Pronouns, and why they matter

What may seem like a small mistake or an inconsequential word can be devastating to someone else. Many (and I’d like to actually say most…) transgender people fight for years for their pronouns. They fight with themselves as they recognise their gender identity, they fight with family, friends, colleagues, institutions, professionals, strangers in the street to have their gender identity recognised. I don’t mean fight as in fists and kicks, but the reality is that being misgendered whether by mistake or on purpose is a small act of hostility against trans people. And having to deal with it day in, day out is exhausting, demeaning , dehumanising and distressing.

So if someone has told you their pronouns, take the time to practice and learn so as not to make that mistake.

P.S sorry for the long absence (!)

Are trans prisoners really a threat?

TW: sex offenders, sexual assault, consent.


There has been a lot of talk recently about a new law allowing transgender people to self-identify their gender without having to go through psychiatric evaluations and invasive interviewing. This is a fantastic step forward for trans people, but has unsurprisingly been pounced upon by anti-trans groups who are claiming this will endanger cis people in many areas of their lives.

In particular the conversation has focused on the safety of cis women when trans women are allowed in to female-only spaces. One campaign by Fair Play for Women (a group who have established a solid transphobic stance) stated that 41% of trans women in prisons have committed sexual offences. This claim has been quashed, the statistics seem to be completely fabricated as the number of prisoners don’t even match official records.

What doesn’t get spoken about however, is the danger that trans people live in. Trans people are far more likely to be assaulted than to be the perpetrator of violence. There is 1 documented case of a trans woman assaulting a fellow prisoner, but 29,485 reported cases of prisoner-on-prisoner violence in 2017 alone (The Guardian). Where is the discussion on all prison violence? Where is the discussion on the safety of trans people? It has been buried underneath the lies that perpetuate the myth of trans people as sexual perverts.

The most recent statistics show that more than a third of transgender people experienced hate crimes last year (The Independent) and this is likely to be underestimated as many of these crimes go unreported. I cannot count the times I have felt unsafe in public spaces. The amount of times I’ve had it (incorrectly) pointed out that I’m in the “wrong” bathroom/changing rooms. I have been followed in to toilets and told to leave. I’ve been refused entry to changing rooms, put on the wrong wards in hospitals, I have come out of toilets to a large bouncer telling me I was in the wrong ones….all of which are terrifying, humiliating and unfortunately so common I have never thought to report them.

The truth is, if sexual predators want to cause harm, they will do whatever they can to prey on vulnerable people. They will make fake profiles to groom young people online. They will tell lies to seduce vulnerable women. They will even lie about being trans in order to access female-only spaces. The common problem here is not trans people. The problem is sex offenders.

Sex offenders come in all guises, and yes, there are trans people who have assaulted people. But there are far more cis people who have committed these crimes. If we step back and look at the bigger picture, the conversation shouldn’t be about whether trans people are incarcerated in the prison that matches their actual gender (not birth sex)…it should be about how we keep all prisoners safe. We should be talking about prison staffing, prisoner rehabilitation…how the education system can better teach consent and even how the media perpetuates and supports the sexualisation of women and the normalisation of gender-based violence.

When is a victory not a victory…?

Last weekend was Leeds Pride and the local transgender groups were given the front of the march. Gendered Intelligence, TransLeeds and Non Binary Leeds formed a huge protest group, a noisy group too. We marched, we led, we took the streets, we made a huge noise. And yet in the BBC’s coverage of Leeds Pride, trans groups are all but forgotten, a few banners in the background may be seen but the protest is completely omitted.

If you haven’t seen it, take a look here:

The story BBC Yorkshire have depicted is of one big gay party. There is more footage of the sponsors than there is of the huge group of trans people and allies that led the protest. Why? Were we too loud? Were we too political? Were we too overtly trans?

Maybe trans is just too big a problem. Maybe it is just not “nice” enough, it is too shocking, too….protest-like. The thing is though, Pride IS a protest march. It began as a protest against oppression and police brutality, and, though many people believe that now we have same-sex marriage in a few Western countries, we no longer need to protest or fight for LGBTQ+ rights, the truth is far from that.

