

More binary gender stats about cis men and cis women. *yawn*

I’m actually bored shitless now and angry. Why am I even reading this tripe? The next set asks kids from around the world about gender. They include one transgirl for a bit of variety, but even she sees gender as male and female only. (She’s only 9 so we’ll let her off.)

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Rethinking Gender is a gripping few pages. It examines the science behind our gender identities, different cultures with accepted third genders and the legality of officially changing your gender from the one you were assigned at birth. I actually thoroughly enjoyed this section.

The whole rest of the magazine is dedicated to:

  •  How different cultures celebrate children becoming adults i.e men and women. That would have been fine if they had included other genders too. Obviously not though.
  • Paternal leave in Sweden. Um what?
  • Gender roles…..binary gender roles. Not the cool ones.;)

It was hard to read this issue and it was hard to write this blog because it brought out some very angry thoughts. Buy it if you fancy fucking screaming at it and smacking your head against the wall repeatedly. Also and just for clarity, fuck the cistem and fuck the binary.

Night all.

 

 

The Face of Trans*

In the media lately there has been plenty of coverage of the lives of Caitlyn Jenner and Laverne Cox. Even Aydian Dowling has been on the Ellen Show. The point is that these people are seriously privileged.

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What’s it like to be transgendered in everyday life without celebrity privilege? I asked some members of the trans* community to give an account of what life is like for them. I think it’s important that we educate the general public so we can end the travesty that is transphobia. I also want those who are trans* to know that they are not alone.

This is James. He has preferred to remain anonymous. I’ve known him for a few years now. We met as part of an online vegan community.

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“I don’t know when I realised I was trans. Or maybe I did and just didn’t have the words to convey a sense of unease; a disconnect between my mind and my body. I only noticed how alien my chest feels once I began binding. Since discovering my transness, the feelings of discomfort with my body have located to very specific areas and I’m trying my best to modify the physical map of my body to match my mental map, though last summer I decided that I feel the best route for me would to go through the NHS and see if I can get some treatment. To this day I’m still waiting for my first appointment.

I never really knew any (out) trans men. I began identifying as non-binary around the age of twenty seven, when for the first time in my life I became exposed to spaces where it was ok to be queer and where binary gender concepts were scrutinised. I moved to a new city around two years ago and I began masculinising my appearance, though I initially found the word “trans man” difficult because “man” to me had so many negative connotations which where embedded in my mind from encounters growing up.

I didn’t want to be associated with “that guy” and I associated masculinity with misogyny and entitlement at the time, though subsequent conversations with a variety of people have helped me make a distinction between the concepts which helped me a lot. It took me a few years of knowing, but not admitting to myself that I’d need to take this step, to really come to terms with who I am, despite the fact I still often get my brain in to knots dissecting the crossroads between gender and the body and probably always will. In short, I don’t know how to explain how I got here because it’s complex, but I’m here and I’m way happier.

Life and day to day stuff? I’m a support worker for disabled adults. My job is very gendered and I’m out to my employers and they’ve been great. I’m really lucky that I haven’t experienced a great deal of transphobia so far, though I admit I’m also protected by the fact that I have a sibling and mother who’re very supportive and other amazing people in my life. I’m not saying I don’t struggle because I do still have periods of not being able to get out in public and I do get in to very negative thought patterns. I’m also worried about the content of gender clinic appointments, about medical gatekeeping and about how I’ll deal with transition, not only in changes to my body, but changes socially.

I’m hoping that this time next year I’ll have a bit of stubble coming through and a deeper voice. The process feels slow and I imagine there will be more challenges ahead than what I’ve faced so far. I have a roof over my head, people who love me and a lot of security in my life that I know many trans people don’t have. It’s for these reasons that we need to be working together, whether we’re trans ourselves, friends or partners of trans people, or individuals who just give a damn. It’s society and the oppressive systems under which we live that are the problem and we need to keep working together to fight them.”

This is Syluss. We met about 4 years ago through a mutual friend. Syluss has done two of my tattoos with a third booked in soon.

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“I always knew that I didn’t feel the same as anyone else or how I was expected to be from a really early age. I remember when I was a child, probably around the age of 9 or 10, praying to whoever every night that I would wake up being a boy as I didn’t feel right in my body. Fast forward to the age of 21, it all surfaced again after years of just being a gay girl. I discussed it with a couple of people and a friends mum and she mentioned that I was too pretty to be a boy. During that time the internet wasn’t as readily available to get all the information you needed to discover what was out there and who can help. So time went by, I got involved in music and travel and after living in Australia and seeing a great Trans and Gay community in Melbourne and how it’s much more accepted there than in England, I finally made my mind up to go ahead with it when I came back. So at the age of 36 I started the process. That was March two years ago and on September the 9th will be my 2 years on hormones. I get asked a lot why I waited so long to do it. In a way I wish I had just gone for it sooner. But mentally, I don’t think I was ready for it. I had to go through the path in life that I did in order to gain the experience and back bone to face life’s challenges that would come with transitioning.

