Jenner

Millions of words will be juggled today on the confusion, the social complications and the circus surrounding Bruce Jenner’s coming out at 65 …

How should we behave?
How should they behave?

What is the social etiquette around a middle aged transition?

‘It’s all SOOOO complicated!” A thousand media commentators will say. “It’s sooo complicated,” a bunch of trans commentators will parrot.

It’s NOT … and they’ll all be missing the real question: WHAT IS OUR SOCIETY GOING TO DO NOW TO ALLOW AND SUPPORT TRANS KIDS TO BE THEMSELVES FROM THE GET-GO SO THAT SOCIAL TRANSITION ITSELF BECOMES A THING OF THE PAST? Because then the kids will never have felt they had to conceal anything. It’s not rocket science.

Jenner knew as a child but could see no viable way to be themself. They first attempted to transition thirty-five years ago in 1980.

I find it heartbreaking to see somebody, as entitled as Jenner is in all other respects, feeling not entitled to chose their own name or pronoun for the Diane Sawyer interview and having as their main worry not wanting to let anybody else down. Of course that’s an honourable sentiment but FFS cis society has historically let down every trans kid (and indeed LGB kid) … FOREVER.

This needs to be the narrative from now on … please.

In 1988 Tory MP, Dame Jill Knight, a key supporter of Section 28 … yes, the lovely elderly person with some “delightful, very artistic” gay friends …  said of that shameful piece of legislation: “The major point of it was to protect children in schools from having homosexuality thrust upon them.”

Now Libby Purves … yes, the fine ally of trans people who even wrote a novel with a trans teenager as the main character … writes in the Daily Mail of “children coming under terrible pressure” to start down the road to gender reassignment. “How horrifying,” she writes “that anxious parents might be encouraging a child in that direction”.

Oh Libby :(

“Alarmingly,” she continues, “some clinics seem willing to prescribe drugs that delay the onset of puberty because of the ‘distress’ of what is normal development” although she offers no hint of evidence for her alarm. The hugely cautious National Research Ethics Service certainly doesn’t seem to be alarmed, having imposed stringent conditions under which puberty blockers can be prescribed in the UK.  Indeed the Endocrine Society recently published a paper suggesting, far from careless prescribing, the medical needs of trans children are hardly even beginning to be met. And who does Libby cite in support of her panic? Only our old friend Ken Zucker, the doctor whose clinic has been closed following allegations that he has been practicing “conversion therapy” on trans kids  … something discredited by every reputable medical organisation in the world and which the Obama administration has announced it will now work to outlaw.

And then employing classic Daily Mail sleight of hand, after scaring the cissexist pants off us for the bulk of the article, Libby quietly more or less admits that the horrifying scenarios she envisages are not really happening … “The Tavistock clinic does not ‘generally consider it helpful to make a formal diagnosis in very young children’”.

When are these people … even otherwise sensible people like Libby Purves … going to get the message in the way that few other than bigots now dispute about being gay … YOU CANNOT THRUST TRANSNESS ON ANYBODY and nobody … literally nobody … is trying to do that.

Trying to thrust cisnormativity and heteronormativity on kids is a different matter entirely. We don’t even need to look up to see that. Call it cisgenderism or cissexism  or just plain prejudice … read about Leelah Alcorn here if you don’t know her story. They’re all at it … and with an incredible lack of self awareness …  including sadly it seems our ‘ally’ Libby Purves.

THE ART OF BEING NORMAL

by Lisa Williamson

(David Fickling Books ISBN: 1910200328)

 

Artof BeingNormal

I’m so surprised and relieved at how much I loved this book. Surprised because I’ve learnt to expect little authenticity from non-trans authors who chose to include trans characters in fiction. Relieved because I don’t feel obliged to explain a long list of problems in a way which may be viewed as ungrateful or even deluded because … hey! … the author was trying to be positive.

Lisa Williamson gets it.

By any standards The Art of Being Normal is well-constructed. The main characters are developed beautifully so that you can’t help empathising with them. There is tension and pathos … it had me in tears at times … and a reveal which I must admit I did not see coming. It also deals movingly with some grittily unpalatable realities, not by any means all to do with being trans, while still being none the worse for a gloriously sentimental denouement.

