So why didn’t i transition years back? How come i’ve lived the life i’ve lived: enjoyed, as some would have it, a life of privilege; and only now, with everything else done and dusted, come to a realisation that a large chunk of the past was built upon a mistake?
Because, of course, there are those – purists – within the great trans diaspora who take a very dim view of this late transitioning thing. Why, they argue: if you transition after you’ve been married, or had kids, you’re not proper. If you transition after teenhood, you’re not proper. If you didn’t know, aged 7 and three-quarters…
If you didn’t transition in your mother’s womb you’re not…
Oh. I think that could be roughly where we came in, in the first place.
The difficulty is one i observed, walking out with friends in Manchester’s Canal St area a year or so back: two young gay men accosted us, lectured us for some presumed failure of etiquette which, they reckoned, gave gaydom a bad name.
No matter that THEY were now taking a very establishment line… effectively rolling us back to a past when those in charge set rigid rules of what was proper or not (only now with gay as part of the establishment as opposed to on the outside). No matter that we, my friend and i, had been there a decade or more back, fighting some pretty brutal policing of the gay community, campaigning for change.
No. These young, free and gay men had no iea at all of what their lives might have been had they been born even twenty years earlier.
And so it goes. Its undoubtedly undesirable to transition late, for all manner of reasons. There’s the disruption (and emotional upset) to those around you. There’s the fact that you never transition as well as if you manageto do so at or around puberty. And with that, there is the view that you “let the side down” – by failing to “pass”.
I get that. I wish it were otherwise. But those young trans men and women nowadays – and it is mostly those who are young now – suffer the same handicap as those gay men who did not grow up in a world of legalised homophobia.
I was reminded of just what i had to cope with by this article from the Guardian archives. Trans through the eyes of a 1970 columnist. Oh, its sympathetic, in a “pity them” sort of way. Nowadays, we’d see it as patronising – its “more humane to treat this tiny minority who live in a sexual limbo with tolerance and understanding” – and take issue with some of the language.
But i think the author genuinely meant well – and for its time, it probably WAS very trans-positive.
Did i read this at the time? Probably not. My Guardian-reading habits came later.
I grew up in a household in which the daily paper was the Express.
Not, actually, quite as bad as that sounds. Another thing that has changed over the years: the Express was, once upon a time, a not bad right-wing rag. Oh, how are the mighty fallen!
At the weekend, my parents lived dangerously, adding the Mercury (a Midlands paper) and the Sunday People to their reading roster.
I rack my memory to wonder if transition was even mentioned in these publications. I suspect it was. Occasionally. But nowhere near as sympathetically as in this piece.
No. It was weird. Sexual. Perverted, even, and a topic for much hilarity.
If nothing else, that underlines just how necessary campaigning groups like Trans Media Watch are. As one of their leading lights, Sarah, once put it: she would like, in time, for every child to grow up aware that transition is an option.
Not encouraged. Not proselytised. Simply aware.
Because, in another world, another reality, that knowledge might have saved me a great deal of discomfort. And grief.