Tag Archives: Trans Inclusion

Things are not always what they seem to a prejudiced eye

Trans women “dominate the conversation due to their learned male privilege”, so the story goes. I have heard many variations of this story; a trans woman showed up in a women’s group and took too much attention, spoke too loudly or generally took up “too much space”.

Maybe it’s time to put this trope under the scrutiny it deserves.

Contrary to this stereotype, most of my trans women friends are pretty shy, and many are quite reticent and fearful, understandably, about speaking up against prejudice. They would be unlikely to go to a women-only space, or a lesbian or feminist gathering, for fear of exclusion or discrimination. Many of them rarely even leave their homes, because of the levels of harassment they experience when they do. I’m left wondering, therefore, if what is visible to many is an atypical and “feisty” subset of trans women.

Because let’s face it, given the levels of transantagonism to be found in many women’s spaces, it takes a gutsy trans woman to walk into one.

But even so, I am going to unpick whether the the words “entitled, dominant, male” are appropriate for even these “feisty” women.

Some time ago, I was at a feminist workshop, and found myself doing a lot of the talking.

This got me thinking, because accidentally dominating a conversation is not a new experience for me. I needed to self-reflect whether this was a sign of my own masculine privilege. I imagine, if I were a trans woman, my behaviour would certainly be taken as evidence of my masculinity. Perhaps, as a transmasculine person, it still is.

What was going on for me that day? Well, to be honest I was feeling pretty terrified, because I was scheduled later to deliver a talk on trans issues – I was hypervigilant, wondering how I would be received. I remember the woman I was debating with seemed pretty hostile to my way of looking at things, and I was on the defensive, hoping to talk her round and make myself understood.

Something I have learned is that the less comfortable I am, the more I talk. I am also less able to do basic things like modulating tone and loudness, and making judgements about turn-taking. Some people might diagnose my autistic spectrum traits from that description. I am, of course, totally responsible for my own behaviour; I just want to reflect on the cause.

I suppose it is pretty self-explanatory that in this situation I was caught in a fight or flight response and choosing “fight”. That in itself is, perhaps, a choice that could be ascribed to my male socialisation and sense of self, although I think that would be simplistic. It’s a choice I am responsible for, but it helps me understand there is more than straightforward privilege at work in my own behaviour.

But then I think about other folks who dominate conversations, and I recall a twittery and extremely feminine cis colleague I used to work with who would talk non stop on team days despite being terribly under-confident and quite a lost and lonely character. If she had been trans, would her behaviour have also been seen as “masculine”? Certainly she took up way more than her fair share of the space, but I suspect nerves and lack of social experience rather than confidence were the cause.

The legendary trans woman we so frequently hear about, usually third hand, who disrupted the otherwise “perfectly calm and harmonious” women’s meeting could have been behaving that way for any number of reasons. She could have been nervous, feeling on the spot, desperate to be accepted/included or to prove herself. Maybe she was lonely, or lacking in social interaction due to her marginalisation. Or perhaps on the autistic spectrum, as autism is common within the trans community, and can lead to difficulties with voice loudness, turn taking and reading other social cues. She might have been uncomfortable or on the defensive, because other women were hostile. She could have been experiencing fight/flight symptoms.

She may, based on her difference, have been making not unreasonable demands that nevertheless the group was resistant to accommodating, just like any other “uppity” minority person who doesn’t “know her place”.

And of course it is even more likely that it was the onlookers’ perceptions, rather than the woman’s behaviour, that were problematic; there are plenty of examples of perceptions changing according to whether a woman is perceived as cis or trans, and there are also numerous critiques of the catch-22 in which trans women are accused of aping stereotypes if submissive and of being unwomanly if not.

I think any reasonable human will acknowledge that we will be unconsciously looking for evidence of maleness in an out trans woman, and that our perceptions are often dictated by our beliefs – if you do not believe in the subjectivity of human perception, check out this now famous experiment on expert wine tasters perceiving a tinted white wine as red.