It’s wonderful to be able to recommend a book which parents, teachers and young adults can be sure they are going to enjoy while at the same time finding an authentic portrayal of trans kids’ lives mostly filled with the same kind of concerns as their own.

The book is written from the viewpoint of two parallel narrators and the only thing which I found consistently jarring was that, once the narrator known as “David” had clearly revealed herself as Kate to Leo, the other narrator, Leo still refers to her as “David’ and uses the pronoun “he”. I’m not suggesting this couldn’t be justified by saying it might authentically have been the case. I do however wish that it had been used as a powerful teachable moment. The struggle to claim our gender identity experienced by trans people … the lack of entitlement … is something which I think few cisgender (non-trans) people grasp. As Paris Lees has written:

Research shows that the majority of trans adults got the memo we were trans at around 5 years old – a realisation most of us felt we needed to hide: “It soon becomes clear that to be different in this way is socially unacceptable and as such the most common response is concealment of their true feelings.” If we also know that 94% of people who walk into gender identity clinics are adults, that means, although the figure is accelerating, only 6% of trans children are currently being identified. In other words, most trans kids are suffering in silence.

Even Williamson’s blessèd publisher, David Fickling, describing in his forward how the book has “changed his perception of the world”, refers to “the boys in this book” despite one of the protagonists on the very first page making no bones about who she feels she is: “I want to be a girl”. Such misgendering may seem like a small thing to most people but to a trans child it is huge.

It probably shouldn’t surprise me either how some of the reviews of the book slip blithely into the usual clichés about “young people struggling with gender identity” (The Guardian), “a tale of a teenager’s struggle with identity” (The Telegraph) when this is so clearly not what Williamson’s book is about. Her characters give no sign of being anything other than clear about who they are. Her story is emphatically not about some imagined internal gender struggle taking place in a vacuum inside the protagonists’ heads. It’s about the struggles young trans people experience when dealing with the gender expectations mainstream cisgender society dumps on them. As such I think it’s a breath of fresh air.

One last thing … before writing this book Lisa Williamson worked at the Tavistock NHS clinic in London which specialises in treating trans children and I have to say I do find the rosy picture she paints of the ready availability of professional support for such children in the UK misleading. While we may assume things have improved somewhat, research only a few years ago found that 1 in 5 GPs are unwilling to help with referrals to gender services and 60% of those who wanted to help felt they lacked the information to do so.

For trans kids and their parents seeking support and advice on this topic, I’d recommend contacting Mermaids, GIRES or Gendered Intelligence. There’s good advice at NHS Choices  and a growing collection of great videos at All About Trans

 

A few days ago IPSO announced the appointment of three lay members to its Editors’ Code of Practice Committee. This committee oversees the precepts according to which complaints against newspapers are supposed to be judged. IPSO let it be known the appointments are  in response to the Leveson Report.

The Editor’s Code, inherited by IPSO from the PCC, has always seemed to me as Polly Toynbee has described it:

The PCC’s editors’ code of practice is a delight. Article 1 says: “The press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures”. Now imagine the culture shock for all of us if truly independent adjudicators applied that maxim every day.

Should IPSO find itself replaced by a new government after the general election, I have no doubt that any future Press regulator … truly independent, Leveson-compliant or not … will chose to retain it.

There’s also no doubt that it could do with some tinkering around the edges especially better to protect vulnerable individuals and marginalised groups. To quote Scott Long, who has been rather busy this week writing about the disingenuity surrounding a certain letter to the Guardian:

Ideas exist not in an ideal but in the real world, and one way to judge them is not by their consistency with other ideas but by whether they have victims. By that standard, an idea that breeds hatred … has its problems.

The way things are, I can think of nobody I shall be happier to see keeping a caretaker’s eye on progress than the redoubtable Dr Kate Stone
Congratulations Kate!
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There’s two things I’m noticing in reactions I’ve read from individuals in the trans community to Laurie Penny’s New Statesman piece: What the “Transgender tipping point” really means …

The first is a self-defeating kind of trans nativism. Quinnae Moongazer made a rather brilliant analogy in her blog, Words, Words, Words: On Toxicity and Abuse in Online Activism, quoting the inestimable Edward Said on Yeats’s poems about Ireland and Irishness that held

…a good deal of promise in getting beyond them, not remaining trapped in the emotional self-indulgence of celebrating one’s own identity. There is first of all the possibility of discovering a world not constructed out of warring essences. Second, there is the possibility of a universalism that is not limited or coercive, which believing that all people have only one single identity is… Third, and most important, moving beyond nativism does not mean abandoning nationality, but it does mean thinking of local identity as not exhaustive, and therefore not being anxious to confine one’s self to one’s own sphere, with its ceremonies of belonging, its built in chauvinism, and its limiting sense of security.

