Not Proud – London Pride 2017

By Fran Springfield

As an out gay woman I have always loved going to Pride. From small events to the big London parade, I have always felt part of a wonderful celebratory community. But not this year.

The posters and Equinox alphabet video, as part of their ‘Commit to Something’ campaign, do not resonate with me at all. The furore of complaints in the gay press has assured me I’m not alone in my unhappiness.

Let me dissect the video, a short film entitled “LGBTQ Alphabet: Six Letters Will Never Be Enough.” The music was good, great dancers too. I like the idea of of using the LGBTQI alphabet soup as way of being inclusive. But they just got it so wrong. This is the list they used:

Here is the full list of the alphabet definitions described in the video:

A – Ally

B – Bisexual

C – Coming out

D – Drag

E – Exhibitionist

F – Femme

G – Gay

H – Heteroflexibile

I – Intersex

J – Justified

K – Kink

L – Lesbian

M – Masc

N – Non-binary

O – Out

P – Pansexual

Q – Queer

R – Real

S – S & M

T – Trans

U – Undecided

V – Vogue

W – Womxn

X – Xtravagant

Y – You

Z – Ze | Zir

A for Ally – because?  Is the implication that we still need allies?  This is a Pride video – the hint is in the title – why do we need to be proud that we have allies? Pride is about celebrating our community. Having “straight” allies is fine, but Pride is about us.

Why not have A for androgyny? What about asexuality or agender?

B and C are fine, but D for drag should mention Drag Kings too and what about D for Dyke?

E I can cope with, but F for Femme? Acceptable but hardly used these days.

Surely F for Fluid as in Gender Fluid is much more relevant? Especially as it is an identity which more younger people are comfortable with.

H, works, even though it includes “hetro”.

I’m particularly pleased that I for intersex was included is being more visible. For people who are born with any of the complexities involved in that diagnosis, more visibility, awareness and understanding can only be a good thing. Though again, it could have been used to show that being intersex is a diverse identity, with some people presenting as male, others as female and a number of identities in between.

J to M are self-explanatory – though Masc is a new descriptor to me – and is very male-centric.

I’m delighted that N for non-binary is there – again this is giving greater visibility for an identity that is often poorly understood.

O and P make sense too.

But Q just being for queer? There’s also Gender Queer – a term that is being heard much more often and is often regarded as the twin of Gender Fluid.

What about Q for questioning? Something nearly all of us have gone thorough at some stage of our lives. Because there are multiple gender and sexual identities visible these day, it can take time for many children and teenagers to find where they are on the gender and sexuality spectrums.

We need to send the message that questioning is fine, if done of ourselves. But by others? That’s a whole other conversation. No-one has the right to question how we see ourselves and who we love. That message should be part of Pride and who we are. Anything less demeans us.

Real and S&M speak for themselves.

However T for trans does not. The word is transgender or transsexual. Trans if often regarded as a term of abuse and is disliked by many who are proud to be transsexual or transgender. Which of those identifiers to use is an argument all of its own, which I’m not going to to even attempt to begin here. There are strong views on both sides. So use both, but not just trans. Remember too that not all transpeople identify female, at least 25% identify as male.

Whilst not often encountered in the UK, Two Spirit people, often from Native American heritage, are equally valid to be part of the T within our community.

The remainder of the letters from U to Y work fairly well. Though Vogue strikes me as something fleeting and transitory.

It’s great to see Ze/Zir included as gender neutral pronouns. I look forward to their increased use over the years to come. For me they are friendly and easy to use and work well in everyday speech. Whilst I respect people who wish to use “they, them and theirs”, I personally feel uncomfortable using these pronouns. I guess that’s because of my years working within the transgender community, where for transsexual people “they” is seem as term of derision. Its use by family, friends and work colleagues who don’t want to deal with the realities of somebody’s transition is hurtful and shaming.

Sorry Equinox, you’ve really missed people out. Definitely could do better. More inclusion needed for next year please!

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About the Author

Fran Springfield RGN MSc, is a Clinical Nurse Specialist in Gender Identity. 25 years ago she became the first Specialist Nurse in the UK to gain that designation. She has written and lectured on gender identity issues both in the UK and internationally. Throughout her career she has been an advocate for transgender rights and equality.

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A Whole Lot of Pride

By Carly Piper

I have been going to Brighton Pride since I was 4 years old. That’s right, 4. My Mum used to take me down to Preston Park for a walk as my Nan lived just around the corner. I have vague memories of smiling faces, loud music and lots of laughter. My most recent memories are similarly vague, but for slightly different reasons of course (perhaps due to the levels of alcohol in my blood stream). Still though, the smiling faces, loud music and laughter remain.

For many people, Pride is a reason to cover yourself in glitter, throw on something transparent and start drinking neat vodka at 9am. Which is fine, great even. But for many people, Pride means an awful lot more, and I am one of those people. Now, I am going to share with you what Pride means to me.

My first memory of realising that girls could like girls and boys could like boys was when I was 8 years old. I was walking up Rose Hill with my Dad and we were discussing the future, as you do when you are young. ‘When will I get married?’, ‘When will I have babies?’. You know the conversations, the ones that are hilarious to adults and truly confusing for young girls. Some girls are determined to have 13 children and get married to Mr. Right ASAP, and in other cases, they want to become zoologists and run away to Canada. Most children just don’t know what they want, and neither did I, as I was about to prove to my future self.

“What will I do when I’m older?” I asked my Dad, holding his hand, looking up at him with a scrunched up nose.

“Well, you will probably get a job and have a boyfriend … or girlfriend”, he answered breezily. My Dad is one of those people who to the naked eye looks like a burly scaffolder who drinks Fosters and smokes roll-ups (which he is). but beneath the exterior, he can be the kindest and most supportive person on the planet. This conversation stuck with me throughout my whole life and it is one I will take to the grave, so cheers Dad!

“YUCK!” I detested. “A BOYfriend, Dad, I will have a BOYfriend” and I rolled my eyes and walked a bit faster.

My next memory was of being at my Nan’s house watching music videos on TV. Christina Aguilera’s song, ‘Beautiful’ came on. If you’ve seen it, it features two men kissing. Well, my Nan wasn’t the biggest fan of this video. I won’t embarrass her by repeating exactly what she said, but you may be able to make it up in your head, and the video was turned over. Needless to say, she was disgusted.

At school, being Gay or Bi was considered a ‘phase’ by most. Lots of my friends went through the ‘phase’ and we all had weird, short, meaningless relationships with each other, while trying to figure out whether we actually liked the other person or not. I was unlucky enough to fall for two different people at school, neither of which reciprocated the feeling, but the experience revealed to me that maybe my Dad was on to something.

