Category Archives: Posts

LGBT History month

I’m sorry that transiness has been a bit slow lately, however, our 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 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 site. We’re also looking for contributors to write on the 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.

Suicide was such a friend of mine…

[Editors note: Part of wellness and recovery is about talking about our pain, and people listening with compassion and empathy, we’re aware that this isn’t a particularly positive experiene, but the process of writing things down is healing and cathartic.  Sometimes things are difficult and life is hard.  Suicidal ideation is surprisingly common, but it’s also a sign that you need help.  The Samaritans 08457 90 90 90 and Mind 0300 123 3393 (open 9am to 6pm, Monday to Friday (except for bank holidays).) can help you to make sense of things if you’re feeling suicidal, low, or distressed about things.]

It’s funny how even these days I always find myself referring back to this moment of my life time and time again, that moment when everything in my life seemed so lost and completely out of reach. The silent tears that I cried that no one could listen to, or even if it were possible that silent tears could make a sound, would they still listen?

The story starts In my teenage years, I never had the best that the world had to offer me, as a child my parents went through a tough time when I was 11, at school I was still painfully shy to the point I was taunted and bullied almost every day, and later when I was about 13 my parents finally decided to eventually split. Torn between the two I never knew which way to go, in the end I chose my dad. I guess seeing him there at my nans house, watching a grown man reduced to nothing but a quivering wreck and a cascade of tears as I heard him trying to tell my nan and uncle that my mom had said she was leaving him really brought reality home to me. I really felt for him that day, in all my short years I’d never seen this big strong man I called my dad, cry a single tear.

The following year was another life lesson for me, Bob Geldof was in the news raising awareness for the famine that raged through Ethiopia, Band Aid, and of course Live Aid ensued, the rest we know as history. I was sickened by all of this but realized there was very little I could do but be sympathetic towards it all, my dad felt the same way too as we watched it together on the news.

Sadly my dad died the following summer, I was only 15, and at 43 he was only a year younger than I am myself right now. It was me who found him, stone cold and face down, he’d died in his sleep. From that moment my world came crashing down, I was distraught beyond belief but I’d also become destroyed by it all too. Life seemed so pointless at that moment, I was forced to stay with my older brother, who just like the kids at school, used to bully me and push me around, we’d fight a lot too. I never spent much time in school after that moment, and of course this resulted in me not taking any exams and failing. My art teacher caught up with me though and constantly bestowed his faith in me that I could do this, needless to say through his efforts I passed my art exam. The only thing that really got me through these tough times were remembering the troubles in Ethiopia, which of course by now were still continuing. I realized that as tough as it might be for me right now, there are children out there in the world that are far worst off than I was. Maybe in relation to that, I was still very much, one of the lucky ones.

I’ll jump a few years now, if not to ease the burden of reading a story that has now extended to over a 2000 words.

I was 19, I’d lost my flat through not being able to find sufficient work to pay the bills, I guess leaving school without exams makes finding quality jobs a real tough one. I’d already hiked to the bright lights of the big city, and back again. I guess I was never going to find my fortune there was I? I’d also had a brush with the law too, quite a few times really and this resulted in a short spell in prison for my sins. I was really down and so deeply depressed with nowhere to turn, or even anyone I could really talk to. It seems that even over the four years that had passed since my dad had died I was still grieving for him in a real big way, The scars that still exist on my wrists to this day are a testament to the deep depression I’d gone through in my late teens, a reminder of how dark those days were for me. Later after the visual scars had finally healed, I turned to my mom as a means to find somewhere to stay, but she turned me away, not just once but quite a few times. I remember on two separate occasions I had to sleep under a tree in a park as I had nowhere else to go, on a clear cold night you could look up and see the stars shining really brightly. I went for help from other close family members too but they all told me the same story, no room at the Inn. I was so desperate for help but also so depressed from it all too and there seemed very little point in continuing. I took the small amount of cash I had with me and walked into a shop to buy paracetamol, they came in packs of 25 back then. I went to another shop to buy some too, and then another but this time I also bought myself a can of coke. I got on the bus to go to my moms, I sat on the top deck throughout the long journey, I was on my own up there as it was late at night. A few at a time I took those tablets and washed it down with coke, the first packet was empty so I moved on to the next, then the next until I’d taken all 75 of them, I felt fine for a while. I turned up at my moms front door, her boyfriend answered and let me in. He told me my mom was in the bath and that I should just go straight upstairs quietly so she wouldn’t hear me. all I wanted to do that night was die, or was I really crying out for help? There was nothing left in this world to live for, everything I tried to do for myself had failed so life for me just had no meaning anymore. I got into bed and slowly faded off to sleep, somehow hoping that I’d never wake up again and this whole nightmare would at last be over.

