The Reality of Non Existence

The reality of life as a non binary person is that of non-existence. That statement might seem dramatic, yet it is true. Certainly in some, if not all, areas of existence. The simple act of going to the toilet is one of deciding who you are, male…or female? Will my appearance get me thrown out of one? Do I feel comfortable using the other?

Sometimes, or in fact most of the time, the world around us insists on a binary gender system. On a system of male / female. Therefore a non binary person is often forced to play the role of male or female. They are made to assume the feminine  or masculine appearance that most closely aligns with the way they feel or want to be regarded. Can you see the difficulty here, for someone who is neither male nor female? In our society there is no real way of presenting as neither, every person it seems simply must be categorised as one or the other. There is no grey in between.

A non binary employee is forced to change in the disabled toilet so as to “not upset” other staff members. They don’t have a male body, nor do they present as female. There is no space for them.

A non binary person is not welcomed at either the male nor the female sports teams. They were assigned male so “have the advantage over women” yet they do not look “male enough” with their make up and skirt to join the men’s team.

A non binary person hold the desperate urge to pee because they do not feel safe in the men’s or women’s and there is not disabled access.

A non binary person stares at the form in front of them, there is no box for their gender. No option for their title. No acknowledgement of their identity.

There are days when it truly feels as though I (we…the enby population) are non existent. There are days when I have the energy to fight for my identity, and other days when I accept that a binary gender is just what I have to deal with.

However, when we discuss other “in betweens” we seem so much more ready to accept that the world is not black and white. A white person may be half middle eastern. A black person may be half Caucasian. We readily accept that addiction isn’t as black and white as a choice to continue, that poverty isn’t just caused by overspending or unemployment. We are fed the lines “it isn’t that black and white” from a young age.

And yet, here I am, trying to convince you and the world just that. Gender isn’t black and white, it’s just not that simple. Take some time to consider the ways in which you recognise the grey areas of existence. Realise that there is no easy black and white answers. And come to terms with the reality that maybe, just maybe, you are the one who needs to change your thinking.

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Why Jenny Swift’s Death is a Tale of Our Times…

Jenny Swift, a woman, was found dead in her cell in an all male prison this week. That is what the headlines should have read. Jenny Swift was denied her ongoing medication and life saving medical treatment while in the care of the state.

“A friend said Swift, 49, had asked to be placed in a women’s prison and had become miserable, sad and ill after being refused female hormones in HMP Doncaster.”

(credit: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/jan/05/transgender-woman-jenny-swift-found-dead-at-doncaster-prison)

Instead headlines focused on the fact that Jenny Swift was a transgender woman, and that the life saving medication she needed was her hormone therapy. We are not discussing just another death in a prison here, and we are not discussing whether or not Jenny Swift was guilty or whether she should have been in prison. And this is NOT a discussion of mental health and suicide in prisons. This needs to be a discussion about why transgender people have their experiences ignored. Why a transgender identity is given little consideration or respect. Why a transgender person is treated as less of a human being.

Despite this being a conversation about transgender people we don’t need to preface every description of Jenny with transgender. We just need to know that she was a woman, and when we drop the unnecessary adjective we come to the plain old truth which is almost too awful to believe. We come to this…

A woman was knowingly incarcerated in an all male prison.
She was denied female clothes.
She was denied life saving medications.
She was called Sir/Mr by prison staff.

If this was not a trans woman we would be in uproar. If this was a cis woman there would be no question of the illegality. And this is where our conversation starts..

WHY IS A TRANS* WOMAN LESS OF A WOMAN THAN A CIS WOMAN?

She’s not. But you would think otherwise with the way she is treated. If we really believe in equality the treatment of trans* people would not differ from that of cis people in these cases. The fact that Jenny Swift was jailed in a male prison shows us that the view that trans* people are in fact “dressing up” or “playing a role” is still a widely held view. It is one that is perpetuated by the mainstream media with everything from RuPaul’s drag race to Nike adverts.

This is what needs to be addressed, and not in a week, or a few months, but now. It needs to be addressed before more of our trans* siblings are killed. It needs to be addressed now. A woman, whether trans* or not, is a woman. And she does not belong in a male prison. We need to start respecting gender identities, however they present. We need to respect all trans* identities, trans* women who don’t like to shave, trans* men who hate their body hair. Trans* men who like to get their hair or nails done, trans* women who lift weights.

In a country where a trans* woman is jailed with men, we are not living in a country where trans* identities are considered equal or valuable. It may seem incidental, an accident, something you see in passing in the newspaper, but the story of Jenny Swift’s death is a tale of how invisible trans* people are and how much work there is still to be done.