I personally have many times been mistaken for a trans woman online and have been subsequently branded with a list of attributes supposedly unique to those assigned male at birth.

We tend towards self-serving perceptions of situations. If we can pin our discomfort about someone’s behaviour and difference on their “privilege”, then we are entitled to reject and not accommodate them. It is far less easy to exclude a difficult person if their behaviour is a result of vulnerability, marginalisation, or mental health, so we tend not to consider those possibilities.

In reality, any well set up group should have ground rules about acceptable behaviour that apply to everyone equally, and there really is no excuse for singling out trans women. Making sweeping statements about a diverse group of people based on individual experiences is damaging, and this is a trope that needs to die. Particularly when we reflect that our experience of trans women is likely to be in spaces where they are outnumbered and probably being heavily scrutinised. Who would be comfortable and at their best in such a situation?

If registered sex offenders can pee, why can’t we?

Recently in the US, “bathroom bills” have been introduced that would prevent transgender people using the toilet they need to. Discussion still rolls on in the UK about access to toilets for transgender people, particularly trans women.

urinal selfie

Click for source

We cannot be complacent that similar restrictions would never be considered here in the UK – we live in a world where various minorities are being scapegoated as a threat to “ordinary, decent people”, and toilet access is still a live debate here in the UK. There follows a stark illustration of the extent to which hate and prejudice against transgender people has led to wildly exaggerated safety fears.

The underlying prejudice that leads to such bills is that there is a risk to toilet users from sexual offenders if trans people are freely allowed to choose the appropriate facility for themselves. But a small amount of research will inform you that in neither the UK, nor the US, are there any restrictions on registered sex offenders using public toilets.

In the UK, there are an estimated 64,000 female sex offenders, this in contrast to the estimated 10,000 transgender individuals who have presented for medical treatment.

This means that even if all transgender women were sex offenders, they would still present statistically less risk than cisgender (non trans) women, if indeed there was a genuinely significant risk of non-consensual sex offences happening in toilets.

Which, of course, there isn’t. If there was, we would not, as a culture, so freely allow our boy and girl children to use most facilities unaccompanied.

In reality, there is no evidence that trans women pose more danger in toilets than cis women, and data from the US demonstrates that inclusive laws present no increased danger to cis women.

Legislators speak of “preventative” measures as if trans people have not been around and using facilities for a long time now, as if trans people appeared yesterday and we don’t have years of experience of all being well to reassure us that this “trans threat” is just not real.

This toilet issue is, of course, the pointy end of a huge debate that has rolled on since the 1970s among right wing and left wing reactionaries alike. But why have we not got past it? Society once held similar fears about the presence of gays and lesbians, but although homophobia is far from a thing of the past, such basic, ill-informed prejudice does not seem to be informing legislation to quite the same extent.

My local (Nottingham) Women’s Centre has been inclusive of trans women for 17 years. Of course trans inclusion kicked up a rumpus at the time, but none of the problems feared by some have arisen. And yet people in my town still talk as if trans inclusion is some untested thing and will unleash all manner of horrors on cis women. Equally, I have worked for a women only domestic violence service that helped trans as well as cis women, and zero problems occurred as a result of this inclusion.

Trans women have been using toilets at least since the 1960s, and everything points to the fact that it is trans women, not cis women, who tend to experience violence and harassment in relation to toilet access. Given that it is trans people who bear the most risk, legislation that is there to protect cis people and not trans makes a clear statement that the discomfort and prejudice of cis people is more important than the genuine safety of trans people.

So are public toilets safe? One older woman told me of a sobering story of a man hiding in a public toilet and attempting to attack her. Surely, she said, this is why this is such an important issue, even if such occurrences are rare.

Was the man dressed as a woman? I inquired.

Well, no, she replied.