A few years later and I have been married (yes, married! ) to a woman. We got married in the first year that it was actually legal in the UK. We are now separated. It has always baffled me how gay marriage was illegal at one point, even up until a few years ago. That’s like saying ‘you can’t love this person’. No one has the right to say that! Least of all the government. I just don’t understand it. Although, I get told a lot that I think this way because I have been fortunate enough to live in Brighton since I was born. This may or may not be true. Brightonians on the whole tend to be a lot more open minded about most things, we’re known for it! I now live in Polegate with my beautiful partner who has two children from a previous marriage and I couldn’t be happier.

Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t feel the same as me on this subject. Now, I understand that people have different opinions and beliefs. That is an amazing, wonderful thing, as it means that we aren’t all walking around eating the same thing, wearing the same thing and all fancying the same people. That would be boring. But when it comes to individuals causing physical harm and even murdering those who are fortunate enough to have found someone they love, but happen to be the same sex, that’s just not human in my eyes. But this happens, and when I found this out, I was much more disgusted than that day on Rose Hill with my Dad.

So when I go to Pride on the first weekend of August, yes, I drink vodka at 9am, but I also remember that not everyone is as lucky as I am. Throughout the years, there have been a lot of people who have been judged and ridiculed because of their sexuality. I remember that a ridiculous amount of people, even now, maybe even someone reading this, hide who they really are because they are scared. So I go to Pride to show that I am proud. Proud to be who I am, and that I know so many amazing people who are proud of who they are, and even prouder to shout it from the rooftops, dressed in chiffon, covered in glitter on the first weekend of August every year.

Oh, and if you were wondering, my Nan was in the front row at my wedding and asks after my girlfriend on a daily basis. People surprise you. Be proud.

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Note

This post was originally published on Carly’s website: http://www.carlypiperwriter.co.uk/a-whole-lot-of-pride – please follow the link to read more from this writer.

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About the Author

My name is Carly. I am a born and bred Brighton girl heading towards the ‘big 3-0’. I now live in Polegate with my girlfriend and her two children where I write, create and learn. I write directly from the heart so that my views are heard correctly by my audience. What you read is what I think. Big believer in jam before cream on scones.

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Dysphoria, the Trans Movement and Choice: An Argument

By Lilifer Penfold

Disclaimer: I think it is important to clarify before I start this spiel that I’m not anti-trans. I don’t have ill will against anyone, regardless of how they choose to live their life and, as someone who has identified and been identified as trans, I think it’s important that I clarify that this is not a critique against what people choose to do; it’s against an ideology, one which I think is harmful due to its missing the point.

I also want to clarify that this may not be a critique against all trans movements, just as an attack against a certain religion will not take account of all the multitude of sects that are contained within it. I feel here, there may be movements which share my sentiment, although I feel they may be miscategorising themselves, for I’m reading ‘trans movement’ as one that promotes trans-genderism: the freedom to choose one’s gender, within a binary system, regardless of sex.

To read more about me, please read my biography here.

My main argument against the trans movement is that it achieves little more than the ideology it attempts to overcome, that it provides only an ounce more freedom; a choice of gender, but in doing so it fails to break away from the social pressures that have caused people to feel dysphoric. It provides two boxes where there was previously one, when what it should be aiming for is none.

To begin with, I have a few minor points that I will lay out as food for thought, but that will also form part of my later arguments.

The first of these is related to the language of the trans movement. Although the movement holds up the importance of distinguishing between sex and gender, there are certain terms that don’t do this. Take ‘male to female’ as an example, many advocates of the trans movement would, I hope, hold that sex and gender are distinct aspects of a person that just because one is male they need not be a man, but the language here suggests that when one transitions it is between sex, a biological anatomical kind, not gender, a social kind.

The second is the confusion around the meaning of dysphoria, for it is too often read as meaning that one has the wrong body. If this were the case then what is being discussed is again sex, not gender, and it suggests essentialism about sex: that there are male and female brains that are distinct. However, when looking at how most people (those who haven’t knowingly experienced dysphoria) think about their gender, they may only do so when it comes to the products they buy, the activities they do and the people they choose to spend time with, and even then this may be done minimally. Otherwise gender is not something that occupies most people’s minds they don’t walk down the street and wonder what the other people see and whether it matches up with how they identify, but for the dysphorics among you this is a regular occurrence. There is this desire to be seen a certain way, and that failing to be seen in that way is a failure to be the person you feel yourself to be. The dysphoria is caused not because one isn’t the sex or gender they are meant to be if it were this, then a dysphoric would never feel at ease with their body but because one feels that they are not seen as they would like to be; they experience societal pressures to be a way they do not want to be, and this is why amongst other trans people or confidants, a dysphoric may feel released from these pressures, forgetting them momentarily.

With this out the way I now move on to the problems I think the trans movement faces.
The trans movement can often be conceived as pro-freedom-of-choice (pro-foc) by this I mean that the freedom to choose between either being a ‘man’ or a ‘woman’ is promoted. The extent of this can be seen in Brighton where councils have at least considered (how far this has gone I am uncertain) letting primary school children pick their preferred gender, or in any environment where a young child is asked to choose what they would prefer. This ‘pro-foc’ mentality I feel is misguided, as it fails to realise its similarities to the ideology it attempts to oppose. There may be progress in giving freedom to choose between two boxes, but in doing so it still maintains that those ‘boxes’ exist and that people are either one or the other, and that the person has to behave, look and generally be a certain way. Asking a child if they would prefer to be a boy or a girl is like asking them if they prefer blue or pink and saying that because of this choice they now have to conform to a whole range of conditions.

Pro-foc is, I believe, at most, mildly better than that which it tries to oppose as it gives one extra choice, but I feel that it still misses the point the point being that what is needed to begin to create a society without dysphoria is the complete removal of a need for gender identification. By using these categories in this way people are being placed in boxes which will either be so loose to be meaningless, “I identify as a woman because I say so,” or too tight, “you are a woman so you must do x, y and z.” It is only through assuming that one’s gender choice dictates something about oneself that any reason can be given for letting people choose, for otherwise it serves no purpose.

