Why we’re all non-binary…

April 14, 2014 § 18 Comments

…and that doesn’t stop people from being women and men.

A rewind, and a few words of explanation. I’d just finished writing an article on gender plurality for a feminist website, and was browsing my twitter feed, simultaneously talking to a friend about people labelling their genders ‘binary’ and ‘non-binary’. Twitter was full of people debating the differences between ‘binary’ and ‘non-binary’ and that, and the article, and the personal conversation – left me feeling somewhat sad – and also angry and in fear of misrepresentation.

Increasingly, I’m seeing an oppositional standpoint develop between people who call themselves ‘non-binary’ and people who call themselves’ binary’. Sometimes with an awareness of the problems of dichotomy – sometimes nearly indistinguishable from the ‘women are like this/men are like that’ sophistry. And, as I have said before, and will say again – if my gender, my self, has no name in a binary system – if a binary system does not allow for my existence, and the existence of people like me, then either I cannot exist or that system cannot exist. And, as much as any human can be sure of it, I’m fairly sure that I exist.

That is why I would say that all genders are ‘non-binary’ – not in the slightest because that means that all people should or could describe themselves as ‘NB’ in the way it’s used as a gender marker and identity label – but because, to allow for people with genders other than male or female, we cannot have only two options. In this plural model, all genders are ‘non-binary’ in the same way that a rainbow is ‘non-binary’ – because it is more than red and blue, not because red and blue are not valid colours within it.

A non-binary universe means that there is space for everyone – and that everyone is equally valid within that space. When a binary system is set up with ‘allowances’ for people like me, for ‘exceptions’, then I am denied the universality that comes through our common humanity. My gender is not an optional extra. How my body and my mind and my words travel through this world is not something to be tacked on at the side because it couldn’t be slotted neatly into an available system.

And, yet, it is more than this. Because I don’t want to dismantle the binary gender system for my sole benefit, or only for the benefit of those nominally like me – it needs to be dismantled for all of us. I am not more unique in who I am and how I could be described than a woman or a man. I am no more deserving of the freedom to define myself to the world, and back to myself, and explore what I mean. How can a system with only two options capture the infinite variety expressed by the words ‘men’ and ‘women’? Let alone a binary, each of the those words is constantly exploding with new categories, new definitions. I don’t know how to respond when someone calls themselves as ‘binary’ man or woman – because what are they referring to? Which period of human history, which culture, has such a categorical definition of womanhood or manhood – and nothing else – that we could use that term in that way?

My mother is a woman, and I am androgynous – and yet our genders are just as rich and complex, and dynamic, as each others’. We share similarities, we share differences – we are both constantly growing and changing, and the language we use can only ever signpost the richness of who we are. I don’t want to be set in opposition to her, or anyone else I love – I want to exist in a framework that allows us all the space we need for difference and the connections we maintain in sharing, empathy, likeness of spirit.

If we allow for a system in which we are all valid, all equals, then you don’t need to use the word ‘binary’ to defend yourself again me. My refusal of the words ‘men’ and ‘women’ is not an insult directed at your usage of them – but I will not reify your centrality with my supposed outsider status. And I will not take one man’s definition of manhood’s over another’s as ‘more real’, ‘more manly’ – or vice versa.  Each person’s usage is precious to them, as mine is to me – and it can genuinely be as simple as that, if we want it to be.

So, I suppose, more accurately – it’s not so much ‘we’re all non-binary’ as ‘we all exist in a non-binary universe’ – the possibilities are endless, increasing exponentially which each new person in the world. I don’t want to deny or police or suppress anyone within that – I want to dismantle our current enforced binary system until we reach the starting point of everything and nothing. And then the rest is up to us.

Trapped in the wrong body

April 8, 2014 § 4 Comments

{This is a shortened section of the monologue I gave at Transpose: Tate Modern on April 6th – a meditation on Miro, dissolution of the body through art, the universality/exclusion of bodies and ways of seeing and being seen. More on that theme features heavily in my upcoming book “Transgress/Transcend” but this is what I wanted to salvage from my notes today – with sincere gratitude to everyone involved that night – it was exceptionally special.}


Being a trans artist, a trans activist, in a public and professional way – I feel so often the weight of expectation to utter that traditional line “I feel trapped in the wrong body”. One of its variants, as a shibboleth of understanding: “I was born in the wrong body” – that I’m an accident of nature.

