It’s February, which means LGBT history month, and we’re delighted to promote Brighton Trans*formed, published by Queen Spark books, which can be yours for only £6 plus postage and packing.
Welcome 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.
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?
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:
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.
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 sure 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.
This 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 presenting 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.
[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.
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?
* 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.
This beautiful and poignant film was commissioned by TENI (Transgender Equality Network Ireland) and is a conversational piece which explores gender identity and transgender experiences in Ireland.
Radio Reverb (nominated for Ultimate Planet Award 2104 “Radio Show of the Year”) presents…
An exclusive interview with Sarah Savage, trans activist turned author of her new book “Are you a boy or are you a girl?”
You can watch Sarah’s pledge here:
I wish her all the very best for the book 😀
We had loads of really good advice recently on our Facebook group. Shopping can be a difficult experience for anyone who doesn’t identify as the gender they were assigned, and we live in a society with really strict dress codes. Here is a selection of the best comments for someone struggling to buy clothes…
“Start off with androgynous jeans, shoes and plain tops and slowly build up a wardrobe/ why go local ?/ get to a big city shopping centre where no one knows you/ do not be ashamed or guilty/ because you know this is right and all ok… It may be an effort but you have to start somehow somewhere …”
“Primark if you can get to one….cheap so you can find a style that suits you and populate a decent wardrobe without breaking the bank, there are loads of people through there so it’s basically anonymous and the staff really don’t care. Same goes for any larger store, really. And eBay/any online clothes shop. As for sizes, just measure yourself, find out what you are in ‘women’ sizing, remember that all shops define the sizes differently (nightmare!) and get out there.
It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks, if they’re staring then it’s their issue, not yours. Don’t let their inability to step outside the box they live in weigh on your life and what you want to do. You’ll find, if you act confidently then you’ll get less attention, but if you act like you’re doing something wrong (which you definitely aren’t) it’ll attract people’s attention.”
“It is tough and the world is not always nice and caring for any girls and transgender girls in particular, especially, in the beginning of their journey. You have to brace yourself and learn to focus on your aims in life, one day at a time, and ignore the outside world when it actively negatively affects you. Shopping can and should be enjoyable for any lady. Relax! Other shoppers aren’t there to identify any strange (from their point of view) characters, they are (surprise! surprise!) only shopping too! Shopping assistants are only interested in their sales. so even if you were an alien or a mythical creature – they’d take your cash! Go to whichever dressing room you feel comfortable in – even if they call you a mate or anything else (that’s from my personal experience). the more relaxed you are – the more natural you are – the less unwanted attention/stares you will get! Remember that! I was walking the other day on a friday night in a fairly short little black dress to a railway station from which a crowd of drunken football fans was coming out – would you panic in such a scenario? if you would, they’d see you as a sport! the right approach is to walk right through them proudly ‘wearing your invisible crown’ and paying no attention to them chin up, nose up, smile, straighten your figure and go ahead! Conquer the world! you can do it! … xxx”
“Every stare, every comment, is them trying to stop you.
What you are doing in being who you actually are, instead of what everyone wants you to be, causes most to rethink their ideas on gender and people.
They look, because you are breaking the code.
All you are doing is being a person.
And you deserve so much better.
What you are doing should be celebrated.
It is horrible that it isn’t.
But you have the right to go into any shop, buy anything you want and be whoever you want to be.
Please know that. You are not asking for anything special.
Please keep going. You deserve the life you want. The best thing you can do to fight is keep going.
Don’t let them win.
They want you to feel like this so you can go away.
For now, listen to headphones when you are in shops.
Don’t stop. Don’t look at them. Concentrate on being you.
Eventually (and I know you won’t believe this) you will be OK.”
I’ve been involved in Roller Derby for longer than I’ve considered myself trans. I developed some close relationships with my team-mates and made some brilliant friends, whilst keeping fit and being badass. We had socials and parties, meetings and votes. We raised money for charities, put on huge events and helped our local communities. When I became too physically ill to play and train regularly, my team supported me. When I realised that I was a trans person, I became really scared that my female team wouldn’t want me anymore and that I would lose a whole support network. What actually happened was that I came out to my team privately. They rallied around me, sent me messages saying how much they love me and are behind me 100% of the way in whatever I choose to do and now they are even arguing over what my new name will be (the leaders are now ‘Jussi’ and ‘Finn’). I think they might even be planning me a “born again” party on the sly.