 

Second is what I consider to be a failure to recognise that appropriation, which does not involve erasure, exploitation, and denigration, is becoming a reality which I for one consider an extremely welcome development. This is well explained by Julia Serano in her piece Considering Trans and Queer Appropriation:

The more highly stigmatized a group is, the less likely it is that the dominant/majority group will even attempt to appropriate aspects of their identity or culture, as doing so will only lead to them becoming tainted by said stigma. However, if the marginalized/minority group becomes more accepted over time, there will be less of a social price to pay for associating oneself with that group. Thus, as acceptance of the group increases, so do the chances that others will engage in non-EED (erasure, exploitation, and denigration) appropriation.

I’ve seen seriously suggested that Laurie has been engaged in appropriation to make money by writing about trans for the New Statesman … Ha! It is of course only a matter of time before Cameron and his cronies turn their attentions from finding ways to carpetbag the NHS to siphoning off the massive wealth daily accrued by the New Statesman money making machine. Let’s ignore the fact that Laurie has  been writing supportive and super aware pieces about trans for a good five years to my knowledge often being subjected to poisonous stigma and bigotry as a result. Let’s … why not?

As we know biology is destiny and trans almost certainly has a biological basis so, if somebody is born cis, they can never empathise with or understand or be allowed to write about the trans (This is intended to be sarcastic). Are we witnessing the birth of 2nd wave Cis-Excluding Radical Transgenderism (CERT)? Sad, depressing and pointless if we are.

Six national newspapers agree that “sex swap” headlines and inclusion of transgender status were inappropriate in a landmark negotiation with the Press Complaints Commision and Dr Kate Stone.

(Below is the press release we sent out today about the resolution of a number of complaints to the PCC which I’ve been helping Kate Stone with. Kate’s priority and my own has not been to demand meaningless apologies but to try and establish agreement with the newspapers concerned that the Editor’s Code, notably the guidance issued by the PCC on Reporting and researching stories involving transgender individuals, means what it says. All About Trans are already working with two of the papers concerned. We do not expect the culture of unthinking discrimination, which has for so long existed in the UK press, to vanish overnight. Once the issues are understood however we do often find a real will among  journalists and editors to improve representation.)

 

KateStone04

Dr Kate Stone

On 31st December 2013 Dr Kate Stone, a Cambridge academic, owner of an innovative electronics company and TED speaker, suffered a horrendous freak accident while on holiday in Scotland.

A cornered stag charged the group of people she was with, goring her in the neck and leaving her comatose and fighting for life.

Her family, including her three children, had no idea if she would live or die.

Almost every national newspaper in England and Scotland reported the incident.

When Kate eventually regained consciousness it was to headlines such as: “Deer spears sex-swap Kate”, “Sex swap scientist in fight for life” and “Sex-swap scientist gored by stag”.

Although papers such as The Scotsman saw no relevance in Kate’s transgender status, six nationals – the Daily Record, The Mirror, The Scottish Sun, The Sun, The Daily Telegraph and The Daily Mail – all included this detail, some with more prominence than others.

This constituted a direct breach of the ‘Discrimination’ clause in the PCC Editor’s Code which states that details of an individual’s transgender status “must be avoided unless genuinely relevant to the story”.

For decades journalists have been in the habit of pointing to the transgender status of an individual as being sensationally newsworthy in itself.

As the PCC notes, epithets such as ‘sex swap’, invented by and exclusively promoted by the tabloid press, can trivialize the complex medical processes of gender transition.

It is therefore extremely welcome that the papers, who got it wrong, have acknowledged that Kate’s transgender status was not relevant to the story and agreed that ‘sex-swap’ was a highly inappropriate term to use.

“If Apple CEO, Tim Cook, were involved in a car accident tomorrow, you wouldn’t get headlines: ‘Homosexual CEO in Car Accident’ and you certainly wouldn’t get: “Pansy (or Faggot) CEO in Car Accident,’” says Sarah Lennox, an advisor to All About Trans, a project that encourages greater understanding between media professionals and trans people.