It’s not that I don’t sometimes feel that sentiment, deeply, reverberating through me – as a personal sorrow – as a way of making sense of all the times I tried to meet my own eyes in the mirror and couldn’t see myself. But that’s the thing – that pain that I bear, because of the mismatch between my body map and the physical presence of my body – it is something personal, and isn’t what I want to talk about here.

Because I am trapped in the wrong body – constantly, consistently – but by society, not nature. It’s being looked at and appraised by eyes that consider me solely through the light of their own experience. It’s being physically examined by doctors who map the meanings of their labels onto me without my consent. It’s acquaintances, colleagues, strangers, carving me up and dividing me out and presenting myself back to myself as lacking, and in need of their interpretation. This is how I’m not trans enough. This is how I’ll never be masculine enough. This - my voiceis too feminine – these – my eyes, my lips, my chin – can only ever be those of a woman. 

I am not a boy trapped in the body of a girl – my selfhood is not something divided against itself, swallowed up by and choking on itself – but it is something suffocated by the weight of the body imposed upon it by society.

The claustrophobia of that is hard to manage – as a performer, particularly – to go out before an audience and know that what they see is not what I know is there. And fear that, if that’s what they see, that maybe it’s enough to overwrite what I feel, and set itself up in my place.

Our accepted narrative of trans experience tells me that I should change my body so as to be freed from its inborn ‘wrongness’ – to bring myself into alignment. Well, I’ve changed my body – I’ve changed it for myself, to be able to live in it and with it, to ease my dysphoria, to give myself the care I needed. I continue to change it – because my body is a dynamic entity, and I have personal compromises to make. But, again – that change is personal to me, and it’s my business, not that of strangers. The bodily change I want to see is in the images and meanings imposed upon our bodies by each other.

If you see me with eyes clouded by a lifetime of false assumptions, tropes, stereotypes, lies – it’s not really me that you’re seeing at all. The body you’re placing on me is of your making, not mine – and I want you to take it back, and let it go.

I don’t want us to stand facing each other, pushing outwards, each trying to impress the other with the singular view we have. I want you to stand next to me, and me to you, and share with me what I see with you, and what you see with me.

I am trying to see you. Please try to see me.





Four things about men and women I’ve learnt from being neither

March 30, 2014 § 52 Comments

I think part of it is a family trait, of being treated as a safe person to talk to – several relatives have had similar experiences – but part of it is most definitely being publicly genderqueer. Since I came out, nearly half a lifetime ago, I’ve found that so many of my interactions with women and men* have been marked by them designating me as something like safe territory. Someone they can talk to about gender, sex, sexuality, identity, who will both understand where they’re coming from and give them another perspective – like a gender translator and diplomat – and, crucially, listen and respond without judging them along strict binary lines. Because I’ve already transgressed those boundaries, and won’t try to punish them if it turns out that they’re transgressed them too.


This isn’t anything more than anecdotal evidence and personal experience – in generalized, anonymous terms and without personal details – but I wish we were having these conversation in public, as loudly as possible, and could have done with them and move on. Maybe this is too obvious for words – but if there’s anyone out there reading this who’s worried about any of these points – worried like the people who’ve opened up to me have worried – then I think they need saying.


* Most often this has been in relation to cis men and women – not because I believe that trans men and women are somehow less ‘natural’ or ‘real’, but because most of the trans people I’ve met have been forced to untangle societal ideas of sex and gender in a way that most cis people haven’t.



1. Most people don’t fit common gender definitions

I say ‘most’ people to be safe – in my own life, I don’t think I’ve met a single person who could fit themselves perfectly into the templates our society has given us of ‘men’ and ‘women’. Not without cutting out crucial parts of who they are, not without pretending, in whole or in part, to be something that they aren’t. Some have an easier time than others – and some who look, from the outside, like they’re having the easiest time of it are actually having the worst. So often the face presented to the world doesn’t correspond comfortably with the person behind the face – and, yet, so many of these people think that the fault lies with them, and not with a definition that fails to include the people nominally included under its auspices.



