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Transiness forums are here!

It has been a while coming but we’re slowly moving forwards and to help people share information and advice I’ve made the transiness forums.  The Facebook group is great but it has a few problems – some really useful advice and links get lost over time and sometimes it’s useful to have a place where things can be stored more permanently.  Moving from one format to another might be challenging so I’m looking to the group to make the most of the new forums.  I’ve taken technical suggestions forward and you can now connect via SSL instead of unencrypted.  I’m hoping that you’ll find the structure easy to navigate, uncluttered, and of course mostly free from annoying pop-ups and advertisements.

You can navigate to the forums from the address bar above or directly here.

UK’s First Sexual Violence Helpline for Trans and Non Binary People

We’re delighted to announce the UK’s first helpline for trans, non binary and questioning people.

“We offer non-judgmental emotional support and signposting to other organisations who may also be able to offer support”, the service says. The idea for a trans related helpline has been long in development and the team have ensured, not only that the switchboard is operated by trans volunteers, but have built upon their successes and experience with survivors of sexual violence. The idea of approaching support is complicated when you are trans, especially since you won’t know exactly how much those who offer support understand the complexities of being trans is.

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“This is the first service of its kind in the UK to offer specialist support for trans survivors. We are sex worker affirmative, LGBT affirmative and are skilled in working with people in vulnerable situations, such as those who are homeless or living with domestic abuse”.

The service was launched to coincide with trans pride 2016 in Brighton, an event for transsexual, transgender and non-binary people to celebrate their lives in mainstream society which is often oppressive to their identities.

GP Trans Care Guidelines – Northern Ireland

We’re really pleased to announce that the royal college of General Practitioners in Northern Ireland recently produced these guidelines with respect to the care of trans patients.  Often it can be a frightening and infuriating process as a trans person trying to make some headway undergoing a permanent physical transition.  Often people know what they need from services but actually accessing them is a difficult process, having to navigate personal prejudice along with inappropriate referrals for counselling or treatment for depression.  This excellent guide encourages GP’s to treat trans people with the care and dignity they deserve.

LGBT History month

I’m sorry that transiness has been a bit slow lately, however, our co.uk site is back up and running (it’s been a year already!), and here’s our history for LGBT history month!:

Transiness was formed in 2013 and pioneered a radically different approach to online support which steered away from political-led victories towards health and wellbeing. Using the tenents of transfeminism – that of freedom of expression and bodily autonomy, transiness furthered it’s goal by adding wellbeing as a core factor of wellness for trans identified people, and peer support as a key factor which had previously been identified in local support groups.

Since then, this model has been emulated, and concepts of health and wellbeing has formed part of the vocabulary of trans people and support services.

Transiness has stood on its own through the contribution of its members sharing their transition victories and stories, and through its wide appreciation that transness is a community issue: families friends and allies share a space where people are allowed to be vulnerable, open and honest about what is going on for them.

Inclusivity means supporting not only people who choose to only socially transition but , but also those who need to change their bodies (bodily autonomy) which is radical in the face of ideologies against trans people changing their physical bodies.

We encourage everyone to self define how they feel most suits them, from binary identified people, to agender people and across a spectrum of identities, and across social and ethnic backgrounds.

LGBT history month : An interview with Carol Steel.

As part of LGBT history month I was delighted to be able to have the chance to interview a prominent activist who has seen her fair share of change over the years.

In 1961, at the carolage of 16, Carol began in earnest her journey to physically transition from male to female and in 1972,  she formed one of the first groups for transsexual people in the UK with a friend, Linda B. The group grew fairly rapidly and she was asked to give a talk to the students union at Manchester University about transsexuality. After the meeting she was approached by a young trans guy (who identified as a lesbian at the time) who told her that he had always been conflicted about his gender – this person transitioned shortly afterwards and later went on to become one of the leading campaigners for transgender rights and he was part of the legal team that won that all important victory in Strasbourg that forced the then Tory government to implement what became known as the Gender Recognition Act of 2004.

Currently she is doing groundbreaking work supporting trans people in Devon, with her site transfigurations, and ongoing work exploring people’s experiences with their GP’s (something we found to be a big issue with our members in our straw poll in 2014).