The truth is this:

  • 41% of trans people have experienced hate crime because of their gender identity in the last 12 months (Stonewall, 2017).
  • 26% of transgender people have directly experienced transphobic abuse online in the last month (Stonewall, 2017).
  • The UK has dropped from 1st to 4th in the European LGBT rights index, primarily due to their lack of progression in transgender rights (Pink News, 2018).
  • 25% of transgender people have been or are homeless. (Stonewall, 2017)
  • 50% of transgender people have hidden their gender identity at work for fear of discrimination. (Stonewall, 2017).
  • 48% of trans people don’t feel comfortable using public toilets for fear of discrimination (Stonewall, 2017).

The truth is, same sex marriage is legal, but the treatment of LGBT people has not caught up with the law. Transgender people in particular face daily fights to have their identity accepted, to feel safe in their everyday lives and to have their identity validated.

Media coverage of Pride, such as that from BBC Yorkshire, that erases the presence of transgender people perpetuates the discrimination and continues to deny transgender people safe spaces. If transgender people can’t be visible at Pride, the one day of the year given to us to be visible, what hope is there? Yes, marching in the protest, making some noise and being given the front was a victory…but if no-one sees it, there is no victory at all.

Where do we go from here then? We need to create spaces for all of the LGBTQ+ community, spaces that are safe and spaces where we can be visible. But more than that, we need to start having more public conversation with trans people, not just about them. We need to actually include trans people in the media coverage of LGBTQ+ people, after all there are gay and bisexual trans people too.

Maybe the first step is for the national media outlets to stop erasing us from their coverage, to include trans actors, trans stories and trans opinions…not just because we’re trans, but because we’re talented, we’re academics, we’re writers and poets and teachers and politicians. Maybe the first step is for the Cis world to not just wait for their turn to speak about us, or for us…but to actually step back and listen. 

T-DAY IS HERE…and it’s a bit of an anticlimax

Almost 8 weeks since the Gender Clinic consultant said I could start testosterone. Over a week since the instructions arrived at my GP surgery. Four days since the prescription was issued….and the day has finally come: I am holding my first tube of testosterone.

It has been a long long time coming. It was over a year ago that I first expressed the desire to the consultant, who told me that he didn’t want to start introducing hormones while I had other big changes happening (getting married, final year at university). What no-one seemed to hear or consider was that I am a grown-up, someone who has a fantastic insight into my own mental and physical health, and I knew then that I needed hormone blockers and testosterone.

Every monthly cycle was hell, my body betraying me and sending dysphoria sky high. Trying to time outings to avoid having to change a tampon in a public toilet, knowing there wouldn’t be a sanitary bin in the blokes.

Every changing room was hell. Staring at clothes that don’t fit properly, being turned away, followed in, pointed to the women’s changing room.

Every phone call, every conversation, every time I heard my own voice was hell. Being turned away from my own banking because I don’t sound like the “Mr” they insisted on putting because Mx doesn’t exist on their system.

I somewhat naively expected that the moment I got my hands on testosterone these things would change. But, obviously, they didn’t. I picked up the prescription, walked home, put it on the table and looked at it for 20 minutes or so. Just looked at it, taking in what it meant; how many visits, hours, questions it had taken to get my hands on it. How many hoops I had to jump through to get it.

I thought of all the people still fighting. I thought about what I would have done if the gender clinic overlords said no, they wouldn’t prescribe it. I wondered how many people have been outright denied their correct hormones. I put the measured amount of gel onto my skin and rubbed it in. I stood back and watched my reflection…waited.

Nothing happened. No miracle. Maybe I walked a bit taller, knowing the final step of my journey had begun. Maybe I imagined a crack in my voice earlier. But one day I will repeat the process, look at my reflection, and see the person I am.

We need to talk about…grief and transition

Let’s talk about grief, shall we?

Going through gender transition is tough, and there are so many mile stones to reach. First appointment at a gender clinic.
2nd signature for hormones.
Referral for surgery.
Passing for the first time.
Gender marker changes.

With all of these it is easy to get caught up in the excitement, and the narrative we see splashed across the media is this one too. It is the story of rebirth, of becoming who we truly are.