Surprisingly to some, men who want to commit crimes against women don’t need to go to extraordinary lengths to pass themselves off as being legitimately allowed into a space – they will simply break one law to commit another crime. And there are, alas, plenty of spaces where men have the opportunity to attack women, which is why men dressing up as women in order to commit such crimes is not actually a significant issue. Meanwhile, there are already plenty of laws in place to protect women and girls from sexual assault, indecent and lewd behaviour.

The panic over toilets is founded in myth and prejudice, in the still-alive although thoroughly debunked idea that being transgender is motivated by sexual inclinations. It is not. Trans women in toilets are there for the same reason everyone else is.

And they are, I assure you, more terrified of you than you are of them.

This frightening level of hyped-up and manufactured hate and prejudice has led some women to be influenced into viewing trans women as more dangerous than known sex offenders. There are no campaigns to stop registered sex offenders from using public toilets – think about that. Think about those c.64,000 female sex offenders that you have never once worried about peeing next to. That, because of the general safety of using a toilet, you do not need to be worried about peeing next to.

This, in a nutshell, is a startling illustration of the daily battle against prejudice experienced by the trans community.

Taking a deep breath and stepping up once again

After a long time of feeling beaten, I’ve been inspired by the film Selma not to be daunted by the much more minor danger I have put myself in as someone who defends trans people’s civil rights.

First of all, the film has taught me I am unlikely to be shot or physically beaten, that things are not as bad for me as they are for many people of colour, and I remind myself every day of the enormous privilege I have in this world.

But I have been endangered in other ways. The gaslighting from people who seek to invalidate trans identities is a heavy burden. The foundation of all trans oppression is that because ours is an unusual, minority experience, therefore we are wrong, delusional, and politically undermining of the majority position and values others cling to. The burden trans people carry is delegitimisation and social exclusion, which is no small burden. Social support has time and time again been proven to protect people’s mental health and wellbeing, and to render them less exposed to societal violence and abuse. Trans people are expected to go without such support.

Some months ago I stopped blogging, closed my facebook page, removed myself from all feminist and trans activist spaces, and severely curtailed my social interactions in order to protect myself from the mental violence of these campaigns. I had been targeted individually, and unfairly, and became quickly aware that being out as a trans person put me outside the “circle of care” for some people, and gave them a sense of entitlement to speak about me in ways that to me and those close to me seemed extreme and outrageous. Online, I have fared even worse when I have been mistaken for a trans woman, so I hold an awareness that I still have relative privilege. This is what has kept me wanting to stand up and use that privilege to challenge the oppression of trans people, and trans women in particular.

To be clear, these campaigners exist all over the world, and I oppose all of them. That some of them live in my home town and are a little closer to home adds to my discomfort, but everyone who knows me knows I have stood up against trans exclusion and delegitimisation for years and long before I was aware of the particular individuals who are most involved locally with such campaigning.

I know I have acted with integrity, but I have been outspoken, and it is unsurprising that I’ve been targeted and attacked by people who want to silence me, and that the positive, bridge-building work I’ve been doing has been undermined. When I saw what happened at Selma – the violence people were prepared to use to maintain their dominance, I felt at once enormously privileged by comparison and at the same time a sense of resonance – I know I have been experiencing another kind of oppression, and those close to me know this too, and understand its profound impact on me and on my partner.

By choosing to stand up for my own and others rights, particularly those of trans women, I have put myself in the firing line, but I am not the one pulling the trigger. Activists always get a bad reputation in contrast to those members of minority groups who keep heads down and “know their place” – feminists are seen as oppressive, full of hatred and anger towards men, black activists are seen as violent and dangerous. Trans activists are treated no differently by those who wish to stop us having civil rights and who wish, let’s be honest, that the rights we have in the UK, such as the Gender Recognition Act, and our protections under the Equality Act, would be revoked and that we would not be recognised as a legitimate minority group with a legitimate experience of oppression.

Often my friends as much as my enemies urge me to “pipe down” because they don’t want to see me hurt, and they know in their bones that people who are vulnerable and stand up for themselves do, always, get hurt. And so I have, in fact it has nearly broken me at times.