Rebecca Williams:
Hi Carol, I was wondering if you wanted to take part in a small interview for transiness.co.uk about your activism and the GP database for LGBT history month. I think it’s such important work!

Carol Steele:
Yes, I would love it if you would promote it, it is something that is very important and could prove a lifeline for some people.

Rebecca Williams:
How did you come about having the idea, of the database?

Carol Steele:
It came about from somebody mentioning in one of the groups of the hassle that she was having with her GP to get her referred to a GIC – and the rudeness of some of the other staff at the practice.

Rebecca Williams:
There’s a lot of content on your site, how did you envision it?

Carol Steele:
Yes, the site was meant to be a resource where anybody (transgender people of all ages, parents, partners) could gain a little insight into the condition as well as gain reassurance that they were not the only ones in the world – which is what a lot of people feel when they are coming to terms with how they feel about themselves.  That’s why I included some pages about “our stories” to show people that we are all the same but at the same time all unique. Unfortunately that side of it has yet to take off properly

Rebecca Williams:
Yes, it’s much more in the public eye than it was. I remember going to my first support group and thinking “thank god, it’s not just me”.

Carol Steele
My thoughts as well.  When a person who was counselling me put me in contact with a couple of other transwomen – and with one of them we set up the first TV/TS group in Manchester.

Rebecca Williams
Oh, what was that called, and how did it go?

Carol Steele:
As we wanted it to be very recognisable, we went for the name of ‘The Manchester TV/TS Group’ lol! It later went on to become the Manchester Concord I believe, but that was well after the time I left to get a job in London. It very quickly became very popular and together with the Leeds TV/TS group were responsible for some of the early activism – including gatecrashing the annual psychitrists conference in York one year lol!  They ended up throwing us out!  It was around 1974

Rebecca Williams: omg I wasn’t born then.  It’s incredible all the work that was done for TS/TV people but when I was young there was absolutely nothing to be heard of.  The nearest I had was Kenney Everret and frankly that was so scary for a very young trans girl.

Carol Steele:
Yes, it was difficult back in those days as there was no such thing as home computers or the internet. The Manchester Gay Switchboard used to pass on all enquiries of a transgender nature to me. Some gay friends of mine were actively involved with it and they suggested it as they felt it was better to refer a caller onto me whenever possible rather than try and handle it themselves. That was back in the days of CHE and the GLF

Rebecca Williams:
The CHE?

Carol Steele:
Campaign for Homosexual Equality – a bit like Stonewall – a respectable organisation working for gay rights. The GLF (Gay Liberation Front) was more proactive as its name might suggest

Rebecca Williams:
Ah ok. It sounds like attitudes to gender minorities were quite good from sexual minorities – is that how you experienced it?

Carol Steele:
Yes, very much so – we used to work well together – no such thing as TERF’s back in those days.

Rebecca Williams:
Right, is that what happened then, is that what caused the rifts?

Carol Steele:
A lot of gay groups are still very helpful to trans people – we have one in Devon called Proud2Be and we work very well together. It started with Germain Greer and then the publication of the Transsexual Empire by Janice Raymond. It served to drive a wedge between some feminists and transgender people, or perhaps I should say some feminist lesbians

Rebecca Williams:
Yes Germain Greer has been in the press recently, thoroughly discrediting herself. I think a lot of modern feminists just wish she’d shut up now! There were some laws passed in America that saw that sexual minorities had rights, but trans people didn’t, and moreover, that transgender people were denied access to medical treatment. So around this time you were in London?

Carol Steele:
Yes, Cathy Brennan and her cohorts had a lot to do with trans people losing rights to medical insurance etc.  Yes I was in London from the mid 70’s to the very early 80’s

Rebecca Williams:
And you’ve been an activist all this time?

Carol Steele:
No, not all the time – when I moved to Torquay to set up my businesses, I took a break.

Rebecca Williams:
To live in stealth?

Carol Steele:
Yes, I owned a hairdressing and beauty salon and I don’t think I would have got very many clients if they had known I was trans lol

Rebecca Williams:
Yes, exactly… on a personal level, how was that for you?