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I am a full time tattoo artist and completely out about my trans-ness and am blessed with a couple of thing’s really regarding that.
Number one is working with a group of people that don’t see me any other way than who I am and treat me as a regular cis guy. Also this makes for a great environment for other trans men and women to come and feel comfortable to get tattooed in a non judgmental space. Even though the studio is on the High Street in Exeter, we are on the first floor making the area private and relaxing and not your usual fishbowl parlor. So people are safe in the knowledge that they can just be who they are and not worry about anyone infiltrating their personal space. We have a few regular trans-guys that come and get work by us for this exact reason.

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I really am grateful for my job and I work really hard and am pretty booked up. Because of that, a lot of my time when not tattooing, is drawing up designs, painting and designing custom work for other people etc. Summer is my busiest period so I usually book off time throughout the Winter/Spring and Autumn to go for long weekends or epic road trips in other countries. I love to travel and its my biggest passion other than art. I’m in a fortunate position that I have no dependents so I make the most of my own time. So I save, travel, repeat.

I can honestly say that I have been very lucky with regards to my transition so far. In the beginning I lost a couple of people because I think they didn’t know how to handle it but I think it was more due to people worrying about what their own friends and family would think of them knowing a “trans” person. To be honest, there is no love lost as It weed’s out the weaker people who I wouldn’t be able to rely on as a supportive friend. And I have plenty of those that do care greatly about me. So what more can a guy need.
Devon is very conservative and a bit more insular than nearer to London for example, so I am a minority here. There is only one gay venue in the city. And the whole Trans thing is more taboo down here. Touch wood, I haven’t had any abuse from anyone and to be honest, if I did, I am not afraid to name and shame people on their ignorance, so maybe that’s why I haven’t had anything done to me personally.
People will always talk and criticise something they don’t understand. If customer’s want me to openly talk about it and they ask me questions, I am happy to answer because it’s important to educate people on the subject. A lot of ignorance come’s from a lack of understanding. But when people get to know me then they realise that I am just like every one else.. Maybe just a bit cooler hahaha.”

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This is Gracie. They identify as gender variant. (The * is used at the end of trans because it can be an umbrella term. People with variant genders or no gender at all, like myself, also come under that banner and I think are probably very unrepresented, even in trans media.) She has also decided to remain anonymous.

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“I first knew when I tried on women’s clothes and realised how comfortable I was in them and how they suited me. Then I realised I’ve always had feminine behaviours and I’ve liked girly stuff since I was young so it kinda all made sense.

 Work wise I continue to be a guy, but I much prefer to be a girl because I am able to express myself without being restricted by ‘expectations’ of a masculine man so I would say I’m female 75% of the time now
I love women’s fashion and adore being beautiful, getting my nails painted, trying on clothes and I’m a shopaholic who can’t stop buying! I’m still interested in railways though.
I’ll be honest, bigotry exists and it generally comes from ‘alpha males’ and proper narrow minded men who think that being a woman is somehow below being a man and so they find it funny. I just shake off these irrelevant comments because my friends have all been amazing.”
This Ben. We’ve known each other on Facebook for about a year. We met through an abolitionist vegan network.
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“My name is Ben, and I’m a 45 year old Australian male. I identify as transsexual, transman, male, man or bloke with a cunt, depending on who I’m with. I wrote a memoir of my life’s journey (so far), so in that way I’m fairly open and candid about being trans. But in everyday interactions, I don’t particularly share my gender story. I felt strongly like I was a boy, or meant to be a boy, when I was about eight years old, in the late 1970’s. But I didn’t really understand how that was, or what to do about it. Puberty when I was eleven really threw my life out of kilter, and my teenage years were hellish. There were other issues around family dysfunction, abuse, and my sexuality that meant I never revisited my gender issues until I was thirty-two. I identified as a lesbian from thirty, but was probably really bisexual, if I’m being honest. My transition to Ben was fairly easy – certainly in comparison to what I expected. I had much greater support from work-colleagues and friends than I imagined, but my already strained relationship with immediate family meant their acceptance of my true self was never going to happen.

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My sexual self awakened after two years of testosterone and a bilateral mastectomy, and I spent some time “catching up” on sewing my wild oats with male partners. Not long after this I met my cisgendered male partner, and we’ve been together for eight years. We describe ourselves as a gay couple with a twist.

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I’m very comfortable in my own skin – apart from the getting older bit – and despite some sacrifices from my old life, transitioning has been the best decision I’ve ever made. Being Ben has truly been lifesaving.”

Unfortunately none of my transwomen friends were able to write me anything in time because they were too busy. I hope this gives you an incite into what the trans* community is really like and that it has helped to educate you and dispel any myths. Please feel free to ask as many questions as you like.

Your gender queer vegan. X