The following morning I woke from my sleep, I had the most enormous headache you could ever imagine and it was obvious that my attempted overdose had failed. In fact I failed at suicide just as much as I’d failed at life and it just seemed that I couldn’t get anything right. My life did improve after that though, not straight away, but things did get better. I later looked back at that darkest moment of my life and realized how disgraceful those actions were. Who was I to decide when I should die and what right did I have to think I could just end it all?

Moving forward to the next 23 years we end up in June 2013 and I’m already 12 months into transitioning after coming out again for the second time as transsexual. Times had been tough over the previous 12 months but June 2013 had been my worst month yet. I was battling with my own demons in my head, always trying to do the right thing, doing what I needed to do for myself, but also trying to please everyone around me that I loved so much. I’d heard so many negative comments from others, you don’t look like a woman, you don’t act like a woman, oh and yeah, you don’t talk like one either whilst at the same time being told that I’m ugly. I was doing some decorating work for a friend at the time, most days I couldn’t even concentrate enough to do a full days work, getting more and more depressed as the days went by to the point where I just wanted to just end it all there and then and get it over with, to cure my own and everyone else’s misery. I got chatting with my good friend Rebecca, she talked me through a lot of stuff and helped a lot to put my mind at ease, and yes it really did help.

The following week though depression set in even deeper and there just seemed no turning back from it all. I was going through the thoughts in my head over and over, planning every detail down to the last bit. I started by wondering how much paracetamol I could buy with the £16 I had left in my pocket, but then thinking about the slow and painful death that might occur from it all as my body slowly shuts itself down. Then there was the craft knife I was holding in my hand, how deep could I go with the blade to cause sufficient damage that I’d just bleed to death. Then I realized what a mess that might make on the lovely cream coloured carpet and that someone would be left behind to clear it up after me. Also, seeing the scars on my wrist was a reminder that I’d tried this once before, and like everything else I’d failed. So I stood at the top of the stairs and wondered if I could throw myself down them violently enough that my neck would be broken by the time I reached the bottom, but then I was worried about all the pain I might be in if I never managed to do it right. It seemed that throughout my life I’d never done anything right, I failed at being a husband, a father but also the two suicide attempts when I was a teenager. I was a failure full stop! But was I?

I’d survived suicide and depression when I was younger, I’d even survived a very serious illness when I was 21, being told by the doctor that you only have 24hrs left to live because they don’t know how to treat your illness makes you have a very different viewpoint on life. But it was that week in June 2013 that really did it for me though. Chrisie Edkins had already taken her own life 2 weeks previous, I was adamant that like her I wasn’t going to become another statistic but the reality was that through all of this, what the hell did I have left to live for? Everyone I loved was quite rightfully against me living my new life as Reena, my kids needed their dad and my wife who I loved so much just wanted her big hairy man back, the one who was as tough as old boots and not scared of anything, the very same person who by now had become crippled by severe depression and nothing to live for.

There were two distinct things that that saved me from taking my life that day, my failed suicide attempts when I was much younger along with the realization that suicide really is a wast of time and life, and music. Two days after my deep depression there was a major open air gig that myself and my band were performing at in Birmingham. In my own mind it seems I’d let everyone else down, these guys had back me all the way and I suppose in my last attempts to get things right.

I guess the real moral of this story is that whatever the reason appears to be that suicide is your very last option, it really isn’t. No matter how dark your world may appear, there is always a light in the distance waiting for you, that no matter how much hurt you may be feeling, the pain always goes away. There is always a better day waiting for you around the corner, there is always hope, and above all there is always going to be a day and a life you can claim and call your own. Suicide is never, ever, the final option. If you’ve got through to this part of the story then you’ll already know that I talk from experience, that in essence, it really does get better.

The song below was written by myself in 2010 and it’s now performed at every gig that myself and my band attend. Yes It’s a constant reminder of the bad times when I was younger, but it’s also a celebration of the good times since then as I live to take center stage one more time, and do things my way.

Reena xx

Don’t Tell Me (A World Without You)

I found myself in a different place
So sick and tired of the human race
Being down on your luck
Is always so tough

Walking down the street with no name
It’s kinda funny, we’re both the same
Stuck in the middle
With no place to go

Don’t tell me that you understand
If you’ve never walked in my shoes
There’s a price I paid for someone’s mistake
And it’s got me left in the blues
Don’t tell me, Cos you don’t know
The pain that I’ve been through
Every time I came, you closed the door to your heart
And left me, In a world without you…

Found me a place to stay for the night
It wasn’t pretty but those stars were bright
Left out in the cold
With only the cloths I had on

Suicide was such a friend of mine
I know I tried it, from time to time
To find a way out of this place
But what a disgrace…

One Year On.