She adds: “We’re living in the 21st century and the press have rightly moved on from that kind of finger-pointing and name-calling. ‘Sex-swap’ headlines are not OK”.

In his report in November 2012, Lord Justice Leveson, expressing hopes for better press representation of trans people, remarked how representation of gay people had improved and wondered whether this reflected “the press’s ability to put its own house in order” or “that society had changed and the press has been forced to keep up.”

We applaud the newspapers concerned for their acknowledgement that they got it wrong and look forward to far better relations in the future between the press and the trans community.

Kate Stone, Paris Lees and Sarah Lennox can be contacted through All About Trans info@onroadmedia.org.uk

 

NOTES FOR EDITORS

Extract from the Leveson Report:

8.32 On the basis of the evidence seen by the Inquiry, it is clear that there is a marked tendency in a section of the press to fail to treat members of the transgender and intersex communities with sufficient dignity and respect… Although the Inquiry heard evidence that parts of the tabloid press had “raised [its] game in terms of transgender reporting”,393 the examples provided by TMW of stories from the last year demonstrate that the game needs to be raised significantly higher…

30 years ago, an Inquiry into the culture practices and ethics of the press was likely to have seen a deluge of complaints relating to the representation of homosexuals in the press.394 The fact that only a very few such complaints were received by this Inquiry may reflect the press’s ability to put its own house in order. Alternatively, it may simply reflect that society had changed and the press has been forced to keep up.

 

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PCC RESOLUTION STATEMENTS 

The Scottish Sun

Dr Kate Stone complained to the Press Complaints Commission that the newspaper had breached the terms of Clause 12 (Discrimination) of the Editors’ Code of Practice. The complainant considered the use of the term “sex swap” in reference to her transgender status to be pejorative, in breach of Clause 12 (i) of the Code, and, furthermore, that the references to her gender status at all in the articles were irrelevant to the story, in breach of Clause 12 (ii) of the Code. She considered the reference to her former name intruded into her private life in breach of Clause 3 (Privacy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice.

 The complaint was resolved when the PCC negotiated the removal of the references to the complainant’s transgender status from the online articles, as the newspaper acknowledged that her gender status had not been relevant to the story and that the use of the term “sex swap” in the articles had been inappropriate. (Cl 3 and 12)

The Daily Telegraph

 Dr Kate Stone complained to the Press Complaints Commission that the newspaper had breached the terms of Clause 12 (Discrimination) of the Editors’ Code of Practice. The complainant considered that the reference to her transgender status in the article was irrelevant to the story, in breach of Clause 12 (ii) of the Code.

The complaint was resolved when the PCC negotiated the removal of the reference to the complainant’s transgender status from the online article, as the newspaper acknowledged that it had not been relevant to the story. (Cl 12)

 

 The Sun

Dr Kate Stone complained to the Press Complaints Commission that the newspaper had breached the terms of Clause 12 (Discrimination) of the Editors’ Code of Practice. The complainant considered the use of the term “sex swap” in reference to her transgender status to be pejorative, in breach of Clause 12 (i) of the Code, and, furthermore, that the references to her gender status at all in the articles were irrelevant to the story, in breach of Clause 12 (ii) of the Code.

 

The complaint was resolved when the PCC negotiated the removal of the references to the complainant’s transgender status from the online articles, as the newspaper acknowledged that her gender status had not been relevant to the story and that the use of the term “sex swap” in the articles was inappropriate. (Cl 12)

 

Daily Mail

 Dr Kate Stone complained to the Press Complaints Commission that the newspaper had breached the terms of Clause 12 (Discrimination) of the Editors’ Code of Practice. The complainant considered that the reference to her transgender status in the article was irrelevant to the story, in breach of Clause 12 (ii) of the Code.

 The complaint was resolved when the PCC negotiated the removal of the reference to the complainant’s transgender status from the online article, as the newspaper acknowledged that it had not been relevant to the story. (Cl 12)

 

Daily Record

Dr Kate Stone complained to the Press Complaints Commission that the newspaper had breached the terms of Clause 12 (Discrimination) of the Editors’ Code of Practice. The complainant considered the use of the term “sex swap” in reference to her transgender status to be pejorative, in breach of Clause 12 (i) of the Code, and, furthermore, that the references to her gender status at all in the articles were irrelevant to the story, in breach of Clause 12 (ii) of the Code.