The second problem arises when it comes to treatments. There are a vast number of treatments available to a dysphoric, most of which are either hormonal or cosmetic, and these are sought to allow one to obtain the body they feel that they should have. This, however, seems to blur the lines between sex and gender, for if it is necessary for one to have the biological features of the sex one’s chosen gender is thought to have, then this doesn’t conform with the sex/gender distinction, it suggests an essentialism. If these treatments are necessary then one is dysphoric about their sex not their gender. Furthermore, if it is truly about gender then it suggests that one must have certain physical features to be of that gender, and it ignores the broad variation of physical features that exist within each sex alone: there are hairy females and hairless men, flat chested females and boobed men, females with deep voices and males with high voices, and so on. The idea that one needs to have treatment to be the gender they want ignores these variations it suggests that certain things are needed to be a gender and if this is so then there are many whose assigned birth gender would not correspond due to a lack of these features.

Overall the trans movement seems very confused with itself. It seems to want a gender/sex distinction, but in its attempts to do so it suggests that there are certain essential sexed features that are necessary for gender, and its pro-foc mentality serves only to place individuals in ill-fitting boxes.

Why Do People Feel the Need to Transition? And What Should We Do?

I think there is a strong analogy between why people feel a need to transition and why people feel a need to wear makeup. People who wear makeup can be broken-down into two, non-mutually exclusive groups: those who feel they have to and those who want to. Those who feel they have to, do so because they feel pressured by society to look a certain way, they feel that a failure to do so undermines who they are and their role within society. I hold that the same is true for most dysphorics who feel a need to transition. They are doing so not because they want to but because they feel a need to they feel that if they do not look like the sex of their preferred gender then they fail to be who they want to be and how they can be within society. None of this is surprising either when considering how persecuted trans people have been, if the only option for fitting in and survival is to appear fully as the sex of one’s preferred gender, then it is only natural that one would feel a need to be so.

I hope, with time, that this feeling of needing to transition will subside; that those who transition do so because they want to, much as one gets any other body modification, whether it be cat, lizard or standard human cosmetic. I say this because I think the trans movement, in trying to do good, has made people think that transitioning is the only answer to their unhappiness. From my personal experience I believe that this is not the case transitioning may help some, but not all, feel more comfortable within themselves, but it’s not a real solution as for many it may make things worse. What I think will help those who experience dysphoria is the breaking-down of gender roles, removing the pressures to conform, something which will aid dysphorics and non-dysphorics alike. The solution then is not to give people the bodies they think they need, but to breed a society in which one does not feel pressured due to their physical form; that to wear a dress and makeup and be all girly does not require soft skin, ample breasts and a certain hormone level.

Thank you for reading to the end.

LGBT* on the Streets

By Nick Burdett and Emma Simpson 

Originally delivered as a speech at the Young Local Authority of the Year 2016 public speaking competition by the representatives of Leeds City Council on Thursday 19th February 2016.

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We make assumptions about homeless people. There might be people in this room that would stand up and deny that, but these assumptions are culturally produced and lie thick across our grey matter. Even if you aren’t making them, you will hear them from the mouths of others: lazy, drug addict, dangerous, mentally ill. The reality, of course, is that people become homeless for a large number of reasons. The way we speak about these reasons reveals us, as do the things we don’t say. Something that often escapes the assumption of grumbling pedestrians passing by the homeless is their sexuality or gender identity.

Queer is an umbrella term that can be used to define anyone that identifies as something other than heterosexual or cisgender. It indicates that someone exists outside of these social norms of gender and sexuality without specifying an exact gender identity, or with whom that person forms relationships. Queer is a fluid label that can help to create a bond for members of the entire LGBTQ+ community. Queer is still seen as controversial by some, because of its history as a slur, but it has since been reclaimed by many members of the LGBTQ community.

Of the young homeless people in the UK, the Albert Kennedy Trust estimates that one in four of them identify as queer. This isn’t simple demographic representation. One in four homeless young people aren’t gay, lesbian, bisexual or trans* because it mimics the rest of the UK community. The number of queer homeless youth is disproportionate to the known percentage of queer people in the general population. According to the 2014 Integrated Household Survey, more than 90% of 16-24 year olds identified as straight, with less than 3% openly identifying as L, G, B or T.

So what is the reason for this discrepancy? Leeds City Council, in its recently released ‘Housing Equality Improvement Priority Areas’ report, claims that, of people using homeless accommodation services in England, over 60% are young people made homeless due to a “relationship breakdown” with family and friends. One origin of such relationship breakdown is a child, peer or partner being something other than heterosexual or cisgender. Homophobia and transphobia mean that family acceptance and safe homes are not guaranteed for young queer people.

We are now coming out earlier and earlier than our contemporaries. Where people would come out in mid-life or in their 20s and 30s, young queer people today are coming out at 12 and 13. While this is a positive indication of social cues that affirm queer identities, it means that young people, who are forcibly expelled from their homes, or under threat from family members, are too young to live independently.

Young queer people are also likely to have already exhausted the usual social safety nets of school, friends or foster care. Gay and trans* youth face bullying and marginalisation from peers in schools and in foster care, and are too frequently met with misunderstanding or further discrimination from adults in those environments. The Metro’s ‘Youth Chances’ survey identified that over 40% of young queer people had suffered from harassment and a further group of more than 20% had been physically assaulted because of their orientation or gender identity.

Salt in the wound of this lack of support at home or in school is the absence of targeted material from shelters or local government programmes — something that became clear to us early on in our research. Though there are social support groups available to the young queer population of Leeds, these have proved very difficult to find and, as stated, contain no explicit mention of homelessness concerns. This contributes to the notion that homeless queer youth are unwanted and unprotected. Even where services exist, and can be accessed successfully, queer people may still end up fleeing due to discrimination or harassment. Where public services are the only thing standing between young people and living on the streets, this is not only dangerous: it is an invitation to homelessness.

In the ‘Housing Equality Improvement Priority Areas’ report, Leeds City Council recognises youth homelessness as a key issue for our housing services. The document speaks on how we have let young people down, how we must do more to reach them, but it says nothing about queer youth. Queer identities are not recognised as a priority marker within the housing needs assessment, or included explicitly in documents focused on homelessness. The authority signposts third-sector organisations working to resolve domestic violence and sex trafficking within the queer community, but does not refer to any Leeds-based services that tackle homelessness. Leeds City Council has also only recently introduced equality and diversity training for all staff, which raises questions about the preparedness of front-line services interacting directly with vulnerable queer people.

While we appreciate that many staff may have joined the authority before queer issues had come to the fore, these are barriers we must overcome — and quickly. We cannot assume that our messaging is reaching queer people: without an explicit focus on the particular needs of that demographic, it is unfair to expect them to feel safe in approaching our services. In 2006, Michelle Wang, a lesbian woman from Chicago, was turned away from a homelessness shelter after she told staff about her orientation. In 2014, a shelter run by the Salvation Army refused housing for a transgender woman on the basis of her gender identity. When stories like these exist, we must be proactive in reaching out. As Michelle Wang commented, “Too often, vulnerable people are too occupied with meeting their immediate needs to exercise their rights.”