But there’s one thing we don’t talk about often enough, and that is grief. Becoming LJ has been tough, but losing my old identity may have been tougher. It seems cliche to say that the child I was is dead, but in many senses it is the truth. For my family and friends who have known me before transition, they have to grieve the child they knew before they can accept the person I am now.

I have to grieve too. It doesn’t mean I don’t want to be LJ, or that I regret any of the decisions I’ve made in this transition. The little girl I was doesn’t exist anymore, nor does the woman I was expected to grow into. There are times when I miss that person, what she accomplished or who she might have been. I have such a huge passion for women’s rights and I can remember the person who told me about feminism and the moment I connected with the movement. I could understand the misogyny, I had ample experience of sexual harassment, and now I regularly feel that I am not allowed to be part of the “sisterhood” of feminism.

I grew up as a girl, was socialised as a woman. My history is female, but my future and present is not. It’s OK to miss that life, though I often have to reassure myself, and others, that this doesn’t mean I’m “less trans”. Trans people are allowed to love their bodies / lives / childhood and still be trans. It is also OK for others to miss this. My parents, sibling, friends…they must all miss the person I was. My sister and I would make plans of things to do when we grew into old women, my friends and I planned holidays together and went to female-only spaces…all of which have changed now.

It is also a sad fact that society dictates a shift in the dynamic of friendships when gender is changed. Male – only friendships differ from female – only friendships (whether they should or not is another matter). For many people friendships are lost too, and there are far too many family members lost through transition too.

There are times when I have felt such intense grief, having lost a well-established life as a woman, that I wonder whether this transition is worth it. I have grieved over experiences lost, over an easier life, over the hurt and confusion caused to my family and friends. But ultimately….it is so so SO worth it. Though there are times when I feel a sense of loss, none of those feelings can overcome the excitement and contentment I have found in becoming myself.





Can you see me now?

Today is trans day of visibility. It happens every year. It was trans day of visibility 365 days ago…so can you see me now?

I am trans. I am proud. I am visible. I exist. You may deny it, many do. Yet I wake up in the morning and my substantial hands make breakfast. My feet hit the pedals and I drive a car. I’m heard when I speak to people. I exist. I’m seen, in some ways.

And yes, I don’t doubt that today plenty of cis people will turn to their friends and proclaim “why do they need a day of visibility?” “we have equal marriage, what else do they want?”

I’ll tell you what. I want to be able to choose my actual gender on a form, not the next closest thing. I want trans people to have access to the support and treatment that they need, without years of waiting. I want all genders to be visible in all areas of life.

It doesn’t seem much to ask, really it is just a bit of humanity. To recognise that every human is equal in their value, not worth more or less based on their gender identity or sexuality or race or class status or age.

Trans is not a “look” or a “phase”. Trans people may look like you expect them too, they may not. Trans is not something that will go away if you ignore it. Trans doesn’t always look the same – some come out as kids, others when they’re 60. Trans people might be straight, or gay, or bisexual, or asexual or pansexual.

In the last year, since trans day of visibility 2017, have I become more visible? No, I don’t think so. I am still married as a “wife” not a spouse or partner. My passport has the wrong gender with no option to correct it. My driving licence is the same. I still have to face being told my gender isn’t real, or I have to choose one way or the other.

Today, it is transgender day of visibility. I am trans. I am non binary. I am they/them. I am a partner. I am a person. I am real. Can you see me now?

This is ME.

It has been far too long as I have been engrossed in surviving my final year at university. However there have been some major changes in the last month and it’s time to check-in.

In December I had a follow up appointment at the Gender Clinic and finally got the go ahead for hormone blockers – the first of which was administered 3 weeks ago. In much the same as surgery I think I expected the world to see a huge change in me, I certainly felt different. However the changes from hormone blockers are only things that I will notice – the cessation of menstruation, some hot flushes…But it is a step forward, and little by little I am becoming on the outside the person I feel on the inside.

It is difficult to accept the slow pace of these changes, people make much larger life decisions with less resistance. I recently got a fostering information pack and felt saddened to realise I could have a foster child fast than I could get the right hormones in my body. Surely this still all comes down to the misjudged idea that transgender is a phase, a fad, something cool to pep up your image and make you more “edgy”.