Carol Steele:
It was great, just being accepted as just another woman – but I, like you, was lucky in that respect- I could blend in without a problem

Rebecca Williams:
Yes, it’s actually who we are.  What made you come out again?

Carol Steele:
The realisation that there was still so much to be done for people who were not as fortunate as I had been – and that I had an (almost) lifetime of experience – both good and bad – that I could help people with… so I joined an online forum and quickly became a site moderator – but I became disenchanted as they would not accept people below the age of 18 – when most people need that help.

Rebecca Williams:
Yeah, I hear Tavistock is rammed right now. So is that when you started your own group?

Carol Steele:
Yes, around 4 years ago

Rebecca Williams:
How did you get things started?

Carol Steele:
Originally it was just for Torquay people – a casual group meeting up – but I saw that there was a need for it to be much wider based (and open to trans youth/parents/partners) so set about becoming much more active with the police, the NHS and other bodies – then I decided to create the website

Rebecca Williams:
It’s looking really good, and it’s fantastic to have a very personalized site. It must have taken a lot of time and effort.

Carol Steele:
Yes, originally, it was often a 20 hour day whilst I got it up and running and looking the way I wanted it to…. but well worth it in the end. It receives a huge number of visitors these days
Just as well that I have a good web hosting company!

Rebecca Williams:
And what are your plans for 2015?

Carol Steele:
Further expansion, more membership, go out into schools, help people back into employment, work with the NHS to try and improve transgender healthcare – the usual stuff! I have a tour of the custody suite at our local police station – and then some important work around a new protocol that we are developing for transgender detainees being held in custody in the afternoon.

Rebecca Williams:
Carol thank-you so much for your time.

Part of Carol’s work includes the GP database, if you identify as trans-gender or trans-sexual and have needed to approach your GP about it, please take the time to fill in Carol’s survey below.


 

Since it was first published in July of last year, the results of the survey into Trans Friendly Doctors and GP’s has been accessed 3,100 times by people from all over the UK – showing that there is desperate need for this type of information by transgender people all over the UK – yet sadly, many transgender people are not coming forward to supply the much needed information sought by so many.

Please, please, PLEASE those of you who have been retiscent about providing information in your area, please take the 5 mins to complete this survey so that you can help others in your area find a GP who will treat them with respect and dignity – or those to avoid because of bad practice.

You can find the survey here.
And here for another article about Carol’s work.

Welcome sassy transmonaut, welcome 2015!

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESWelcome to 2015 everyone, I’m glad you all made it through. As far as New Years resolutions go, my son came out with a great one recently – his friend said “to write 2015 at the top of the page”!

I’m inspired by people like Brene Brown, Julia Serano, Anne Enke, Bell Hooks, our local activists who put so much hard work into supporting people – and everyone here for their comments and contributions to make this a positive space, despite all our differences and individualities! I know and try to understand how it is difficult to understand how different spaces work on facebook, but I’m so pleased to read people’s courage not only in talking about issues that matter to them, and trying to be respectful of others, but also in really trying to remember the good things that happen too and making a note of them here.

I’m very aware of the recent tragic news that has affected the trans community, that possibly might be bringing up issues for everyone here as well so it’s probably a good time to send that facebook message to someone you haven’t heard from in a while, or just to let your tribe know that they matter to you. I’m also mindful of our friends here who have lost loved ones because of depression, who feel sad and isolated right now – everyone matters. Every life is precious, every trans life, every queer life, all genders, sexes, colours, regardless of upbringing or disabilities.

You are special.

2014 brought us fantastic integration with Maz’s trans friendly events in Brighton, the establishment of a roller-derby team with an amazing trans friendly policy. Like 2013, Brighton had trans-pride 2014 which was bigger and better than ever. We’re seeing much more kindness in the press and media than before with fantastic productions like “Orange is the new Black”, as well as the emergence of more realistic trans storylines. Healthcare providers are becoming interested in “trans training”, and the once hailed “S onewall” seems to be interested in putting the “t” back in. I’ve also had the delight of watching friends and acquaintances grow stronger and happier through sometimes gruelling transitions.