I have met many trans people whilst being involved in roller derby, many wonderful people who have really suffered. Some people are just involved for the sense of community and don’t skate. Some people skate for their teams and are brilliant at it, valued and celebrated. Any transphobia in the community is instantly quashed, and it’s rare. For every transphobic voice, there will be 10 more trans-positive voices drowning that person out.
If anyone here is interested in roller derby, my league has a male team (The Bomb S’quad) as well as a female team. I have checked with their policies and we use the UKRDA (UKRoller Derby Association) rules set/policies. This means that anyone attending, whatever their birth gender and place on their transition journey, can compete as the gender they identify as, no questions asked. For people who are non-binary, the UKRDA have this to say: “If individuals with these identities have joined a female team, presumably it’s because they are happy to be seen as female in the context of roller derby. Similarly with someone who joins a male team. It’s good manner to note the pronouns that individuals with a genderqueer/fluid/neutral or bigendered identity may prefer, and not to make assumptions about this.”
My league also had this to say: “I think if someone really doesn’t not feel comfortable ‘picking a side’ as it were…there are plenty of co-ed opportunities available and they can continue to train with both teams (a lot of people train with both anyway)” and “Everyone is welcome, we wouldn’t stand for anything less.”.
In the next couple of weeks my team are starting their new fresh meat season, and I will be there as a general tutor/support for the first couple of sessions (although I haven’t skated in a while so that will be interesting!!). If anyone is interested in trying out for this high-powered sport which is great for fitness and in a lovely supportive team, please let me know and I will hook you up with the right people! Word of warning, my league is based in Eastbourne. It seems like a long way away, but much of the team is Brighton based anyway. There aren’t as many male roller derby (merby) teams as female teams at the moment, but there are rapidly becoming more and more and the sport in general is quite exciting to watch.
Any team that abides by the UKRDA policies are required to be trans-inclusive, and there are plenty of them registered in the UK, not just my team in Eastbourne. Teams have to jump through several hoops to become UKRDA registered so not all teams are. If in doubt, enquire with your local league and see- there’s sure to be one near you.
Also, if you’re under 18, my league has a kid’s team (The New Bournes). Though small at the moment, it’s co-ed and run by some of the most wonderful people and including some of the most rebellious cool kids I’ve ever met .
Here is a flyer for my team’s Fresh Meat event, if you’re interested. Please ignore the “women only, 18+”. The event is open to all, regardless of gender.
If you have any questions, please contact someone through the group or try these links: http://bournebombshells.wix.com/bombshells
http://ukrda.org.uk/?p=727 (copy of the UKRDA transgender policy)
I was really honored to take part in an historic book about trans* people in Brighton, which was launched yesterday. It includes a broad spectrum of trans identities and features:
Sab Ah, Alice, Nick, Ludovic, Fox, Sam, Darcy, Cass, Ben, Ruth, Joanna, Sarah, E-j Scott, Stephanie, Rory, Edward, Gloria, Maeve, Luc, Reuben, Ezekiel, Eli, Michelle and Kim.
In it you’ll discover a little about how we all navigate our identities within Brighton’s vibrant culture. It was written by recording oral interviews of trans people by trans people and is a milestone in not only making trans history but preventing trans erasure that is so prevelant in a culture which is still struggling to see the beauty and diversity that trans* people offer.
“Brighton & Hove is a place where trans people are increasingly seen and heard, understood and respected, and Brighton Trans*formed shows how far we’ve come, and how far there is to go. – Juliet Jacques”“Trans identities are often neglected, re-written or even erased from formal histories. Brighton Trans*formed features, in their own words, the rich variety of Trans lives in Brighton & Hove today; it preserves previously untold stories for future generations, and is a much-needed exploration into the diversity of gender expression within the city.”
A big thank-you to all the production team for all their hard work to make it happen. It’s a beautiful book.