But I will keep working towards change – I have done some good, and I will not be intimidated and silenced by the way I, other trans folk, and people who have offered me allyship have been targeted. I have always strived to work with integrity, and in a non-violent way that builds bridges and brings people together, but there are some positions I will not build a bridge to because that would require the reversal of rights I already have as a trans person, and give credence to the outrageous claim that giving me rights erodes somebody else’s.

If anyone believes any of the rather extreme things said about me or many other trans activists, I urge them to check the evidence and in my case I also urge them to challenge me directly and have a conversation with me about their concerns, because I am not in a position to do anyone any harm. There are bad apples in every movement. I am confident that despite my lack of charm I am not one of them.

There is currently said to be a trans “tipping point”; we are finally achieving a modicum of acceptance and recognition, but the gaining of rights is always accompanied by a backlash from those who either fear the pendulum will “swing too far” or believe that those asking for rights were never oppressed in the first place, and therefore their protection will afford them unacceptable privileges.

So we need ally support now more than ever. We need allies to be strong. We need them to not turn away from what is happening and fill in the blanks in their mind with a story that allows them to do nothing, a story where trans people are responsible for their own misfortune, where the concerns they express are “individual” and “personal” rather than a collective call for human rights and an end to oppression, and a plea to cis people to start noticing and scrutinising the actions and behaviours of those who actively campaign against our rights, acceptance and recognition.

Our rights, let’s be clear, to be recognised as who we say we are, to live in our identities unimpeded, and not to be segregated or subjected to “separate but equal” treatment.

No, trans women don’t have any of the privilege

Recently I asked why, during their consultation meetings, Stonewall appeared to have elected to hold men only groups but not women only groups (I am now unclear whether this is actually the case, but the subsequent discussion still warrants some thought.)

As a feminist, I’m sure you can imagine I was outraged by the idea of men only groups without women only groups. But I was assured the situation is different within the trans community, because trans women “dominate” the discussion and are over-represented, so man-only spaces are needed. It wasn’t long before the underlying belief was voiced – a trans man boldly stated that trans women have louder voices because they were raised in male privilege.

What scares me is that hardly anyone seemed to bat an eyelid at this statement.

If this is going to be the underlying assumption influencing Stonewall’s thinking about trans people, then we are moving into dangerous territory. The idea that trans women have louder voices in the community because of male privilege is an assumption based in a repeated myth from second wave feminist spaces, reiterated so often it begins to sound true.

I believe the reality is that trans women, due to the unique oppressions they face, often have to learn to be “fighty” when it isn’t actually in their nature or upbringing at all. Most of the fight I’ve experienced in my trans women friends has developed as they transition – it is a response to their experience of oppression. The association with “maleness” is a lazy and unfounded leap, based on a transparently false assumption that all AMAB people are socialized with identical traits.

I also see trans men, who generally get listened to without the need to shout, being worryingly uncomfortable about acknowledging the structural inequality between themselves and trans women. While I agree trans men also experience some misogyny when they are perceived as women, I am not sure how many trans men or AFAB non-binary folks are aware of how toxic an entity transmisogyny is – that is the specific violence that is targeted at AMAB people when they expose even the slightest hint of their femininity. Transmisogyny is linked to society’s undervaluing and violence towards everything that is perceived as feminine, which is in turn an enormous part of what underpins the structural inequality between the sexes.

Trans men do not experience societal violence in the way trans women do, because becoming more “manly” and “masculine” is not seen as faulty or transgressive in the same way – femininity is cast, even by some feminists, as weak, artificial, pointless, valueless, and of course, inherently sexual. This means that trans women are more scrutinised and suspect, and experience higher rates of harassment, violence and murder. There is less social stigma in somebody assigned female wanting what’s perceived as a male role, male dress or male occupation. The evidence of the inequality between trans men and women can also be shown in this article about pay and employment.