The complaint was resolved when the PCC negotiated the removal of the references to the complainant’s transgender status from the online articles, as the newspaper acknowledged that her gender status had not been relevant to the story and that the use of the term “sex swap” in the articles was inappropriate. (Cl 12)

 

Daily Mirror

Dr Kate Stone complained to the Press Complaints Commission that the newspaper had breached the terms of Clause 12 (Discrimination) of the Editors’ Code of Practice. The complainant considered that the references to her transgender status in the articles were irrelevant to the story, in breach of Clause 12 (ii) of the Code. She also considered the reference to her former name intruded into her private life in breach of Clause 3 (Privacy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice.

The complaint was resolved when the PCC negotiated the removal of the references to the complainant’s transgender status from the online articles, as the newspaper acknowledged that her gender status had not been relevant to the story. In light of the above, the newspaper also acknowledged that in these circumstances disclosure of the complainant’s previous name without her consent was an unjustified intrusion into her private life.

Alex has stopped taking her medication. The other Alex–male Alex– lives in her mind, constantly jibing as fourteen-year-old Alex transitions.

9781922079237I’m reading a review posted at Lambda Literary about a young adult book called ALEX AS WELL already published in Australia and due out in the UK in May. Alarm bells are ringing. This is compounded by a PR release from the UK publisher in which the blurb states “ALEX AS WELL follows the story of Alex, whom doctors described as ‘sexually ambiguous’ when he was born” and then goes on to say that the author, Alyssa Brugman, “is not transgender, she doesn’t personally know anyone who is, so there’s no ‘expertise’ on her side, but she wanted to write a story about a teenager trying to find their identity and Alex As Well just ‘flowed’ out of her.”

The purpose of this blog is mainly to canvas opinion. I am transgender. I am not diagnosed intersex. I am also aware that intersex covers a wide variety. Below are my concerns but I would really like to hear from others … intersex, transgender and indeed cisgender.

The first concern I have … leaving aside the way the PR has conflated intersex and trans … is about the way Brugman has conceived Alex’s gender identity. Reading the first chapter I was immediately struck by how she has imagined Alex almost like Jekyll and Hyde so, while female Alex is buying makeup and being complimented on her bone structure, she is simultaneously bickering with male Alex inside her head, who is making dismissive jokes about boners:

The Clinique girl lays out the different products she has used on my face …
“You have really great bones,” she tells me, handing me my receipt.
One great bone, says Alex. I snort because it’s not a great bone, is it Alex? No, it’s just a teeny, weeny, noodle, you loser.

This device continues through the book. She writes of male Alex as a separate person who accompanies her wherever she goes:

Alex and I are waiting in the office …

My own view is that this may go to the heart of the profound dissonance in the way trans and cis people conceive gender transition. It’s perhaps the case that cis people with no familiarity about trans can only conceive trans in Jekyll and Hyde terms which would explain the endless fascination with transition, before and after photos and names … and indeed with the whole essentialist argument that you are always the gender you are assigned at birth and can only ever either present the ‘opposite’ gender by consciously acting or experience it as some form of dissociative identity disorder. I also suspect that it is this perception which drives the common cis assumptions that trans children will change their minds about their gender identity and those who transition with hormonal or surgical intervention are likely to regret as the result of some internal struggle between two conflicting genders.

Of course we all create alter egos to some extent in different circumstances. One of the major revelations during my own transition was the degree to which I discovered my identity belonged in the minds of other people. We present different faces to different people in our lives. But I think we’re pretty conscious of doing this and at heart we know who we really are.  Before transition I most certainly had a voice inside my head but not in the sense of having a split personality between male and female. It was a voice channeling warnings about the dangers of expressing my gender identity in the way that felt comfortable to me while not presenting in a way which cis society would find legible and socially acceptable.

I would welcome the views of intersex, trans and gender non-conforming (GNC) people on how their gender identity manifests. I’d also welcome the views of cis people on how they imagine a trans gender identity must be and whether familiarity with a trans* person has changed their perception.

