Last night as I walked home from the cash machine at my local bank I experienced an act of blatant transphobia. I was just yards from my home when a middle aged woman who and let’s be charitable about it and say will never win a beauty contest tried to make herself look big by saying in front of her friends oh there he is and deliberately used my former name before adding oh no he’s Gayle today. I politely but firmly replied that I am Gayle every day before walking on and eventually reaching my flat.
However, instead of reporting this issue or worse still getting involved in a slagging match I have decided to do something constructive with regards to this incident and provide some much needed education on the issues of gender and sexuality.
You see though the woman concerned will dismiss her thoughtless comment as a bit of banter I tend to think it shows alarming gaps in her knowledge on what I consider to be important equality issues. It is this kind of ignorance which leads to fear of anyone considered different and often leads to unfair stereotypes and prejudices which can at worst lead to discrimination and even attacks on women such as myself who are seen as easy and acceptable targets by those sections of society who if I credit them with the ability to read probably look no further than The Daily Mail and other right wing rags to fuel their irrational and ill informed views.
Talking on the subject of difference regular readers of tartantights will know, Friday was bisexual visibility day and I attended the Glasgow bisexual event at which I performed two poems. Whilst this was an excellent night and a good opportunity to mix with others who whether they are out as bisexual or not identify in this way even if only to themselves. There was however one omission to an otherwise fantastic evening namely the fact that those people who identify not as bisexual but as bi gender.
Now before anybody thinks I’m making this up let me assure you there is such a thing and it is recognised medical condition. Just as bisexuality illustrates that people can be potentially attracted, to people of either gender, being bi gender shows that you can ifentify as either gender. Though I will admit to being a non practicing bisexual, I am not in any way bi gender indeed had I been so I would have thanked the woman who insulted me for raising bi gender awareness.
Now some people might ask what is the difference between say transgender or say transvestite, drag queen, bi gender non binary or transsexual. It is a question they are perfectly entitled to ask and I will do my best to answer it as openly and honestly as I can.
Let me start by first of all saying that transgender is an umbrella term which can and does a wide range of conditions on what I would call the trans spectrum. For example a transvestite is someone usually though not exclusively male who enjoys wearing the clothes of the opposite sex. Many transvestites are in long term relationships and most of them are straight males who enjoy exploring their feminine side and becoming female for a few hours a week. By the same token however most teansvestites have no intention of ever living as or having surgery to become a woman. Believe me transvestitism is far more common than many people think, so don’t believe the deliberate and manufactured prejudices that all transvestites are camp and speak with high pitched voices. Many of this group give the outward appearance of being what some people would call traditionally masculine and work in jobs you would equate with that kind of environment.
My next point seems a strange one for me to have to make but strange or not I feel I have to make it nonetheless. It angers me that trans woman like myself are not only wrongly assumed to be transvestites by many members of the public for whom exercising their brain to ask questions rather than assuming things would be a step too far, some people even mistake us for drag queens.
Hilliarious as this may sound to you as readers it’s not quite so funny when you’re at the other end of the joke. Drag Queen’s have little or nothing in common with trans woman though we can sometimes enjoy their humour. There is a clue for those smart enough to pick it up and it comes in the way we dress. You see whilst drag queens do everything they can to be attract attention and be noticed, trans women tend to be a wee bit more conservative in our style of dress preferring to blend in to our local community rather than stand out from it.
The other important difference between the two groups as while I and other trans women live every minute of our lives in our acquired gender, more than a few drag queens have told me quite openly in conversations we’ve had in ladies rooms when we’ve been sorting our make up that they only wear a dress for the money.
This makes any comparison between transsexuals and drag queens to be at best wildly inaccurate and at worst completely false. It is to be honest a comparison made in ignorance by those lacking in awareness of the facts or who deliberately don’t want to learn anything that contradicts their narrow minded prejudices.
Personally I think being a bigot with outdated Victorian prejudices must be hard in the 21st century but it’s amazing how many people are willing to give it a try. Now if you think that people are ignorant on trans awareness you should try them on bi gender issues and they’ll blow your mind. As I said earlier in this post being bi gender is not a figment of the imagination it is a recognised medical condition where someone can waken up in the birth gender say for example male, and feel completely at home in their skin but on another day from the moment they open their eyes they feel 100 percent female and think act and dress in that manner.
This confuses the less intelligent members of our society to the point they are completely clueless and this makes it very difficult for bi gender individuals to live openly for fear of prejudice and even ridicule. In fact I would say we are now at the same stage with bi gender issues as we were with trans issues in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Though, that being said I think we’ll see much faster progress this time as the general population are much more aware of the range of identities on the gender and sexual spectrums than previous generations were back in the day.
That at least should give bi gender and other non binary people hope that understanding of their conditions will improve over time. For now though we have to focus on conquering the ignorance which leads to the prejudice that members of the LGBTIQ community have faced and are still facing as I witnessed for myself last night and the only to end it, is better sex education in schools and in the family.
You know when I was growing up in the 1970’s there were certain subjects that families never talked about and I don’t mean religion and politics. God knows it was growing up in a Rangers supporting Labour voting pro unionist household that made me the Nationalist I am. So I think it’s safe to say they are not the subjects we’ve been avoiding. No it’s the puritanical Protestant Presbyterianism that has stopped us talking about anything to do with sex or anything else which is in any way perceived as different. This attitude made Scotland an under developed country when it came to equality and it’s taken an SNP government to address issues which the Labour Party was always to socially and culturally conservative to even consider tackling as when it came or for that matters comes to sex they weren’t so much Red Clydeside radicals as red faced reactionaries.
This attitude of sexual repression only leads to ignorance and with all the problems that brings it’s a topic we can no longer afford to shy away from. It’s time for Scotland to have that talk no matter how embarrassing it might be for some people who want to spare their blushes. I sum up by using the title of a song from my dancing years by Mel And Kim. The song is let’s talk about sex and believe me Scotland needs to do it and in the name of the more inclusive country we seek to build for all our citizens we need talk about those tartan taboos and banish them to the history books of yesterday’s country.
Love And Best Wishes