2014 has also brought us the establishment of both binary and non-binary identities as “a thing”, where transition to a place of personal, individual comfort is something we all share. Sometimes this is just a shift in the way we think, and for others a little more work is required!. All identities are unique, special and treasured.yal4 c

So where are we going for 2015? Well we hope to continue the stickies, and hope to add as many as we can to the co.uk site. We’re also looking for contributors to write on the co.uk site if anyone feels brave enough saying publicly!

Was there anything else brilliant about your 2014? What would you like to make happen in 2015? How can we help each other better and have a bigger, stronger, brighter and better positive-thinking community?

Rebecca x

Never good enough.

Today I wanted to share something about not feeling good enough.

One of the most entrenched beliefs I have is about not ever being good enough, it manifests in everything I am, everything I do, and in every aspect of my life.  That… overwhelming sense of failure.  Sometimes I’ll go so far as to bring failure onto myself – to make it tangible, less ethereal, make it real so that I can at least experience it.

“she grew up learning to scan the people around her, craving approval, trying to identify and meet their expectations as well. But approval is like a sugar high. It doesn’t last. It’s never enough. And it subjects us to an endless round of subordinating ourselves to others, taking us further and further away from ourselves. Even today, as a successful professional, Jill harbors that “not good enough” feeling inside, unable to accept compliments, to believe in herself, to fully relax and enjoy her life.” – D.Dreher (Psychology Today 2014)

Everything from my profession, to my relationship, friendships and parenthood – never good enough is a message constantly internalised at every level.  And of course, a strikingly internalised message was that that I was not a good enough girl and I’m not a good enough woman.  Its echoes remain with me always, and those from feminism one of the strongest – “male socialised”, “not raised with that level of vulnerability”, “endowed with privilege”… “not good enough”.  My body was not good enough, my psychology not good enough, my emotional intelligence not good enough.  I’m never a good enough parent, sister, or daughter, I don’t have a noun for my parenthood, but what does it matter – not being good enough anyway.

And from this thread of inadequacy, so many others blossom.  My partner tells me how beautiful and graceful I am, how much she loves me and what we mean to each other is profound, but I still have that sense of not being enough for her.  I’m told I’m competent at my job, I get good grades academically – but I’m never good enough to myself.  Recently, talking with friends I heard the words “imposter syndrome” – there seems some validation of that feeling of not being good enough, of not being worthy.  I guess in a psychological way I carry around a “not good enough” cup nearly filled to the brim – it doesn’t take much for it to spill over and cause devastation with relationships.

So now that I know, where can I take this?  Where does one go with a sense of never being good enough – and this sense of a deep prevailing daily struggle, upheld by the many acts, behaviours, comments and micro-aggressions faced by a minority woman every day of her life?

Dreher (2014) suggests three things:

  1. Mindfulness.  Ask yourself, “What am I feeling right now?” Name your feelings to yourself—“I feel sad, scared, hurt, angry, confused.”
  2. Common humanity.  Tell yourself, “It’s OK. No one’s perfect. Everyone makes mistakes.”
  3. Kindness to yourself.  Actively soothe yourself with kind words, even giving yourself a hug by crossing your arms over your chest, squeezing your upper arms, and feeling a sense of compassion for yourself (Neff, 2011).

Listening to what I’m feeling is a totally alien thing for me, I have a lifetime training in not listening, in not being myself, in not talking about the issues that bother me.  My feelings are magnified, enormous, loud and torturous, but once released… safely… they loose their power in time.  I know this, I’ve been in enough therapy.  Madison Sonnier from “the tiny buddah” suggests 7 things to remember when not feeling good enough.  Tartacovsky (2013) suggests simply accepting that we are enough already,  Chernoff (2014) suggests 20 things to remember when you think you’re not good enough, and Coster (2013) reminds me of the importance of self care.

Rebecca

Silent T – Harry Taylor

Silent T

Harry1
Making a film is hard work. From script to screen, the process consumes you; How are you going to shoot it? What lights do we need? Is thisscene necessary? Will people like it? Throughout my years making films I have never made a film as difficult as this one, and this is a film I said I’d never make.
It wasn’t until I came to university in London where I found my courage to be who I truly am. To put the situation into context, I had only come out to my parents as FTM transgender a few months previously. To say they were dealing with it would be an overstatement. Things were and are still, very difficult, but we’re getting through.