While the situation for young queer people may seem dire, there are some institutions that are getting it right. Manchester City Council, for example, has worked with the LGBT Foundation to build a homelessness service specifically committed to examining the threat of homophobic, biphobic and transphobic behaviour as part of a needs assessment. Councils everywhere should be doing the same.

Not only that; local authorities must also tackle LGBTQ homelessness at its source by running programmes for family acceptance, and working closely with schools to support and protect queer students. Front-line staff must be trained in equality and diversity to prepare them for conversations around sexuality and gender identity, and queer youth must be named as a priority in housing policy. For too long we have overlooked or ignored the welfare of our queer citizens: it’s time for a change.

We Need to Talk About Sex (Education)

By Amber Wilson and Kaammini Chanrai

Originally delivered as a speech at the Young Local Authority of the Year 2016 public speaking competition by the representatives of Brent Council on Thursday 19th February 2016.

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We need to talk about sex. Well actually, we need to talk about relationships and sex.

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Consent workshops were recently introduced in universities around the country. However, one particular university student didn’t see their value. Holding up a sign stating ‘This is not what a rapist looks like’, George Lawlor publicly refused to attend. He found the invitation an insult, arguing that the seminars would be “a waste of time” and that no new information would be learnt. Yet, an astounding number of myths continue to surround the concept of consent, such as references to a grey area and references to victim blaming.

Clearly, we are not the only ones that need to talk about sex and relationships.

However, comprehensive Sex and Relationships Education is still not statutory across British schools. At most schools, some topics are compulsory from the age of eleven, such as reproduction and sexually transmitted infections. However, discussions on consent, healthy relationships and online safety are often missed out entirely. With nearly half a million cases of sexual assault every year, decreased funding to domestic violence services and an influx of online abuse, we must ask ourselves: are we really doing enough to teach young people about sex and relationships?

So, what is Sex and Relationships Education?

Sex and Relationships Education, or SRE, teaches the emotional, social and physical aspects of growing up. Although SRE includes lessons on sex, sexuality and sexual health, it is not limited to this. SRE gives young people essential skills for building positive, respectful and non-exploitative relationships and staying safe both on- and offline.

So, why is SRE so important?

Although it’s not mandatory to teach SRE, we definitely have a legal obligation to protect children from harm. Ofsted found that SRE is inadequate in nearly half of schools and that this leaves children vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. An estimated one in twenty secondary school children have been sexually assaulted and sadly, most of these cases go unreported. Children need to be taught how to recognise this abuse. Too many children don’t even know the official names of genitals let alone how to report when somebody is taking advantage of their body.

In the wake of several scandals, child sexual exploitation and grooming have become a national priority for social services. What we have learnt from high profile cases is that, too often, vulnerable young people have been groomed to expect that a Happy Meal deserves a “happy ending” for the person buying. Consent requires choice and the freedom and capacity to make that choice. This is not just about the grooming and abuse of children. The demand for university consent workshops arose because young adults feel they are leaving school without having properly addressed the issue of consent. Statements like “well, she seemed up for it” can no longer be tolerated.

Young people have a right to information that will keep them healthy and safe. It’s widely reported that when pupils receive lessons on sex, consent and relationships, their first sexual activity is likely to occur later, and is more likely to be safe and consensual. Effective SRE can also lower rates of STIs, teenage pregnancy and abortion. Let’s take Finland for example. When SRE was made optional in 1994, Finland saw a fall in the use of contraception and a 50% increase in teenage pregnancy. SRE has since been reintroduced. It is careless that we continue to ignore these tangible benefits that SRE can bring.

Teenagers are frequently involved in online sexual activity, often below the legal age of consent. The UK’s largest group of internet pornography consumers is 12-17 year olds. Yet, the last government guidance on SRE dates back to the year 2000, well before the rise of Facebook, Snapchat and Tinder and Grindr hook-ups. Considering these changes that we have seen to social networking, it is crucial that we provide proper education on online relationships and cyber-safety. Online bullying towards the LGBTQ+ community has also increased dramatically in recent years. The fact is that virtual relationships are being virtually ignored by the outdated SRE guidance.

Unsurprisingly, the lack of comprehensive and consistent SRE in schools disproportionately affects women and girls. SRE would include teaching on healthy, equal relationships and violence against women and girls, including topics such as Female Genital Mutilation, domestic violence and sexual abuse. This surely lies at the heart of a society based on gender equality and human rights. As women, we are told how to keep ourselves out of danger. But shouldn’t we be teaching the next generation not to perpetrate violence rather than just how to avoid it? Prevent isn’t cure. The economic cost alone of violence against women and girls in the UK is over £40 billion a year. And what of the human cost? Two women are killed by domestic violence every week. This is frankly unacceptable.

We would like to see a compulsory, age-appropriate programme of SRE on curricula across all primary and secondary schools. If SRE were statutory, the material would gain legitimacy and consistency, and teachers would feel more confident and supported teaching the subject. This would also mean increased funding and resources, better teacher-training as well as specialist teachers. While there is of course a financial implication of implementing SRE nation-wide, future benefits would definitely outweigh any short-term costs.

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George Lawlor has not been alone in arguing that consent workshops are a waste of time. However, different reasons have been given for this. Introducing consent classes at university is too little, too late. These lessons need to be embedded from childhood. Otherwise, we are complicit in the exploitation of children, we fail to prevent violence against women and girls, and we undermine the opportunity for both women and men to have happy and healthy relationships. Enough is enough.

A call by MPs to make Sex and Relationships Education compulsory in all schools was rejected by Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, earlier this month. This decision has been widely criticised by students, teachers and parents.

Do Civil Partnerships Have a Future?

By Hannah Bacon

December marked the 10th anniversary of the introduction of civil partnerships in England and Wales. But do they have a future? Can we even tell after such a short time?

Current legal recognition for relationships in the UK is a bit of a muddle. The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 was created separately to existing marriage legislation, rather than simply amending existing marriage law to make it gender neutral. Certain grounds for divorce in marriage law, such as ‘suffering from a venereal disease in a communicable form’ and adultery, are not present in civil partnership law. Plus, changes to new marriage certificates are being proposed in an effort to include mothers’ names in addition to fathers’, something that civil partnerships included right from the outset.

