As you know I live my life permanently in my acquired gender in other words I’m a transsexual woman. Now I’m not going to lie and say everything is a bed of roses but I will say that it is a hell of a lot better than it was before I made the decision to transition.
Despite this improvement in my quality of life I do still get the odd negative comment and from time to time I am asked some very challenging questions. These questions can come in every situation from all demographics from children to pensioners. It is with these questions in my mind, I have decided to take what I hope will be a lighthearted look at some of the most commonly asked questions in the hope it may raise awareness the issues faced by trans women in 21st century Scotland/ UK. So fasten your seat belt and get ready for what I think will be an interesting journey.
(1) Why Do You Dress As A Women?
This is by far the most common question and it’s usually though not exclusively asked by men most of whom are and I want to be kind here not the brightest stars in the sky. I try to be both polite and firm when answering this question informing the questioner that I am not dressing as a women I am living as a woman because that is what I believe myself to be.
(2) When Did You Know You Were Trans?
Unlike the last question, this one is usually asked by women the vast majority of whom want to understand your issue and see how they can support you.
When replying to this question I tell the questioner that I’ve known since my primary school years when I was about six or seven and that was back in the late 1960’s when all I really wanted was barbie dolls , party dresses , and to get my nails painted. So you could say that I knew I was trans long before I ever knew the term for it.
(3) Have You Changed Your Name Yet ?
Sometimes I am genuinely shocked that over eight years in to my transition I am still asked this question. It also surprises me that people think that it’s done by deed poll and assume that it must be expensive when neither of these ‘facts’ are actually true. They may be true for trans people in England and the other nations of the United Kingdom, in Scotland however the situation is somewhat different and dare I say it easier for our trans population. Many of those who ask this question are generally supportive of my transition and just curious to what I’ve been through and what I’ve still to go through.
(4) What’s Your Real Name ?
As soon as I hear this I tell the person that Gayle is my real name and if they insist on asking the question again I call them out as a transphobic bigot and tell them to get over themselves. I try where possible to be polite in doing this but if they still refuse to back off I have a two word Glaswegian reply and the second word is off
(5) Is It Not All About Glamour?
This is usually asked by one very particular demographic and that is gay men who believe they are far better looking than they actually are.However when I tell them there is nothing remotely glamorous about the sexism, prejudice , and discrimination women face on a daily basis or the fact and that we are still paid less than men for doing the same job almost 50 years after the first Equal Pay Act it tends to shut them up.
Picture (1) This picture taken on Edinburgh’s North Bridge as I leave the capital to return home to Baillieston after a great day at the fringe shows that no woman does the glamour thing every day and to think trans women are any different from other women in this respect is to be completely and totally deluded.
(6) What Toilets Do You Use ?
I have to say if anyone is actually stupid enough to ask this question they should still be in primary 1. To me the fact I’m living as a woman makes it obvious I should use the Ladies Room. I am however mistified as to why people are so bothered as where I should go for a comfort break or to check my make up.
(7) Do You Still Like Football ?
Yes, unbelievable as it sounds, I have actually been asked this question usually by men of certain age who have still to visit the 19th century let alone live in the 21st. On hearing this I gently but firmly inform my inquisitor that it’s my gender that’s changed not my lifelong loyalties.
(8) Are Your Boobs Real ?
This is amongst the rudest and most offensive questions you could ever ask a trans woman 90 percent of the time this question is asked by drunk men at bus stops , of the other 10 percent of inquisitors are 99.9 young guys trying to be wide when the only thing that’s wide about them are their ever expanding waistlines.
(9) Do You Fancy Men Or Women ?
To me my sexuality is a private matter and when I am asked this question I respond by patronising the crap out of the questioner by very carefully and laboriously explaining why Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation are not biologically linked in any way. Since this question is usually asked by men who are neither bright nor eye candy, I inform them that my primary sexual attraction is towards men but they can relax because like any other woman I happen to have standards and they come nowhere near to meeting them.
(10) How Did Your Family/Friends/ Colleges Take The News When You Told Them You Were Going To Be Living As A Woman ?
To be fair most of my friends just ran with it and got used to the idea pretty quickly and I’m not really in touch with any family members so I didn’t lose sleep over opinions of people I don’t see. It was at work that I faced my biggest challenge as many of my colleges had known me for years by the time of my transition and whilst most of them were supportive there were a few whose attitudes belonged in the dark ages and who went out of their way to make it as difficult as possible often imposing standards on me that they wouldn’t have dared to put on any other female members of staff.
(11) What Changes Have The Hormones Made To Your Body ?