I wasn’t suHarry3re how university would go, as to be expected, my anxiety had been very high – I had no idea who I’d be sharing a flat with, what their opinions would be on LGBTI issues and whether I’d have to suppress myself for even longer. Luckily, I have the best flat mates I could wish for. One flat mate in particular, Ross, is a YouTuber and is passionate about equality. After many long, deep conversations explaining my anxieties, experiences and gender expression with him, I started to build confidence within myself.

As we are both film-makers and passionate about LGBTI issues, we decided we wanted to make a film. The perfect excuse came along in the form of Campus Movie Fest, the world’s largest student  film festival where we had to make a short film under five minutes about any subject.

harry2This was an incredibly difficult film to make. For someone who is extremely conscious of body image and their voice, it still surprises me that I’ve managed to put this film on the internet to share with the world, because five weeks ago, I wouldn’t have thought that would be possible of myself. Ross and LGBTI society at Westminster have been incredible supports, and I owe this film to them really, it wouldn’t have been made otherwise.
Whilst looking at short films on trans* issues, I noticed that a lot were very vague. I guess this is mainly because a lot of trans* people don’t want to discuss their inner turmoil, which I completely understand. Being a film maker though, I wanted to speak the truth in a way that wasn’t too abstract, that cis people could relate to and understand. We wanted to speak to the people who didn’t understand gender, to help them accept and understand trans* people. Changing the stereotypes of trans* people in the media is what I’m passionate about and sometimes, great art comes from great sadness.

Not only was the script difficult to write, but everything about this film was emotionally draining. For  a lot of the time in the edit I made odd hand waving motions and hid behind my laptop at the noise of my own voice. It was not the deep, and strong voice I have been craving for my lifetime. It must have taken about an hour for me to even take my shirt off to reveal my binder for the mirror shots. I was so close to stopping the film there and then, but I’m glad I didn’t. In hindsight, I realise that the more honest I am about my troubles, the more this speaks to the audience. If this film has helped, inspired, or has related to individual, then Ross and I have done our job.

The amount of positivity that has come out of this film has been staggering. It’s so satisfying to know that this film speaks and changes some of the opinions of cis people. It helps them to understand gender identity and by prHarry4esenting this crucial issue in an alternative way, it exposes the trans* community in a positive way. Although this is was a difficult film, it’s increased my confidence. It’s important for trans* people to share their stories, as there’s so many scared and vulnerable individuals out there suffering, thinking they’re alone. If this film reached just one of those people, to let them know there are people out there, willing to aid them, it would make us very happy.

Harry.

 

Talking about talking therapy

Finding therapy that works for you

[content warning: mentions suicidal ideation (mild)]

I really like using gender and sexual minorities (GSM) an inclusive, cohesive and appropriate label, rather than LGBT. Often I talk of finding a “pink” therapist, and signposting to appropriate therapy was our number one concern in our poll on our facebook group recently.

Copyright transiness 2014

Growing in isolation

Some people need therapy to help manage transition, for others it’s about finding a therapist who understands the way that your transiness intersects with other parts of your health and wellbeing.

You might want to start here, but remember that client recommendation is probably the best way to find a therapist. What’s paramount is *the relationship* you have with your therapist and often people say that the best course is to try one and not be afraid to move on if they don’t suit.

But how do you know they don’t suit? Here are a few pointers, pulled from my own experiences and wider reading:

* You find yourself having to explain why you found transphobia upsetting.
* Your therapist comments on what you are wearing and tries to undermine you or ask you to wear something else.
* Your therapist thinks that previous life experiences are the reason you are wanting to transition, not the fact that you had those experiences because you’re trans.
* They start talking about surgery, straight away, and how much it must hurt.
* You feel like, or actually struggle not to throw yourself in front of a bus afterwards.

How do I know my therapist is good for me?

Flower copyright transiness 2014

Flowering

* You find yourself having a deeper and clearer understanding of your issues.
* You feel like you’re exploring something together and trying different approaches.
* You feel validated and supported.
* Sometimes therapy can be difficult/upsetting but your therapist notices when things are too much and steers you away if you need it.
*They are registered under the BACP or the UKCP.

Comments welcome!

Rebecca x