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!

***

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.

unnamed

Neither Man Nor Woman: Coming to Terms With my Transsexualism

By Georg(ia) Penfold

I have moments in my life when everything kaleidoscopes together, whereby my entire sense of the world is shattered and rebuilt with both new and old pieces, and in so doing, it reveals aspects of myself that were previously unknown, neglected or repressed until then. Today was one of those days, for the first time in my life I had come to understand and accept my own transsexualism.

I had been reading Julia Serano’s Whipping Girl the night before and found myself physically unable to put it down. I’d reach the end of the chapter and begin closing it, but then catch a glimpse of the first few lines on the next page and feel compelled to go on. I read through it ravishingly until I reached the fourth chapter, “A frank discussion about hormones and gender differences”, in which I found a near identical account of the emotions and rationale I had been knowingly going through since I was sixteen. 

Up to this point I had been ignorant about the distinction between transsexual: feeling that the sex of your body does not match your subconscious sex — and transgender: feeling that your gender does not match the one you were assigned at birth. I had conflated these issues, thinking of them as equivalences, and in so doing, I was ignoring the finer psychological issues at play. For although I had experienced many moments in my life where I wished I had been born female, where every ounce of my being would internally scream at itself that the way it was wasn’t how it was meant to be, resulting in both physical and verbal self-harm, I had always reduced these feelings to wanting to be able to have the experiences that women typically have but with little importance as to actually being female or appearing so. This formed my world view which I had been living with up to now; I had discarded gender and removed the idea of sexed differences (other than those most physically apparent) and thought that I could create a new way of being that broke free from gender norms with which I could experience those things which I had so longed to feel. I became androgynous in my style, clashing masculine and feminine aspects together in a way that highlighted that which I wanted to express most about myself, finding comfort in being able to express myself in a way that I had not been able to before. But it still never felt quite right, I still never felt comfortable in my own skin.

I tried hard to rationalise my feelings, to make sense of transsexualism in a way that showed it as misguided and inherently oppressed by a binary gendered society. I saw trans people as failing to realise the potential they had to create wholly new ways of being; I saw the use of hormones and surgery as no more than superficial cosmetic practices, no different to a face-lift. I realise now how my insecurities about my own feelings had led me to this trans-phobic way of thinking: by denying who I was, I had to give reasons for why those who deep down I identified with most, were wrong and lesser than me. I now realise how much more complex trans identities really are, for although I still don’t identify as either a woman or a man, I now realise that I do feel the  need to be female-bodied, that my physical and mental form do not align with one another and that this is ultimately the cause of so much self-inflicted harm in my life.

Again, the complexity of the situation goes even deeper, for when I say ‘female-bodied’, I do not mean that I solely desire to have breasts, a vagina and an overall more feminine form, instead what I mean by this is that I feel a need to be Estrogen dominant, not for physical form but for psychological harmony. In essence I believe that the potential effects of female hormones (increased emotional response, reduced sex drive, etc.) would be beneficial to me, as they would allow me to experience my life with reduced dissonance. The question of how far my transition will go, will rest upon my feelings once I have taken these first few steps, once I have been given the chance to psychologically be the person I know myself to be, removing the persona I have been building my entire life to pass.
Although my being trans means that I desire to be female-bodied — and in a way then identify as female — this is not how I want people to relate to me. My reasoning for this is that if they relate to me on their level, as opposed to appealing to my own, then I know that they would perceive me as a person based upon my appearance, behaviour and an understanding of my own personal feelings. I do not seek to choose pronouns that I will correct people on. Rather, I’m far more interested in seeing which pronouns people would feel comfortable using. Furthermore, this allows for both my actual identity and my perceived identity to flow, as I begin to relate to myself differently as well. For I cannot truly say where I am heading, all I know is that I need to take this path even with the uncertainty of where it goes, so although I currently identify as trans-female, non-binary, indifferent to pronouns and comfortable with the name “George” (Georg(ia) being little more than pen-name), I cannot say how I will feel down the line.