Well apart from giving me a bust and a lovely apple shaped figure I now have a bum which may look big in certain things and hips which a friend of mine described as powerful. There is also the added bonus, that my face now looks more feminine and I have no hair on my arms or legs and this look has been achieved without the need for any surgery.
(12) Have You Ever Had /Do You Ever Get Transphobic Abuse In Public Spaces ?
Much as I would love to say everything has been perfect and I’ve never had any abuse I have had to deal with some unpleasant attitudes and though the transphobic comments have become less frequent over time they are no less hurtful when I get them.
Picture (2) Shows the shocking statistics on transphobic abuse. Since beginning my journey in the run up to Christmas 2008 I have received a number of transphobic comments though the majority with the exception of the ones on my breasts happened before the hormones began to take effect. Most of the time the attempted insults are from fat ugly blokes or wee neds in shell suits who couldn’t get a date from a shop window dummy so I tend to leave them to their delusions of relevance by remembering the words from former American first lady Eleanor Roosevelt who said ‘ Noboby can make you feel inferior without you consent’.These are words that trans women need to hold close to our heart if we are ever to reduce the statistics in this picture.
(13) Would You Ever Change Back To Your Birth Gender ?
This question is usually asked by people who knew in my pre transitioned days and is always given a one word answer and that answer is no. Trust me I would never consider this in a million years. I waited too long before starting this journey and the last eight years have been the most rewarding of my life so when I say I won’t ever look back and regret the decision I’ve taken.Don’t get me wrong , living as a woman isn’t an easy life any woman will tell you that. Women face far more challenges than men and the patriarchal system we have in place in western democracies means we are often seen as lesser than men when nothing could be further from the truth but to me being a woman isn’t about power or even glamour it’s about being myself.
(14) Do You Try On Clothes Before You Them Or Do You Shop Online ?
This question is usually asked by girls and women who want to understand what it’s like to be in my shoes and in answering I always explain why I always try clothes on before making my purchase as I want to make sure what I’m buying actually fits me. Well as we girls know size really does matter when it comes to fashion and there is no exact science to getting it right. This means me that trying it on is essential especially as our lovely hormones give us all the lumps and bumps that nature forgot and no matter how good something might look on hanger or a mannequin we have to make sure it looks good on us before we part with cash and in that respect a trans woman is no different from any other woman.
(15) Have You Ever Been Chatted Up Since Your Transition?
Yes I have and not just by men I have also much to my surprise attracted occasional interest from women and though I am as a rule more attracted to men I have to say that when it comes to chat up lines women do it better.
(16) Have You Ever Been Wolfe Whistled In The Street ?
Yes I have and I find it extremely annoying. How anyone can take this a compliment when in reality it is men attempting to tell us they own us is absolutely ludicrous. This kind of behaviour is not flattering it’s insulting and offensive to women.
(17 ) Do You Know Any Other Trans Women ?
Ths tends to be asked by those who have a low awareness of trans issues. When faced with a question of this nature I gently inform my inquisitor that I attend trans support groups and I know a number of trans women and trans men and like anyone who is part of any community of interest I get on better with some than with others
(18)Are Your Best Female Friends Other Trans Women ?
This, like the last question, is usually asked by those with awkwardness around trans and more general equality issues and they are very often genuinely surprised when I tell them my best female friends are not trans just women I happen to get on with.
(19) Do You Ever Go To Straight Bars ?
This question is usually asked by males who have made a false connection between gender identity and sexuality. When I inform them that I am as likely if not more likely to be seen in a straight bar than a gay one many seem genuinely shocked at this news though for the life of me I can’t understand why.I mean to paraphrase Burns A bar’s, a bar for a’ that.
Picture (3) In this shot I’m in what some people would see as the very straight surroundings of the Pollok Ex-Servicemens Club where I host the monthly Southside Words And Music night which relocated to make this our new home after our former home (Sammy Dow’s) was taken over by new owners and we lost our original venue after 25 years.
(20) How Has Transitioning Changed Your Life ?
I think transitioning has changed me in more ways than I ever thought possible.I am happier , more confident and more relaxed than ever and I am far more tolerant of people who had I met them in my pre transitioned state I would barely have given the day. I am also a lot open to expressing my emotions and showing feelings which I would previously felt that I to keep hidden. As a friend I have known since childhood said to me becoming the woman you should always have been has given you the chance to be yourself and I’ve never heard anyone sum it up so accurately.
Make no mistake gender transitioning is a very big decision and nobody who undertakes it will be prepared for all the challenges it can and will bring them. There are even in these enlightened times a lot of myths and misconceptions around trans issues so it was with this in mind that I decided to write this post and give honest replies to some of the most common questions I’m asked as a trans woman I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my answers to them.
Love And Best Wishes