My other concerns are specifically to do with how Alex’s intersex diagnosis and treatment are described.  Alex’s mother says Alex was “Sexually ambiguous” at birth.

The baby had a penis, but not a normal sized penis … They said the baby also had no testes, but ovaries, and we could have them removed later …

She goes on to say:

He had injections to replace his hormones … Then when he was four they changed from the injections to oral hormone medication to make sure he kept growing as a boy.

I profess no specialist knowledge about endocrine therapy in such cases but I have never heard of a child of four being prescribed what I assume are imagined as sex hormones. I don’t think it’s ethical even in a work of fiction to promote misinformation … if that is what it is … in an area already surrounded by so much ignorance.

I’d really welcome thoughts on this from anybody with bona fide information.

Finally authors of first person fiction of course invariably write from the POV of somebody quite unlike themselves. There’s also a very long history of writer’s co-opting trans and intersex as a metaphor for other things from Greek mythology through to Orlando by Virginia Woolf. Jeffrey Eugenides made a conscious decision not to meet with any intersex people before writing Middlesex, saying he:

… decided not to work in that reportorial mode. Instead of trying to create a separate person, I tried to pretend that I had this [physical feature] and that I had lived through this as much as I could.

However awareness has moved on and I cannot for instance imagine any white author today deciding to write about the experiences of a black teenager in our society without either having a lot of familiarity with the life of at least one black teenager or making sure they acquired this by research and then consulting constantly during the writing. This should surely apply to all marginalised groups although it never surprises me when people co-opt the experience of others without thinking to check their own privilege. There is much discussion in the trans community at the moment over Jared Leto’s role in the Dallas Buyer’s Club.  The character Leto plays was introduced into the plot as a dramatic device and neither he nor the makers of the film seem to have seen any reason to concern themselves in advance with how the characterisation would be viewed by the trans community. It’s this lack of awareness which of course we are doing our best to combat in a project I helped to create called All About Trans.

Alyssa Brugman is an established young adult author and, from what I’ve read so far the book is well written. The central transition device has been well received so far by cis reviewers describing it as “an amazing story, I was really impressed with how realistic and compelling this story was.” I do not imagine the author’s intentions in writing this book were anything other than good but even the best intentions can cause problems if there is not awareness.

 I’d welcome views on how to react to a novel such as this which may be dramatically satisfying but appears to have co-opted an intersex experience and in my view at any rate is far from realistic in its conception of the identity of a transitioning individual.

I am so thrilled to see Paris Lees top the Independent Pink List 2013 … and Jackie Green also in the top ten at number 8. This is exactly what we need … young possibility models (the term inspirational American actress, Laverne Cox prefers to role model).

The doyenne of UK trans activism, Christine Burns, pointed out recently that the older generation of out trans people were by necessity focussed on challenging the law in order to gain basic human rights. In the UK now … though sadly there’s a long way to go in much of the rest of the world … the focus has moved on towards effecting change in social attitudes. Paris and Jackie epitomise the way a new generation have been enabled by Christine and her contemporaries to emerge from under that smothering cloud of institutional discrimination and to demand the same respect as everybody else in an equal  society … in Laverne’s words, to live out their dreams publicly.

This to me is THE change which trans kids and teenagers, growing up now, and crucially their families need to see. I don’t think we can overestimate the importance of demonstrating to the parents of trans and gender non-coforming kids that … not only can their children be safe … but the door is now open for them to go on and lead fulfilling, indeed enviable lives.

I was particularly struck by a passage in a recent blog by trans activist and author Julia Serano on Transadvocate entitled Considering trans and Queer Appropriation. For me this sums up the assumption Paris, Jackie and other young volunteers have been working on with the All About Trans project:

The more highly stigmatized a group is, the less likely it is that the dominant/majority group will even attempt to appropriate aspects of their identity or culture, as doing so will only lead to them becoming tainted by said stigma. However, if the marginalized/minority group becomes more accepted over time, there will be less of a social price to pay for associating oneself with that group. Thus, as acceptance of the group increases, so do the chances that others will engage in non-EED (erasure, exploitation, and denigration) appropriation.

Paris and Jackie are smart, bright, admirable human beings who are not only living out their dreams but who enrich the lives of everybody they meet … by which I mean everybody … not just trans people (though maybe not the bigots who are on the wrong side of history). They don’t suffer bigotry and will complain when necessary but primarily the focus of their existence is positive … breaking down barriers and I’d go so far to suggest, winning over large numbers of people who want to know them, to associate with the trans ‘group’, even to appropriate a part of our magic.