Despite campaigns led by Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan, and the Peter Tatchell Foundation, there remains strong opposition to giving couples more choice. The Prime Minister opposes opening up civil partnerships to different-gender couples because of concerns about ‘undermining the sanctity of marriage’, an uncomfortably familiar phrase that does not promise equal treatment and respect for choice. Equality is precisely the reason why many couples wish to have the option of committing to each other without being married. Holly Baxter is put off by a ‘long history of women-as-chattel’ and considers that the ‘Labour [government]…accidentally made something genuinely worth having.’

A not very widely publicised consultation was undertaken by the coalition government in 2014, the results of which were inconclusive: ‘Given the lack of consensus on the way forward for civil partnership, the Government will not be making any changes.’ While it makes sense not to charge ahead with changes until they have been thought through properly, the reluctance to get around the table again to try to find a solution sends a glaring message.

This message seems to be that civil partnerships were never intended to be a proper equivalent to marriage in the first place. The report shows that 76% of respondents were against opening up the option of civil partnerships to different-gender couples, many of whom stated that their reason was tied to civil partnerships being inferior to marriage. As part of the consultation, Christian Concern expressed a worry about ‘greater instability within families’ if fewer different-gender couples opt for marriage. Perhaps it is worth questioning whether it is realistic or desirable to expect one size to fit all.

Encouragement to convert civil partnerships into marriage was relatively forthcoming, at the end of 2014, with some even (tellingly) referring to it as an “upgrade”. If we consider the language used when this is discussed, mention of ‘full marriage’ crops up quite a lot, both in the media and in everyday conversation, suggesting that even after a number of years of trying, a civil partnership just does not carry the same weight. Friends of mine were excited to learn in 2014 that I could now be ‘fully married’ if I wanted to, not because they would show a difference in respect for my relationship, but because it is very deeply ingrained idea that it is best to be married.

It is essential to remember, however, that many couples rejoiced at the opportunity to “convert”, particularly for those who grew up during a time where homosexuality was illegal. For Percy Steven and Roger Lockyer, being declared “husband and husband” was an emotional moment that they never expected to come, describing it as ‘really rather lovely’ to be ‘married at last’. Despite little change in practical legal status, emotional status is perhaps even more important, ‘To me, it feels like reaching the top.’ Like it or not, marriage does still seem to be the “gold standard”, and the power of social approval cannot be underestimated.

As a gay 15 year old, hearing that the UK considered my future potential relationships to mean something, lessened a fear of being misunderstood or treated badly. I remember listening to the radio on the way to school in winter 2005, and hearing the announcement that same-gender relationships were soon to be legally recognised. It gave me confidence. It gave me a starting point for beginning to be honest about who I was. The white dress did not matter, but the possibility that society thought I was okay definitely did. The idea that maybe, just maybe, I would be treated the same as everyone else, lifted a significant weight from me.

Now 10 years later, I am not as fussed about being like everyone else. I now strongly believe in not needing to be the same in order to be equal, and have learned to go my own way, even if it does not comply with what is expected of me. But it can take a long time to get to that point, and I do not believe that anyone truly does not care what others think of them.

Love comes in all shapes and sizes. Making fewer judgements about how others’ relationships should be conducted is the way to go, and perhaps civil partnerships have the ability to offer us this in a way that traditional marriage does not. Last year, a Conservative peer argued for siblings to be able to ‘ease the burden of inheritance tax’ by entering into civil partnerships. Opposition to his beliefs included the statement that ‘civil partnerships are the equivalent of a marriage: a loving union.’ One can see where this idea came from. The initial attempt to sell the idea of civil partnerships to same-gender couples was based on making it as similar to marriage as possible without having to call it marriage.

But what if we decided to apply the term ‘loving union’ more widely? Catherine and Ginda Utley are two sisters who have co-parented 22-year-old Livvy for her whole life, and simply wish for more security for their committed family. This is unobtainable for them because of the fact that siblings cannot form legal partnerships. Marriage is perhaps more difficult to change, given that it is much older and more tied with tradition in people’s minds. Opening up civil partnerships, however, could be a fabulous opportunity to recognise the many different ways in which people form loving and committed connections outside of romantic and sexual relationships.

Looking deeper into the nuances of human interaction can encourage us to question why we will formally recognise some relationships but not others. Queerplatonic relationships, for example, question why romantic and/or sexual relationships must always be prioritised over others, and attempt to create a space for individuals to determine their commitments and feelings for themselves. Some are prone to asking, “When will it stop?” but perhaps the question should be, “Should it stop?” Why not celebrate the wonderful diversity of human relationships in its entirety, and allow people to define their lives on their own terms?

This is also potentially an argument for getting rid of the need for state recognition of relationships altogether. Being legally bound to someone should not be needed for a human connection to be considered legitimate in the first place. Some are totally against entering into any legal partnership, due to beliefs about its outdatedness and irrelevance in today’s society. In an ideal world, perhaps, we would not need to prove the acceptability of our feelings for one another. Further, we would not require legal formalities for things like hospital visits and inheritance, but rather a culture of trust would be present, with no need to protect oneself. Further still, someone choosing to live a single life would not be penalised. In short, there would be respect afforded to a wider variety of people and lives.

Having said that, this is currently not the world we live in, and so it arguably remains very necessary for folks to be able to clearly state the nature of a relationship. An example of this is the fact that some couples wish to be in a secure position internationally. This could be due to factors such as: differing nationalities, deciding to relocate, or travelling together. So even if a couple feels that a civil partnership more closely matches their values concerning gender equality and modernity, they may still choose to enter into a marriage because of the universal recognition and respect afforded to that status.

Despite the fact that most countries in the world would not officially recognise two people of the same gender as married, the simplicity of phrases such as, “We are married,” or “She is my wife,” holds much power. The Irish campaign for marriage equality puts it as, ‘The word itself is a fundamental protection, conveying clearly that you and your life partner love each other…everyone understands that.’

Respecting individuals’ wishes in terms of relationships is vitally important, and arguably what this is all about. Formalising relationships remains significant for many, both in a legal and emotional sense. We just need to put some work into broadening our definition of what a “relationship” is, and perhaps we should keep civil partnerships around for another 10 years to see what else they can do for us.

Half of 18-24 Year Olds Not Completely Straight: Continuing the Conversation

By Hannah Bacon

The recent news that almost half of young people in Britain today identify as something other than completely heterosexual, goes some way in representing a welcome shift in the way society views sexuality and its complexities. It is, however, important to extend the conversation and think critically about the ground we still have to cover.

Whereas many will never have heard of the Kinsey scale before learning of the new research by YouGov, suggesting  that — among other things — more and more people are accepting the idea that sexuality is more complex than simply “heterosexual or homosexual”, this is old news to many, and to many more it was never news in the first place.