2. Most people keep secrets

Whether it’s how often they cry, or how they’ve stopped themselves from crying for so long that they can no longer let go, how they feel about their bodies, how they’d want to be penetrated, or be the one penetrating, how they’ve wondered about being transgender, how they felt when they were first punished for not being a ‘proper’ girl or boy, how they can’t even remember how to be angry because good girls are never angry, or forget how to count calories and hide it because that’s not what men do…


If a system can only exist because people can’t tell the truth then I think that tells you all you need to know about the authenticity of that system. I think if we could, collectively, tell the secrets we keep about what our selves are and are meant to be, it might go a long way to knocking patriarchy down entirely.



3. Most people worry

How could you not worry, when faced with a culture that presents two (and only two) options, allows little to no dissent, failure, divergence – and pretends that it should be natural, easy – because to find it unnatural, or difficult, is proof of failure, and failure (as previously stated) is not allowed?

The standards of manhood, of womanhood, we’ve been presented with are, in my experience, impossible. Not just impossible for me, as a genderqueer person, but impossible even for cis people who suffer no bodily dysphoria – because they don’t allow wholeness, exploration or freedom.



4. The binary gender system hurts everyone

It doesn’t hurt everyone equally – that should go without saying, but still probably needs repeating – but, again in my experience, I don’t know of anyone who hasn’t been hurt by it. Even people I’ve met who benefit most from the structural benefits of the kyriarchy, and the binary gender system that goes with it – the secret hurts they carry, which cis men are not meant to carry under patriarchy – which, by definition they cannot carry – it astounds me, how much hurt there is. The number of cis men I’ve met who want to talk about their experiences of eating disorders, of child abuse, of being raped (by women as well as men), of bullying, of depression, of street abuse. It shocks me how we could, collectively, allow a system to continue when it hurts us so badly. It saddens me to think of the reasons why we do.


This isn’t a ‘what about teh menz’ – but it does amaze me, that an oppressive system supposedly in service of some people manages to damage even those it most benefits.


This isn’t to say that everyone should give up the terms ‘men’ and ‘women’ and call themselves ‘genderqueer’ instead – but it is to say that the ways we’ve taught people to use those terms, what those terms supposedly mean, does not cover the totality of what people actually are.


Maybe this is simply the verbal equivalent of throwing up your hands in frustration.


A lot of the trans activistism I do is about the specific rights of trans people – the fact that we’re still unequal under law, that we’re frequently punished by mainstream society, that, all too often, we’re not treated as fully human. But, for myself, there’s a broader point I want to make about trans activism, about gender and selfhood and cultural systems – and that’s that in helping the people most oppressed by harmful gender norms, we’re in fact helping all of us. I want cis people to care about trans activism because they care about trans people – because transphobia and cissexism are terrible things.


But I also wonder why more of them don’t care about it from a selfish place – because, from where I’m standing, being a man or a woman in a binary gender system is not half an easy as it seems.

These are not the allies we’re looking for

February 7, 2014 § 2 Comments

If you’re a trans person with access to twitter, odds are you’re up to speed with Piers Morgan’s gross rudeness to Janet Mock, and subsequent tantrum when called on it. Cisphobia, people. Cisphobia. If you know any trans people on twitter, same deal. I don’t have anything to add to the excellent summaries of the situation already making the rounds – but I was interested (in that ‘oh god, here we go again’ way) in the wider response I saw, when the news was shared by supportive cis people – and then commented on by cis people who consider themselves supportive.


As a Londoner and a Private Eye reader, I’m not convinced that Morgan believes a word of his “but I’m an ally” routine – beyond the desire for it to make him look like the good guy – but it’s the inevitability with which the people agreeing with him resort to the same tactic: “hey, I’m open-minded”, “I’m an ally”, “but I support people like you”. The shock they express when told that no, actually, they’re not being very open-minded, supportive, allied to a movement, a concept, a group of vulnerable people.


I’ll admit up front – I’m angry, and I’m ranting. But if you’ve ever caught yourself saying or thinking these things to someone you claim to be helping – well. Maybe you should have a nice long look at your ego, and where it needs to step down.



