The Girl The World Never Knew Has Become The Woman It Does. (My Thoughts On Transgender Remembrance And Why It’s A Matter Of Honour)

Hey Readers

Yesterday being the first Saturday of the month I made my way to T-Time. For those of you who don’t what T-Time is, I should explain that it’s a monthly social group for trans people which meets in the west end of the city to provide peer support and the chance to meet other people who are going on similar journeys to myself in terms of their gender identity.

Whilst every T-Time has its own unique flavour the November one is always a bit more poignant as it’s the month of remembrance not only for the fallen of world wars and other conflicts but also for the trans community as this the month when we remember all our trans brothers and sisters who have been killed or have taken their lives because of societal pressure to conform to their biological gender.

This year saw a reasonably large turnout at our venue in the West End of the city with trans women outnumbering trans men as we always seem to do on these occasions. After our social time we watched a documentary entitled Trashing Transphobia in which a researcher from the University of Sheffield interviewed a wide range of my trans people of both genders and various social backgrounds in an attempt to tackle some of the myths and stereotypes which are commonly held about trans people.

One of the first things she tacked was the idea that being trans was a new phenomenon when in fact it goes back to the earliest times in human history. It I think important that this history is documented for future generations of trans people so that they know they are not alone or the first to face their struggle.This would also be a very useful weapon in the war against transphobia which sadly still exists in every country in the world even the socially liberal nations such Scotland, the UK , and United States and the picture below shows the truth with shocking statistics. 

Picture (1) Every picture tells a story and this tells the story of a prejudice that some in society seem to believe is acceptable.

Picture (2) This picture tells us what we are commemorating and the candles remind us why this commemoration is necessary as we remember those no longer with us who were denied the right to be themselves.

image

I must admit I enjoyed the documentary and it raised many interesting points which highlighted the fact that when you bury all the myths and prejudices which tend to be based on fear , ignorance and lies from the tabloid press we are just the same as anyone else with the same hopes, fears , dreams, and ambitions as our family, friends, and neighbours yet we face the kind of open discrimination that if it happened to a disabled person or a member of a minority ethnic group it would quite rightly be called a hate crime but most trans hate crimes go largely unrecorded.

This is something we need to put right after all trans people whether the bigots know it or not are covered by the 2010 Equalities Act. Though wheather or not many businesses and organisations know this I’m not sure. As for my own personal experience of my trans journey I have to say it has improved over time and I now get very few stares or catty comments especially in my local area. I think part of the reason for this success is the fact I am not only a political activist for the SNP but also a regular attender at my local church so I am a well known face and have built up some strong friendships with people of all ages which gives me the chance make inroads into all demographic groups from pensioners to teenagers. So you could say that that I’m having a reasonably easy transition, unfortunately however, not all trans people have quite as smoothly as I have and believe me geography matters almost as much as hormones when it comes to transitioning.

As regular readers of this blog will know blogging is not my only form of expression I am also a poet and have performed my work at venues throughout Scotland so I am unlike many trans people confident to present myself in public though it wasn’t always like this and I am the first to admit the fact. 

What I will say however is that living part time gets you nowhere and far from helping your confidence I believe it may actually hold trans people back as we spend far too much time worrying about what others might think.  This was   certainly my experience of it and speaking  from a personal perspective I believe it may have delayed my development and been responsibile for years of claustrophobic misery as I attempted to stay in a closet which was too small for my talent, intelligence, and personality. I know that for some people this will not be as easy as it has been for me shaped as they are by personal circumstances but I truly hope they can and will at their own pace be able to reach a place where they can finally be themselves. 

As for me I reached the point of no return in December 2008 and have never once regretted my decision. As  a celebration of my journey, I have decided to post a selection of photographs which show me at different stages of my transition so you can see the changes from the early days till now.  

Picture (3) This is me at the Gallery of Modern Art performing some of my poems at a Valentine’s themed reading in February 2011  As you can probably tell by my outfit I had arrived from my then place of work to participate at this event. 

Picture (4) Shows me with my good friend and adopted poetic niece Sophia Blackwell at the Banshee Laberinyth during the 2013  Edinburgh Fringe. 

In Picture (5) We move forward to September 2014 and  the final Saturday of the independence referendum campaign where I proudly pose for a photo opportunity with one of the brightest stars of the Yes campaign the lovely Saffron Dickson as we enjoyed a short break from leafleting duties on a very busy day. 

Picture (6) Takes me back to the Edinburgh fringe in August 2015 and in this shot I stand with the best comedy double act in Britain the wonderful Norris And Parker 

Picture (7) is taken earlier this year as I rock the mic at the first birthday party of the Blue Chair open mic. 

Picture (8) Sees me pictured with the real first lady and has nothing to do with politics as I  smile for the camera with the real driving force behind so many events in the West of Scotland cultural calendar the lovely  Pamela Duncan. This picture was as we celebrated an excellent first night at Pollok Ex-servicemen’s club which is the new home of the night that will forever be Southside Words and Music. 

Picture (9) Was taken at the Paisley Women For Independence spoken word event and I think shows me looking  at my most powerful and determined with a look that says I’m a woman and I’m an independent woman with a mind of my own.  As you can see that look  has gradually changed over time as my shape has begun to evolve. 

As you can see from the selection of photographs chosen for this post  poetry features prominently in my life so it was no surprise to me that I was asked to perform a couple of my trans related at the commemoration. The first of the  poems I selected were The Lemon Dress which relates the story of a very girlie pre teen who had no sisters whose hand me downs would have been heaven sent and so had to rely on her mother’s fashion choices. This was hardly cool for a 11 or 12 year old even in the 1970’s and I hope this poem illustrates the challenges faced by trans girls before the term had even entered the public domain. 

I followed this up by performing A Story To Tell which I think is one of the most open and possibly even brutal accounts of my trans journey. This like Does My Lipstick Scare You which I read at this day last year shows my confidence and belief in myself but also takes the listener to some dark and uncomfortable places the kind of places trans people know only too well. 

Over the past few years I have read a number of my trans related poems at a range of spoken word events, indeed when I read Two Hours at the Boomerang Club in August I was  told by one of the event hosts that it actually moved him to tears. Whilst I was slightly taken aback  by the reaction to this poem which relates the story of the geography of isolation which is faced by young trans people in rural Scotland, I was delighted my poem was perceived to have expressed the  sentiments concerned in such a powerful and thought provoking way.  

If trans day of remembrance has taught me anything over the years I’ve attended this event it is that it isn’t for others to judge me despite what some may think. Being trans is not a choice you make out of boredom it is part of who you are and should be respected as such without defining you. I knew long before high school I was one of the girls and on this commemiration day I give thanks that the girl the world never knew has become the woman  it does. 

Love And Best Wishes 

Gayle X 

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