Trans men are also less visible – pre-transition, they can dress as they choose with less stigma, post-transition, they are more likely to “pass” because of the one-way effects of male hormonal puberty. Because of this, most trans guys I know are not as interested in being involved with a trans community, except for a brief period while they are more visible during transition. It’s not a good thing for any person to feel compelled to hide their history in order to feel safe, but reality is a lot of trans guys can and do hide – they choose to quietly live their lives and not be visible.

Trans women receive a greater degree of social stigma and harassment, often coupled with increased visibility. Understandable, then, if they throw themselves more into activism, get more angry. But just as has been said to many feminists over the years in order to put women back in their place, trans women who speak up are told they are “acting like men”.

That such statements come from within the trans community is especially troubling. Trans men who say they don’t have a voice, who cry “what about the men?” are replicating something that is happening everywhere. That we see it as being outrageous that trans spaces are women-led says a lot about how we think about women, and echoes how threatened cis men feel by women-dominated feminist spaces.

Hooray for women-dominated spaces, I say – how dare we as a community twist that and misgender trans women rather than admiring the long fight and painstaking social organizing that has helped trans women fight back against the forces of their oppression.

Sure, trans men and AFAB trans folks need to be more visible, but we do that by taking our place within the community and not minding having our masculine expectations shattered – we are not the most important people here. I have no problem with more leaders in the trans community being women. I accept that transfeminine people are at greater risk in our society; they experience societal violence from birth, in the form of physical, sexual and emotional attack on all perceived femininity in assigned male people.

I am less afraid of loud and fighty trans women than I am of a community of trans women who meekly learn to “know their place” in order to rebut accusations of maleness. I also fear that in being seen as the “default” trans person, trans women will have their unique experiences as women invisibilised, and will quickly lose their ability to speak about transmisogyny as women’s issues once again get swept to the side in favour of the issues that affect men too.

This is a crucial time in the evolution of our relationship with Stonewall – allowing lazy assumptions about the male privilege of trans women to pass unchallenged could have a long term impact on how Stonewall handles future issues.

edit – after feedback, I’ve edited two sloppy bits of wording – I was never against men-only groups if there are women-only groups in parallel, and suggesting masculine clothing on AFAB folks goes without comment was definitely an overstatement. Apologies to those whose cages were unnecessarily rattled by my poor choice of words.

Trans Safe Feminism

Next Saturday, I am pleased to announce that there will be a meeting on “Trans Safe Feminism” in Nottingham in which we will be exploring how, if not making feminist spaces entirely safe, we can at least make them safer.

In lieu of this week’s post, I’d like to invite readers to peruse the materials I’ve put together, with a lot of help and consultation, on the accompanying website, linked to above.. This is a free resource and you are welcome to use it and share it. Any and all feedback is entirely welcome, via comments below or the contact form, and please do contact me if you would like to be involved in the meeting.



Nottingham Women’s Conference – Update

I decided to write an update as my other blog about the conference has started to be shared in the run-up to the event. I sincerely hope it has the desired effect of deterring people from becoming invested in a “fight” against what is happening there. It’s clear to me now from last year’s events that good feminists can be easily duped by insider/outsider dynamics – the people shouting at the door will always be perceived as the real threat, and those “inside” will rally together – even if in peace-time they would not have agreed with each other. The cracks that are beginning to show in the discourse then get papered over.

I honestly believe we should stand back and patiently wait for the cracks to reveal themselves. The influence of transcritical feminism over the conference is not sustainable because the ideas do not hold water, they are currently propped up by the sense of a perceived “outsider threat” that motivates people to pull together and not engage their critical thinking skills.

On the Conference’s Facebook page there is now the statement “The conference organisers are upset and concerned that rumours/lies are being spread about this year’s conference not being open to Trans women. The FACT is the conference is open to all women and we hope that you will support us in sharing this fact with anyone you hear saying otherwise.” Later in the thread, they refer to “forces at work” and “facing a lot of adversity” – all of this supports my assertion that an attempt is being made to make members of the feminist community feel threatened and under attack. Whether consciously intentional or not, this approach could have two outcomes:

  • It could encourage those connected to or attending the conference to listen less to the outsider voices of trans people, who are being painted as the wolves at the door (rather than the beggars at the door we actually are).
  • Those involved might instinctively rally around somebody who is perceived as sufficiently powerful to repel the “invaders”. We make different choices of leader in war time than in peace time, so fabricating a war provides opportunities for a certain type of leader.