This week sees the anniversary of when I irrevocably changed my name for ever.
I did it with an on-line Deed Poll company and will always remember savouring the moment by holding my finger over the send button for a few seconds before finally doing it.
Of course I will tell you that I didn’t change my name, I merely corrected a mistake that my parents had made. I knew from a very young age what my real name was, it just took me a lifetime to tell everyone.
I’m sure that anyone who has done the same will tell you about the thrill when your new drivers licence and bank cards and other official documents come through. I even enjoyed getting my Council Tax bill, and when my first wage slip came I showed everyone at work ‘look it’s in MY name!’

Six months, almost to the day, after getting my Deed Poll I got my HRT prescription. Of course it’s still early days but I feel so much better, Validated is the word I use to describe how I feel, and I think I’m getting a few tell tale pains in my breast that say I’m beginning to change physically as well. This morning I pulled my dressing gown on a bit too quickly and got a sharp pain when I brushed against a nipple. I never thought that I would be looking forward to that happening.

Probably the most important thing that has happened though was coming out to my daughter at long last.
My ex had been aware of my transition for a couple of years but had always asked not to tell our daughter ‘just yet’. This had been a source of conflict between us as I was becoming increasingly dysphoric at the thought of even wearing gender neutral clothes. I was scared that my emotional pain would be mistaken by my girl as anger at her, so I told her the truth.
She was great and took the news so well, I hugged her and told her how proud she makes me.
In one of those twists of fate she was accepted into Edinburgh University at the same time as I had to move flat. She coincidentally moved into student accommodation about three hundred yards away from where I now live!

Of course life ain’t always a bowl of cherries, but I can say without a moments hesitation that transition has been an entirely positive thing for me. I can’t think of a single thing that I regret about it, apart from not doing it sooner. But even that isn’t a real regret, I might not have had the same relationship with my daughter if things had been done differently.

And the future? Well, I’m going to start nagging the GIC to put me forward for surgery. I know that that’s a way down the line, but I know in my heart that I am ready. Like changing my name it’s a mistake that needs to be corrected.

Silent T – Harry Taylor

Silent T

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.



I Want You

I’m Reena Leigh Gibson, a songwriter and lead singer ofReena Leigh Gibson - Milestone Road
the Birmingham rock band Milestone Road. Yeah I’m a 44 year old mtf transsexual and I sing in a rock band, how cool is that?

As a songwriter, I tend to find that all of the songs I write are about truth, and about life. To me the idea of connecting with a song and being able to perform it to the best of my ability is all about having lived through it, whether the experience was good or bad, being able to tell a story and deliver it in the best way possible to the audience before me, that’s just the way that I connect with songs and it’s lyrical content. And yes, I’ve performed many songs in the past by other artists but I just never get that connection as I do with singing my own songs with the band.

Well moving on, as any transsexual will tell you, being trans for a lot of us, isn’t the easiest thing in the world. And sometimes, for those of us who have partners, we can get so wrapped up in our own issues and how we have to learn to deal with them, that we can sometimes forget about the ones closest to us that we love so much too.

It was in June 2014, and as an effort to write even more songs for the band,  that I came up with our latest track “I Want You”. It tells the story of being trans from the other perspective, from the point of view of the partner who in their own way has to go through their own pain, loss and suffering. Most of the time they have to go through it alone, in the silence and in the darkness, with the tears from the pain that is very rarely seen by those around them and closest to their hearts. They can’t in many aspects turn to their loving partner, how can they when they’re so wrapped in their own emotions of coming out and dealing with the ups/downs and pitfalls that transition brings? It’s a sometimes scary world that just like parenting doesn’t come with a guidebook or a map telling you which way you should turn next. On both sides of the emotional fence you have to try and figure things out for yourself, and a lot of the time you’re very much alone.

For the trans person like myself you’re left with a do or die situation, for the partner however, they just want things back to being “normal”, whatever normal may be these days. It’s learning to cope with that ever present lack of “normal” that tends to be the most heartbreaking moment of all, realizing that everything you had built, hoped and dreamed of for so long has now been torn from under you. As much as you might wish and pray that things were different than what they are right now, you finally start to realize and try to come to terms with the idea that what is, just simply is…

The version of the song you’re about to read and hear below is the demo that was recorded by myself and put forward to the band, I was lucky enough that they loved it from the start and it wasn’t cast aside to be forgotten about. As a band we’ve performed it live on 4 separate occasions now, the first time ever though was at Derby Pride on the 13th September 2014. In my own admission I’d never been to a Pride event before, but being able to perform this song at such an event was one of my proudest moments ever.

Reena xx

 I Want You

It’s been hell since you left
Since you walked away
It’s left a hole in my heart
And it’s tearing me apart

Not a second chance
To fix this broken romance
Oh what am I to do
I was so in love with you

I want you to hold me, love me
If it’s just one more kiss
It’s you I really miss
So please touch me, and tease me
The way you used to do
All the ways you used to

Now it’s faded and grey
And the pain’s here to stay
Thought I’d never know
This heartache that hurts me so

All the pleasure and pain
Caused by our silly games
And all those words that you said
Oh that I misread


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

* 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