Kinsey’s work was undoubtedly a key step in deepening understanding surrounding sexuality in 1948, but in 2015, we can go further. Bisexuality in particular is often treated (when it is not being condemned or outright erased) as something new — as some sort of intangible futuristic entity that only exists in sci-fi (think: Captain Jack Harkness in Doctor Who/Torchwood). We often fail to recognise that bisexuality has always existed, and also that there are real, actual people with a lived bisexual experience right now. Here, it is vital to be aware that bisexuality can be a legitimate, separate identity all by itself, and that it’s not always as simple as defining a bisexual person as “a bit gay and a bit straight.”

To an extent, this is what the research and the subsequent reporting on it is trying to point out — that more than just “gay or straight” exists in the world. The implication by recent headlines that this is somehow a new thing is bizarre. It is clear, however, that an aim of all this is to show that more and more people now accept that sexuality is more complex than “gay or straight”, which is obviously a good thing. For example, according to the research, 60% of heterosexuals and 73% of homosexuals now agree that there is some sort of middle ground between “heterosexual” and “homosexual” — is it not curious though that we still don’t seem to recognise bisexuality as an identity on its own, in many cases neglecting to even use the word, instead favouring “open-minded” or “fluid”?

Despite rhetoric about making too much of a “fuss”, it is essential, too, to think a little more deeply when it comes to sexuality. If you want to conduct progressive research in this area, focusing on Kinsey’s work just isn’t sufficient to get a well-rounded view on today’s population. An alternative to the Kinsey scale is the Klein grid. Here, past, present and future orientations are explored, as well as seven different facets of sexuality: sexual attraction, sexual behaviour, sexual fantasies, emotional preference, social preference, lifestyle, and self-identification. A problem with only using the Kinsey scale is that it encourages us to put one single number on what could be a whole range of life experiences.

For example, if I were to say that I’m a 5, what assumptions would you make about me? How are we defining a number 5? Am I commenting on past sexual encounters? Potential attraction? Self-identity? The Klein grid gives us a much better tool to help answer these questions and understand ourselves. The ability to potentially place ourselves at different points for behaviour, attraction, and identity, for example, speaks so much more accurately to many people’s experiences, and allows much more space for individuals to define their own sense of self. This helps to fight against a common tendency for folks to try and determine which of these facets is most important when defining or labelling someone else. For example, one could place oneself at a number 4 on Klein’s 1 to 7 scale for attraction, behaviour, and fantasy, but feel personally that their identity as a number 7 is the most important.

The fact that Klein acknowledges the existence of different kinds of attraction, and different ways to describe oneself makes the grid significantly friendlier to asexual and/or aromantic people too. While Kinsey did denote an ‘X’ in his research for people who he couldn’t place on the scale, this leaves no room for asexual people experiencing no sexual attraction to instead measure themselves by romantic attraction, or by sexual behaviour (as sexual attraction is not a necessary requirement for sexual behaviour). It is true that Klein’s grid does not as explicitly include the options to state “none of the above” or similar, but by virtue of recognising the complexity of sexuality, it lends itself better to someone deciding to just leave one section blank if they don’t experience it, and crucially, that person still has six other facets to consider and is not completely left out.

Of course, nothing is perfect; both the Kinsey scale and the Klein grid reinforce ideas about gender binaries — placing men and women at opposite ends of the same scale is becoming an antiquated way of mapping gender, due to ideas being listened to more about gender as more of a mishmash of different factors than a biologically-determined reality. Placing “heterosexual” and “homosexual” at opposite ends of a scale amounts to much the same thing. Traditionally, the use of these terms relies on the belief that there are only two genders, and on rhetoric about one being “opposite” to the other.

Where Kinsey’s and Klein’s efforts are both over-simplified is that not all subjects will identify as solely male or solely female in the first place. People to whom this applies also have an (a)sexuality, and should therefore be counted and encouraged to participate. If you add all the men and all the women together, it will not make 100% of the population. This is significant not only because it is the right thing to do to recognise difference and be inclusive, but because if you alienate a group of potential respondents, your data will not be properly representative, either because such people may answer non-authentically out of necessity, or due to deciding not to take the survey at all because of non-binary erasure.

As with many LGBT+ issues at the moment, the news that sexuality can be viewed on a spectrum is, while promising, not a new and exciting revelation to many — mainly people who are bisexual and have identified as such for a long time. Delving even deeper into the complexities of sexuality, whether that is acknowledging asexuality, or allowing room for people with non-binary gender identities, is imperative for a fully-inclusive and informed society.

Spectrums not Binaries: Gender on Film

Gender And The City is proud to present its first ever video publication! Director Claudia Palazzo collaborates with Francis Doody and some of the GATC team to produce a short film that discusses gender, sexuality, self-possession and pop.

Against the backdrop of an Essex shower room three performers take us on a surreal journey of fears, fetishes and dance routines. We face the anxiety of finding yourself on the spectrum of gender and sexual orientation: the pressure of finding an identity while you’re still young enough to shape one.

The strong yet fluid performances combine with Francis Doody’s fragile vocals and Thomas Swarman’s deep baselines to draw us into the dilemma of the main character. Their apprehension about the gender binary translates into a moving tale about trying to find your position in a society obsessed with categories.

“I am interested in the moments before performance that are full of self-doubt and narcissism: the transitory space between the private and the public. I often think about how we perform being ourselves and what it means to lose yourself.” Claudia Palazzo (Creative Director and Choreographer).

Watch, reflect and let us know what you think!

Do you recognise the song?

Credits:

Director and Choreographer:  Claudia Palazzo

Director of Photography:         Ian Buswell

Music:                                      Don’t cha By The Pussycat Dolls

Arranged and performed by Francis Doody

Produced by Thomas Swarman

Performers:                              Francis Doody, Grace Nicol, Tom Tree

Crew:                                       Victoria Palazzo

Is Mainstream Media Confused About Bisexuality?

By Alice Ryder

The media’s portrayal of female sexuality has always left much to be desired. However, recently, there has been a specific focus and — on the part of the media — confusion, over fluid (and sometimes very clearly stated) sexualities of female celebrities.

There have been constant examples of this. The media downplayed Kristen Stewart’s relationships with women by calling them her ‘gal pals’. They named Abby Wambach’s wife her ‘friend’ alongside a picture of them kissing after Wambach won the Women’s World Cup. Amber Heard was labelled as an ex-lesbian upon her marriage to Johnny Depp resulting in her having to come out publically as bisexual yet again. Vogue reporter Rob Haskell implied that not only is Cara Delevingne’s bisexuality a phase, but that her relationships with women are also due to her having a difficult childhood dealing with her mother’s heroin addiction.