There’s others on the list who are on the same path … for example Raphael Francis Fox and Lewis Hancox whose inspirational film company Lucky Tooth Productions is starting to attract attention … also musician and inspirational blogger CN Lester. None of them could be leading the lives they are without the work of previous generations of trans activists. There’s plenty to do yet before things are perfect but these are  not just the buds. They are the blooms of a new trans generation. I think it’s hugely appropriate that this year the Pink List celebrates this. There’s a place for handing out medals for long service but, as in any field, the winners of such medals are seldom heard of very far outside their own trade association or field of activity. Paris, Jackie and their generation are already making waves in the wider world and I am in no doubt that we are going to hear so much more from them.

Some are mentioned in the Pink List some are allies but, if I could make my own list of those who are doing the most to encourage the the next generation of trans kids, it would certainly include …
Mermaids (particularly chair, Susie Green, Jackie’s Mum),
Jay Stewart of Gendered Intelligence,
Sue Sanders and Tony Fenwick of Schools Out
Natacha Kennedy, who is dramatically changing perceptions with her papers such as:  Transgender Children: more than just a theoretical challenge

and the best allies ever Nathalie McDermott and Alana Avery of On Road Media whose innovative work with young trans volunteers on All About Trans is truly breaking the mould.

Originally posted on don't buy transphobia:

Don’t Buy Transphobia is a campaign for anyone who thinks ‘enough is enough’ about the way the transgender community are treated by the national press.
For many people that point came last week with the sad death of Lucy Meadows, a primary school teacher in Accrington, who was hounded by the local and national press.
Their interest in her was soley for being transgendered. Admittedly she was a teacher doing something not all teachers do, she was transitioning but her school were supportive and mostly she was just getting on with her life. It’s not really national news is it?

But the national press thought it was.

They thought it was such important news that they hounded her, opinion formers like Richard Littlejohn at the Mail poured vitriol on her life, and the press pack sat outside her house and hassled parents for comment… but only negative comment. They weren’t…

View original 552 more words

Yesterday David Allen Green spoke powerfully on the World Tonight   [at 25mins in] about the tabloid monstering … as for example by Richard Littlejohn … and the subsequent apparent suicide of Lucy Meadows . He also wrote about Lucy on his Jack of Kent blog.

I felt a dull familiar thud at the news. In my own acquaintance I’m aware of two similar circumstances and cannot help being reminded of Christine Daniels’s suicide in 2009. I’ll make no apologies referring to her as Christine because that’s the person I first became aware of.

Unlike Lucy, Christine had a high public profile as a sportswriter for the LA Times. She decided to announce her transition publicly because … what other option did she have other than ditching her career and disappearing to begin from scratch anonymously in a new location? So she began to write a diary column about her transition. Here’s how she began:

“I am a transsexual sports writer. It has taken more than 40 years, a million tears and hundreds of hours of soul-wrenching therapy for me to work up the courage to type those words”

As with Lucy, the hope that she would be allowed respect and privacy for the more intimate details of her transition was denied by a salacious tabloid press. There’s one aspect of this which I haven’t seen touched on by other commentators … the extent to which tabloid monstering can destroy the delicate process of renegotiating your identity with your nearest and dearest, for whom your transition can already resemble a bereavement, and with workmates and acquaintances, who may already imagine it is a big ask for them to let go of your old persona:

” … How do you go about sharing your most important truth,” Christine wrote, “one you spent a lifetime trying to keep deeply buried, to a world that has grown familiar and comfortable with your facade?”

I think many people, whose natural instincts never present them with the possibility of full-on social rejection even by those they thought were closest, have little concept of how intensely devastating this can be. To put it baldly we are social animals and you don’t have to look far in nature to understand how little chance of survival a social animal has when faced with rejection by the herd. In humans, real or imagined, it’s probably THE major cause of suicide.

There are certain commentators in the tabloid press whose stock in trade is to stoke the fires of social rejection against vulnerable individuals for no reason other than prejudice. They instigate witch hunts. That we tolerate these individuals and give them a platform in the 21st century is a poor reflection on our claim to civilisation.

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