I have not personally seen or heard of any rumours or lies about the conference, although certainly people are talking about it, and its loose connections with Femifest’s particular brand of trans-antagonistic radical feminism. It would be so easy for mischief-makers to fabricate a story in order to further the perception of a “trans threat”. I think I would have seen and quashed any rumour that the conference is trans exclusionary, had there been one going around.

Although I’m sure whoever posted the comments above on the NWC page was sincere in believing them, there’s a possibility they have been manipulated. And whatever the truth about someone somewhere having either a) “lied” or b) more likely, made an honest mistake about the conference’s policy, I have a problem with how it’s reported. Using the NWC facebook page to stir up a sense of threat from the trans community, would seem to me a small abuse of power by those within the institution towards those outside of it. It is a particularly sensitive issue because of how quick and willing to think badly of trans people many non-trans people still are. There is a positive eagerness in some circles to hear the latest scare story and I have seen wholly apocryphal tales about trans people spread like wildfire many times during my years involved with women only spaces.

If you go onto the NWC facebook page, there are other hints that the politics of the conference are trans-ignorant if not transcritical. I picked up on their use of Sheila Jefferey’s favourite term “transgenderism” (My response – the word “deliberately insinuates that being transgender is a political movement, ideology or practice rather than something you fundamentally are”). I also had a discussion with them about “women’s health” as a subject for the conference’s women only space. Many of us know that transcritical activists use the idea of “women’s health” to try and and show that trans women are not “real women”. Of course in doing this they also marginalise trans men and genderqueer folks who sometimes have the same gynaecological needs as cis women but don’t identify as women.

I still cannot work out whether I was hearing a genuine intention to do better in the response to my query, or merely being pacified, but I will for now assume the former and let everyone know there is hope, even if we have a long way to go. I will keep people posted if anyone from the conference gets back to me or makes an effort to be positively involved with the “trans safe feminism” project and upcoming meeting. What I would like to hear from the conference is “we got a lot of things wrong this year, and acknowledge our need to learn from the trans community”.

We have a long way to go before trans people in all our diversity will be comfortable to attend the appropriate feminist spaces, and meanwhile the trans community will continue to be the beggars at the door, and continue to be painted as a “menace” to give those inside an excuse not to consider us.

Update – I have not edited the above since being banned from the NWC page for trying to challenge what I see as further provocation on the page. In my comment I requested that the NWC committee commit to further training around trans issues. I am left wondering why there were so few transgender voices on the page, other than the voices of that rare breed of trans person who aligns with transcritical feminism. I long for a day when we can engage in a balanced, empowered discussion where we are all insiders and nobody is left shouting (or in my case, weeping) at the door.

Why gay and trans rights really are equivalent issues

I have a foot in two worlds, and this gives me unique insight into the connections and crossovers between the experiences of the trans and LGB communities, which I wanted to reflect on in this blog.

We don’t fully know what makes people gay or trans, but the science is suggestive that both could be manifestations of hormonal fluctuations while we’re “cooking” in utero – so I have come to think of gay and trans people as cakes and cookies – lots of the same ingredients, some different. I tend to think we have more in common than not, and that we are stronger together as an inclusive queer community.

I have been trying to get my head round the odd estrangement between gay and trans communities ever since a “friend” of mine linked to an article about why there should be no “T” in “LGB(T)”. I refuse to give the article an audience, but the nub of it was that gay rights will advance more quickly if trans people are excluded. The outrageous honesty of the piece declared what a lot of trans people and gender variant gay people already know – in the struggle for acceptance and assimilation, some gender conforming gay folks are distancing themselves not only from the trans* community but also from butch lesbians and feminine gay men.