This is not an unusual opinion to have. Many people — both straight and within the LGBTQ+ community — have the opinion that bisexuals are attracted to two or more genders due to something awful that happened to them in their past, leaving them confused, greedy, promiscuous or all of the above. Even more people assume that bisexuality is a pit-stop they will leave behind on the way to being ‘fully gay’ — whatever that means. These are all harmful stereotypes that continually force bisexual and queer people back into the closet.

The problem is that the media is not interested in the romantic side of these relationships. They don’t care about the fact that this person fills a space in the female celebrities’ lives and that they ultimately love them for who they are, not the gender they are. Instead these reporters are reducing the relationships to either a sexual component (Who is the man in the relationship?, Do you miss sleeping with men?, How many other men and women have you slept with?) or some kind of pathology that will eventually be fixed by… you’ve guessed it, a man, when he tames their wild side or helps her solve the mental torment of whatever happened in her youth.

These patterns are also repeated in TV and film plotlines, where the bisexual character* is shown to be dangerous, malicious, a cheater and usually an all-round bad person, before her early exit into heterosexuality or untimely death.

[* This is if that word is ever used — which 99% of the time it isn’t — instead we might see that they dated a male character and then have some love affair/sex scene with a female character.]

There is a simultaneous fear and morbid curiosity when it comes to female sexuality and the media cannot decide if it is going to refer to every same sex-partner as a ‘gal pal’, erasing the lesbian and bisexual relationships, or become inappropriately involved in their sexual and romantic workings. Needless to say, either way, they aren’t doing it right. The question really needs to be asked: why do we feel the need to report on these things in the first place? And why, when they have been told multiple times, do they continue to get the identities of these women wrong, writing offensive, erasing and degrading articles instead?

One thing that is ultimately confusing for them is that bisexual identities are vast, and unsurprisingly not the same from one person to the next, with relationships involving multiple gender identities or some people having preferences in the gender of the people they date. It will not be easy to apply broad, sweeping generalisations on bisexual people, as often happens when it comes to lesbians and gay men. Big publications such as Vogue should be using this opportunity to promote alternate sexualities correctly instead of feeding into these harmful stereotypes about bisexual people.

It is these harmful stereotypes that have a lasting impact on the bisexual/queer community and the reason why bisexuals have lower mental, sexual and physical health than gay and lesbian people. Or why the statistics of rape, domestic violence and sexual assault against bisexual women are alarmingly higher than straight women or lesbians. Or why bisexual people are more likely to have low standards of sexual health due to health providers not understanding or just denying their sexuality. Or why suicide is high for bisexual people. Or why bisexual people are put into conversion camps or why ‘corrective rape’ is used against them to make them ‘pick a side’. Unfortunately, it is usually those who are most disadvantaged in the LGBTQ+ community who don’t reap the rewards from mainstream LGBT efforts.

It isn’t just the straight mainstream media that is writing damaging, biphobic articles about bisexual women. This week XO Jane posted an anonymous article written by a lesbian who has decided she is the identity police, ranting about her queer friends’ sexual activity and telling all bi women who are not out or who happen to date men, ‘fuck you’. It would be funny if it weren’t a damaging and upsetting opinion shared by a lot of the LG community.

The question we all really want answering is why do these platforms continue to post this discriminatory, biphobic content? Why aren’t there editors and blog owners who are standing up to journalists and writers who continually write misgendering, biphobic, homophobic, transphobic and generally terrible articles?

If the answer is because it fuels controversy, then that simply isn’t a good enough reason when it contributes first-hand to the violence that is inflicted on the bi community. It’s amazing that we have celebrities such as Amber Heard, Alan Cumming and Anna Paquin publically standing up for bisexual rights. But there is an essential need for the mainstream media to catch up with LGBTQ+ politics and refuse to publish biphobic, homophobic and transphobic content as well.

What is ‘Normal’?

By Jessie Brookes

If you type ‘romance’ into Google Images, you have to browse through over a thousand photos before reaching one that does not contain some reference to a heterosexual relationship. Preconceptions of what is deemed to be ‘normal’ social behaviour are constantly challenged in the world that we live in and yet if we listen carefully to the background noise, it appears that the pressure to be ‘normal’ has an unfaltering presence in everything we do.

In this post-modern world, the need to be different has become paramount. We aspire to stand out from the crowd, to escape stereotypes, to be individuals in our own rights. And yet stereotypes still exist, everyone still fits into categories — and these categories are either normative, or they are not.

Even within social scientific research — where the goal is surely to gain access to objective truths (or the closest equivalent) — categories are predefined. Studies will occur on homosexual behaviour; or females between the ages of 18-25; or British Asians — as though by narrowing down the field of research to a category smaller than ‘human’, one will be able to understand that category more fully.

Heterosexuality is rarely studied in its own right, but is instead used as a comparison within the study of activities that may be considered less common. Is this because the majority of people are heterosexual, and therefore feel no need to research what are considered to be the obvious and accepted activities involved? Or do ‘normal’ people have an acute lack of awareness of the presence of normativity — a subconscious sense of entitlement not to be marginalised? Is it possible that heterosexual behaviour is the norm purely by chance? Clearly, in terms of survival, there is a biological need for a certain amount of heterosexuality within a species, but why has the conclusion been drawn that it is normal and natural for people to have singularly exclusive heterosexual relationships?

It terrifies me to think about how much of my behaviour could be purely attributed to social constructions. If I had been born in a different age, with different parents, or in a different country, would social constructions have molded me to be of a different sexual orientation? Would it be possible for someone to be marginalised because of their heterosexuality in a different reality? I don’t know. I simply find it hard to grasp the extent to which I am defined by social norms. I am a woman, and therefore subordinate. But not through the fault of any one man; not through the fault of any one person. I am subordinate because hundreds upon hundreds of years of socially accepted inequality have occurred. I wonder whether this gives me any right to complain (or I wonder: does this give me any right to complain?). Should we assume that things become social norms because they are the best of all possible options? Should we accept that things have become ingrained within society because they work? I hope not, but it worries me sometimes.

More importantly, assuming we will not sit back and allow social constructions to define our standing in society, how can we begin to instigate change? It has been done, to a certain extent, in many situations. Our prejudices against others change according to what we feel we are able to accept, and what we feel will fit in with how we perceive a functional society. But I sometimes get the impression that ‘accepting’ is often enacted in a way akin to ‘humouring’ rather than it being based on genuine inclusivity and celebration of difference. How can this change? Should it? I think so, but I am often at a loss as to how.