The increased awareness of transgender identities is great, if it wasn’t for transgender story lines in the media I would not have had the vocabulary to begin questioning my gender. However the cisheteronormative media have pedaled only one truth for so long – that is that if you didn’t know you were transgender as a child you can’t be transgender, and that is simply not the lived experienced of a huge amount of LGBTQIA+ people, including trans people.

You would not expect the life stories of an English and a Japanese woman to be the same, you wouldn’t expect the experiences of a single child and a child with 8 siblings to be the same…why is it expected that the stories and histories of every trans person is the same? We are all unique, so lets start sharing some of the diverse stories of transgender people. It’s time that the people with the power and the platforms to share our stories did so with honesty, without making them into a hollywood blockbuster or a sob story, without trying to glamourise things.

Change is happening, transgender stories are being seen, but not all of them. There is a huge spectrum of transgender to be seen. It is time that transgender people who don’t pass, or who don’t want to pass had their stories shared. It’s time that trans people of colour were seen. That hairy femmes and feminine guys were seen. It’s time to be get out there and be seen.

I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I’m meant to be, this is me
Look out ’cause here I come
And I’m marching on to the beat I drum
I’m not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me

– This is me, The Greatest Showman


My Queer identity doesn’t cause depression…your attitudes do.

This week has been Mental Health Awareness Day and many people are coming out about their mental health issues – depression, anxiety, OCD, psychosis and others – and it has got me thinking. LGBTQIA+ people are far more likely to be diagnosed with mental health problems and are at significantly more at risk of self harm and suicide, a fact that leads many people to think that LGBTQIA+ identities cause depression and anxiety. This however is simply NOT the case for the majority of us.

Susan Calman spoke candidly in her new book about her experience of depression and of her sexuality. She perfectly captured how I feel which is that I am 100% content and comfortable with my sexual identity, and with my gender identity. I always have been, the issue however has been society’s attitudes towards gender and sexual minorities. As a young person I was attracted to boys and girls, I knew that but society told me that I was a woman and therefore could only like men. You might say that it is my perception but the reality is that in 1988 section 28 of the Local Government Act  was introduced, an act that stated no local authority should intentionally “promote homosexuality or publish material which promotes homosexuality” and they should not “promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”. This act wasn’t fully repealed across the UK until 2003. Yes you read that correctly, 2003. I had completed my formative primary education at this point and was halfway through secondary school. I had received sex education and PHSE (personal, health and social education) for years…and all the way through I was taught that relationships were only between a man and a woman, if I had a question about my attraction to women I couldn’t talk to teachers or pastoral support at school – they were prevented from promoting or teaching the “acceptability of homosexuality as a pretend family relationship”.

It hasn’t changed a huge amount, though the act has been repealed there is not active teaching about same sex relationships. Starting a family revolves around getting pregnant, adoption, surrogacy or other ways of having a family aren’t discussed. In fact sex is all about pregnancy, what about fun?! Anyhow I digress…Laws may have changed but attitudes haven’t shifted so quickly. In thinking about holidays my wife and I need to think about where we go and how safe we will be…someone told me recently that in Northern Ireland we would have to pretend to be friends in many places, something that fills me with despair. I married my wife because I love her deeply and I want the world to know that and to witness our love. Not so that I would have to hide away. Our passports will say Mx and Mrs but some countries won’t even view us as a couple.

In some ways it is not surprising I didn’t want to get married…the marriage I would have wanted was illegal until 2013, and again the law changed but attitudes still need to catch up. A (not-so-quick) change in a law will not do anything to change societal views of gender or sexual minorities, and without some huge shift in the paradigm that these identities are less valid. Growing up secretly thinking that your entire being is less valid is what causes depression, not that identity itself. It is the little things too: being denied access to my own bank accounts because my voice does not match what they expect of a Mr, having to come out every time anyone wants to know if your husband is coming as your plus one, knowing that my gender identity is not valid enough to have its own tick box on a form…

It is not my queer identity that causes my depression. I am more happy than I have ever been since I came out and found words to express my own identity. My wife was astounded by my forwardness and how comfortable I was with holding hands or kissing in public. I never had a second thought about it, my relationship with her was as natural as any I had with men. But that is despite growing up in a world where we still have to openly and repeatedly state that noone should be bullied because of their sexuality, while hundreds of transgender people are scared for their lives in case they are outed. It is not my queerness that makes me depressed, it is living in a world where an easy choice, to love someone, is made difficult at every turn. It is having to fight every day against ingrained prejudices and opinions. It is having to shout to be seen. It is questioning at what point in a relationship to come out. It is wondering whether I am safe to come out, or hold my wife’s hand.