It is time to speak about the equivalences in the gay and trans struggles. I know that comparisons between rights movements can often be clumsy, and I know that games of “Oppression Olympics” are tiresome, but in this case there is so much connection and crossover between the two communities it is absurd and false to separate them. We are stronger together, that ought to be self evident, but there’s something more at stake here; when we distance ourselves from people based on their differences, we soon end up with a community that stifles variation.

The wrong “choice”

Being gay has been described as a “lifestyle choice” rather than something a person just is. The inference is not only do gay people choose to be gay in some sort of whimsical fashion, but also that not being gay is a preferable choice. Being trans is equally seen as a choice, and the wrong choice to make. Yet all the evidence shows that it is impossible to change your sexuality or gender identity at will.

“My definitions are based on the fact of human reproduction”

Homophobes define sex in terms of human reproduction. The implication for gay people is that their lovemaking falls outside of the terms set to describe what sex is for, and can then be trivialised, fetishised, degraded and marginalised. Equally trans identities are trivialised, fetishised, degraded and marginalised when we make the completely arbitrary assumption that the categorisation of human beings should be strictly in terms of reproductive organs or chromosomes.

“Prove it”

There is no test for being gay or trans, and no apparent genetic difference. We have biological hints and clues in a process known as epigenesis. We see behaviour reminiscent of both gay and trans experience in the animal kingdom, but we cannot prove or disprove being gay or trans, nor can we simplistically extrapolate findings in nature to our more socially complex existence. Self-identification is the only option. We have mostly come to accept the self-identification of gay people, now we need to offer the same dignity to trans people.

“It’s a modern invention”

There is a belief in some cultures that homosexuality was invented in the modern west, a symbol of its decadence and corruption. Of course, we know that homosexuality has occurred in different social forms and with different meanings throughout history, and we also understand that homophobia may well be the result of colonialism in many countries who now cling to it. Equally, being trans did not originate with western culture and medicine. It takes many forms and meanings throughout history and culture and appears in many religions. Even surgical alteration has manifested in history, and while modern medicine provides new choices, it was the pre-existing trans community that asked for these options, not a medical profession diagnosing and enforcing them.

“If we allow it, everyone will do it”

You can’t “turn” someone gay. You can’t “turn” someone trans. Acceptance may bring more people out of the closet, but it will not change people’s orientation.

“I hate the word cisgender”

Heterosexual people resisted the introduction of a word that describes them impartially in relation to gay people. They prefer to use words like “normal” “natural” or “straight” (the opposite of their own chosen terms for gay people; queer, bent, abnormal, unnatural). Likewise cisgender (non-trans) people are resisting this neutral word, preferring terms like real, natural, or biological (even if being trans is entirely likely to be natural and biological in origin). Hopefully, we all know that people exist on a continuum, and that gay/straight, trans/cis should not be seen in terms of simplistic dichotomies.

“It’s a sickness – treat their mental health!”

It is established, and written into the guidelines of most psychological and counselling bodies, that reparative therapy does not work for either gay or trans people, and that neither is a sign of mental illness. It is now understood that the increased mental illness found in gay and trans populations is as a result of marginalisation and oppression. The bestowing of rights and social support decreases the incidence of mental health issues.

“You’re just confused”

Being trans and being gay are constantly confused with one another – if a man acts “effeminate” or a woman is “masculine”, it is assumed to be related to their sexuality rather than their gender. In countries like Iran, transitioning is seen as a culturally acceptable way to “deal with” being gay, but in most western cultures being gay is more socially acceptable than being trans. The confusion lies in the fact that there is a clear crossover between the two populations; nonetheless they are separate things, and trans people are not confused gay people any more than gay people are confused trans people.

The interrelatedness of these two experiences and the prevalence of gender variance within the LGB community means it is essential for LGB people to be the most passionate allies to the trans community, and vice versa. In the words of Audre Lorde:

“There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.”