Get to Know thy Neighbour: Breaking Down the Gender Binary at the Local Level

By Daniel Oledzki

I awoke one morning to find myself shackled.
Not tied to something tangible, but bound by imaginative and yet definitive boundaries – like borders drawn on a map.

I think most people would call this puberty.

As I proceeded to navigate through the perils and pitfalls of adolescent development, I was made increasingly aware – by those looking out for my best interests – that what I was doing during this period of self-exploration and expression was just plain wrong.

Even now, as a straight, white, middle-class male (which, to be completely honest, is pretty much like winning the identity lottery) I find I am told what is or isn’t socially acceptable for me to do as a man just as often as I was as a girl.

Oh. Yeah. I’m transgender.
Did I forget to mention that?
Maybe because it’s actually not that big of a deal.

Though it certainly seems to be to other people.
To the extent that even strangers feel entitled to ask all about my genitals.
Are we going to have sex later? If not, you probably don’t need to know that in order to know me. And if that was your intention, your chances would be greatly improved by beginning the conversation with something like “Hey handsome, can I buy you a whiskey?” as opposed to something like “So, uh, how does it, like, work?”.

Oh very well thanks, but you’ll never find out first-hand: intrusive, arrogant, douchebags just aren’t my type – sorry.

Personally, I’m totally okay with answering questions about being transgender (after all, if you aren’t transgender yourself, you’d have no way of knowing what it is actually like), as long as you and your questions are respectful.

It is not a complicated concept.

In a similar way as if you were to ask me about the square footage of my igloo, I wouldn’t be super stoked to sit around and tell you all about growing up in Canada either.

In fact, some of my favourite conversations with new friends have involved them saying “I’m so glad to have met you – before I did, I didn’t know transgender people could be normal.”

This is because, in my experience, there is a fine line and a big difference between ignorance and unawareness. Unawareness is rooted in the narrow version of reality presented to us by mainstream consumer capitalist culture… whereas ignorance is usually rooted in assholes.

While I am fortunate enough to have always had a loving and supportive family and friends, I have also had my fair share of physical attacks and verbal venom spat in my face, simply because those people truly believed my very existence posed some kind of threat to their own.

The problem isn’t me – it is all of us and, more importantly, it is what we’ve been strongly conditioned to perceive as a threat to the very sanctity of social order.

That is, anything that extends beyond the arbitrary and yet somehow absolutely essential gender identities of male and female.

Nothing more, nothing less.

I have experienced having my identity reduced to a conceptual conundrum: the transgression of a seemingly impenetrable social boundary (from one gender to the other). I’ve also experienced the limitations placed upon both male and female people on either side of that binary – as well as the sincere fear in the eyes of people who didn’t know how to act towards me at a time when I appeared most androgynous.

I have also met far too many people – even those who are happy within “traditionally” defined gender roles – that find themselves restricted to their sense of self-identity and expression at various points in their lives.

If the majority of people feel this way, it can’t be natural.
So what happened?

I remember fondly the realm of playground politics, where nobody really cared who you were when you played house as long as you did not choose the character they wanted to be. Even then, you could easily accommodate gender switching: two moms or two dads to share and/or take turns.
I always opted to be the dog, in case you were wondering (budding psychoanalysts need not apply) but even that was totally acceptable!

This was all possible because of the classic kindergarten rule we all learned on day one: you stand in a circle with your arms outstretched and wave them around and as long as you don’t step into somebody else’s space and smack them with a flailing forearm it’s all good in the kinder hood.

Why isn’t that approach to sharing social space applicable to adults?

Because we are not supposed to be playing house anymore, we’re supposed to be buying them.

Simply put, the gender dichotomy supports the economy.
(I’m also ready to admit that it is not that simple: there are a myriad of other factors at play, but for the purposes of this particular post, I’m doing the whole “simply put” thing.)*

It is far easier for consumer capitalist culture to function if everybody is divided into two easily defined and identified opposing categories that can then be marketed and sold to each other.

Naturally occurring diversity has existed across time and space, but has been stifled, subverted, and swept under the historical rug for the sake of supporting power structures.

We can change that.

Us. All of us.

The pivotal linchpin of consumer capitalist culture also has the potential to become a very worrisome wrench in the works.

So let’s stop conforming and contorting ourselves into uncomfortable boxes at the bottom of the pyramid.

And hey, if you are among the fortunate few who are genuinely happy living your life within a “traditional” male or female identity, party on! Nobody is trying to take that away from you. The issue is that the same opportunity to identify and live a life of choice is not equally available to everybody.

Furthermore, this is not just about transgender individuals, or people who identify somewhere along the spectrum between male and female – this is about everyone and anyone who has ever felt restricted by “traditional” gender norms.

Fact: that is a lot of people.

What a shame! Naturally occurring diversity is the most excellent element of human existence and experience. Nobody likes hearing the same story told over and over and over again, so why do we keep paying for it?

To be fair, a lot of hard work by a lot of individuals throughout the years has led to mainstream media branching out into alternative representations.

That having been said, this means – for me at least – that I’m now faced with just as many presumptuous statements as I am questions.

“Hey! I know you! I saw something about you on [insert name of day-time talk show here].”

Well, no, actually, you don’t know me.
I’ve never been on a day-time talk show.

You know me about as well as I know astronomy based on the ability to name a few constellations.

But you could get to me know me.

About how I’m transgender, okay, sure, but also, how I’m right-handed.

Or about my unrequited love for various sports teams, or which Broadway musicals are in my personal top ten, or how much I know about dinosaurs – to name only a few examples.

Because I am so much more than just transgender.

We are all so much more than just our gender.

We don’t need to wait for mainstream media to offer us any alternatives.
We are the mainstream, and all of the alternatives therein.

We are the reality, not their representations.

So let’s leave the label making to the bureaucratic paper pushers and not let anybody else’s definitions define us anymore.

Let’s get to know our neighbours, in all of their wild and wonderful diversity, and support them in that (I’m not saying you have to love ‘em).

Get to know your neighbours for who they really are, regardless of what you have been told about them, and whether the facets of their gender identity and expression are socially acceptable or not. In the process, maybe even get to know yourself a little better, and learn how it is more than okay – in fact, it is our right – for all of us to live a life of choice.

Because, I support you wholeheartedly whoever you are, and whoever you want to be.

I just ask, in return, that you do the same.

 
*Encourage me to write another article on this, if you feel so inclined. Debate is healthy, and a true catalyst of change. I am more than happy to carry the conversation forward with you, I just ask that you bring an open mind. And whiskey.