THAT is what causes my depression.

Transgender…A Story of Hope

So many rhetorics around LGBT+ and particularly transgender identities focus on the difficulties and tribulations so I thought that I would share a story of hope today. Five weeks ago I married the love of my life, a cisgender woman, a lesbian. When we met almost 3 years ago I presented as female and, though I was beginning to question my identity I really had no language to explain it. Ours was what most people would call a whirlwind romance, I fell in love with her that first night that we met and she felt the same.


When I came out to my now wife she said that she loved me, the person, beyond my gender. I initially came out as genderfluid, this was the only word that I had heard that came close to describing my gender which I knew was not female but not fully male either. Over the course of the following 2 years my gender expression changed, I found my comfort zone in the masculine and began to realise that, though I am non-binary I can also be masculine and prefer male terms of address. I internalised this, as is usual for me, and became scared to mention it to my partner as she identifies as a lesbian. I was terrified that she would want a woman and not me, especially when I began to explore top surgery and hormone replacement therapy.

However I have landed on my feet with my wife. She has been by my side every step of the way. She fought for me when I was trying to change my name at doctors surgeries and banks. She corrected pronouns for me when I wasn’t around. She came with me to my first gender clinic appointment, the one where we were told we probably wouldn’t last due to her being a lesbian and me being a non binary person who wanted their breasts removed and male hormones. She was there when I went down for the double mastectomy and, to my surprise and glee, she was there when I woke up. I say to my surprise but don’t get me wrong, she didn’t give any indication that she wouldn’t be there. It was just that in my mind I knew that I wouldn’t have the body she loved and the words of various clinicians rang around my head, telling me that without breasts there would be no sexual attraction and without that, there would be no relationship. However when I opened my eyes she was there. She took time off to care for me, she cooked Christmas dinner for us and helped me through recovery.

My wife and I have overcome those naysayers though. She has been able to see through the exterior and love the person. Of course there have been difficulties, there have been worries over what hormones will do and whether she could deal with a breast-less partner. But love endures all things, and in our case that includes gender questioning and transitioning. I think so much more pressure is put on couples with one or both of them transitioning…when you think about it, in any long term relationship the couple will change both physically and emotionally. You might get together when you have brown hair then dye it blonde. A partner may have a double mastectomy due to cancer. The other may decide to grow a beard. Bodies change, and relationships adapt and change too, this isn’t any different in a relationship with people who are transitioning. Making out that a cis partner will suddenly not love their trans* partner reduces a trans* person to their body and their genitals. Relationships are complex and I’m not denying that some wont survive transition, but I certainly don’t think we can say that they will definitely fail because one partner is transgender.

marriage equality is a myth…there is no equality if identities are excluded

So back to our wedding day…we knew that I would have to be married as a wife. I had spoken to the registrar and the registry office and the only way to remove gendered language from a wedding is to opt for a civil ceremony, a marriage requires the vows to include “take you as my lawful wedded husband/wife”. A civil ceremony is predominantly the same to a same-sex marriage though some divorce rights are altered and my wife and I wanted a marriage. So, although many societies celebrate having achieved marriage equality – that is that a perceived same sex couple can marry, these same societies cannot allow for transgender people to marry with the same equality. A transgender person must hold a gender recognition certificate (GRC) in order to be married as their “chosen” gender and not their birth sex. Now, GRCs are not easy to come by. You must live in your “chosen” gender for at least 2 years, have evidence to prove this and have this confirmed by a panel. Oh and you have to pay for the privilege. You can also only change your gender in a binary form, so non binary people cannot have their gender recognised. Marriage equality is a myth then, there is no equality if identities are excluded or people are outed by the language used in the vows.

We cannot sit back on our laurels and think that equality is here because one milestone has been reached. Equality is not just about gay people, it is about all of the gender and sexual minorities having the same access and the right to be recognised in a way they want. Not having to be married as a woman because that is all that is available, or having to wait until a panel has agreed on your gender so you can be married with the correct pronouns. The fight for equality continues, and it will continue until all identities are recognised and accepted as equal.

I wish every trans* person could have a partner so understanding and supportive as I have been lucky enough to find. I wish that every trans* person could have someone who fights for them in all things, who is 100% all out for them, no matter what. Most of all I wish that we didn’t have to fight, that all trans* people are considered equal without a fight.

But I said this was a story of hope, so here is the message I have for you, a message my wife has helped me to learn…

Trans* is beautiful. No matter where you are in transition, whether you want to physically transition or not, no matter what your body looks like…you are gorgeous.

Trans* is worthy of love. You deserve unconditional love, to be loved as you are and where you are, whether that is transitioning or not.

Trans* is equal. However much the world you live in tells you otherwise. However much the media makes you feel less or alien, you are equal in all you deserve and should have.

Be fierce, keep fighting and lets see this become reality soon.


Can A Protest Be A Safe Space?

This month has seen more Pride Protests taking place across the country and my local pride aswell. A little recap of what Pride is, and is not:

  • Pride is a PROTEST. It was started at the Stonewall bar in 1969 when a transgender woman of colour threw a brick in protest against police brutality towards the LGBTQIA+ community.
  • Pride is POLITICAL. It is about making a noise to bring attention to the systematic oppression of LGBTQIA+ people. It is about working towards bringing change.
  • Pride is NOT a party. It is not a victory dance. We have a long long way to go and many more fights to come.
  • Pride is a safe place.

Yet somehow many people who are not part of the LGBTQIA+ community co-opt pride to make money or promote business without being sensitive to the real nature of pride or the safety of participants. One such example of this is the publication and sale of pictures of participants without their consent on public domain spaces and putting this pictures for sale. These pictures weren’t large crowd pictures, they were close up images of marchers that would easily identify them.

I see many people looking confused at why this is a problem, so let me explain. Pride protest may be a “public” display and parade, but it is also and should always be maintained as a safe space for LGBTQIA+ people. The almost daily cries for a “straight pride” make it clear that we desperately still need Pride as a protest and a safe space – the fact that large swathes of people do not recognise this need is precisely why DO need it. Many people march at pride because this is a space where they can be their true selves and be safe (mostly), however posting pictures of people without consent has the potential of outing them in places that they do not wish to be outed.

The company who I elude to here placed images on their website and on Facebook set to public. That means that anyone, anyone can access them and discover the sexual orientation or gender identity of, say, an employee, a relative, a customer…This may not seem a big deal to you, and in discussions with the company it did not seem a big deal to them – as they said “walking in the parade is being public anyway”. However, if you are not or haven’t been affected by the discrimination against and oppression of LGBTQIA+ minorities I would say that you can’t fully understand the fear of being outed in a way that is out of your control.

Outing a transgender person is a hate crime in itself, it has the potential to put that person in danger not only from verbal abuse and discrimination but also physical abuse. Cashing in on the oppression of LGBTQIA+ people is morally objectionable, it is despicable. No LGBTQIA+ person should ever be made to come out at a time that they have not chosen, or in a place they do not want to be out. Yes, marching in a pride is a statement, but marching in pride is not consent to be outed, just as walking into an underwear shop doesn’t mean you consent to your bra size, or nude photos being published. In a PUBLIC domain.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t object to photos being taken. Photograph performers or leaders, photograph people and ask them if they are happy having their photo used publicly and sold for profits. Photograph friends and put them on your private facebook page. Photograph people and send them the photos. Photograph signs, placards, banners, buildings…but don’t photograph strangers in the street and publish the images without consent. This is the biggest sticking point for me, and for the many people I know who have expressed their anger with how this was handled. It has put people in a position where they have been forced to come out as transgender, and as much as you may like to believe that this is safe, it isn’t. Transgender people are at risk of violence, of losing their jobs, of being denied healthcare.

So lets remember this. Pride is a protest, it is political and yes for many it is an act of being visible. But there are people who march and participate for whom being publicly visible isn’t an option and noone has the right to out them on any platform, especially not for money.