“I’m just being objective”

Funny how ‘objective’ allies claim to be able to see how an unequal world can affect the lives of others – but never them. “To every action is an equal and opposite reaction” – except of course not, because while an oppressed group might have their minds clouded by the experience of oppression, these allies would never have their rationality influenced by the experience of privilege. Because that’s not a thing. It’s just how the world works. Like the fact that people are ‘born’ men and women, and there’s a definitive standard of ‘male’ and ‘female’ that we can all adhere to, and these totally aren’t cultural sophistries to cling to without active investigation, and trans people have certainly never had the wherewithal to think things through for themselves, or start with the same inculturated assumptions but move to a different place based on greater wisdom – no. “Objective” enough to parrot widely held myths about bodies and minds, but not objective enough to consider why they came to hold those views, what they mean, where they came from, who they serve. Fancy.


“Why aren’t you grateful?”

I think my favourite part of Morgan’s vitriol was his apparent shock and disappointment at Mock’s failure to be suitably grateful for everything that he’d given her. A washed-up sleaze of a hack invites another media professional (a current, interesting one on the rise) onto his show for an interview – and she failed to shower him with praise for his largesse. Is there often an element of selfishness in acts of kindess? Fuck yes. This much selfishness, for so little kindness? No points. And no cookie.



“You’re telling me not to contribute/fuck you, I’ll contribute without you”

A favourite way of flouncing out of the conversation – or, if you have the power to do so, of continuing a monologue on your own terms. Some people use it to shut down a debate – Morgan used it as a chance to call a panel of other cis people to discuss whether or not they should act with basic decency towards trans people.

The thing is – we’re not telling you not to contribute. We’re telling you that your contributions need to be better. If the only things you have to give us are the same tired lines and responses we hear weekly, if not daily – then why do you think they have any value left? Would you be proud of bringing something mouldy to a pot-luck supper? Would you insist on everyone eating it just to make you feel valued, and telling you how clever you were to have made it at all?

We need these conversations, these dialogues – but they have to be dialogues – and they can’t happen when one side refuses to catch up with the other. You can’t get to the end of the ensemble piece when one musician keeps fucking up the first bar – and then refusing to practice it until they get it right, because someone else should do that for them.



If you know me, or are a regular visitor here, you’ll know how much I value and respect those who genuinely support others in their work towards equality and justice. But I’m getting heartily sick of those who want all the advantages of seeming like a nice, progressive, “tolerant” sort of person – without having any of the attributes that actually make an ally.




Why I’m asking for your help

January 28, 2014 § 2 Comments

Aether for blog 2


So, there are two weeks left to go for the funding campaign for Aethertwo weeks, and half way towards the goal.

I find it desperately hard, asking people for money – even though I’m asking in exchange for goods and services – even though I know that the product is worth it – even though (without claiming to be a woman) I think that some of the fantastic argument here could apply. 


Hard not only because of cultural conditioning around money, but hard specifically because it feels like admitting that I’ve failed in not being able to do it without the help. And pretending that that’s not the case can feel a great deal easier, because there are things I’d rather forget, about why this industry is so difficult, not just in general, but in particular.


I don’t know any artist from a marginalised group who isn’t wary of being accused of playing the ‘…..’ card – but I have yet to meet an artist from a marginalised group who hasn’t been affected by the bigotry of the mainstream in some way. It’s certainly been the case for me – and, yet, I don’t like to talk about it. I don’t want to be accused of being weak, I don’t want to be accused of using it as an excuse, I don’t want people to think that I lack the talent to make it and, therefore, seek to blame a struggle to be heard on others. I know that I benefit because I’m white, because I’m thin, because my disabilities aren’t visible. But, to be honest – my alternative work in the last three years in more mainstream spaces has been hard.


It’s the managers telling you they’d love to work with you – you’re so talented – but you’re too different to sell. One manager in particular was very keen – until I refused to go down the ‘sell sob story with before and after pictures to tabloid’ route. It’s being asked to pretend that I’m a girl. It’s the constant misgendering. It’s the deliberate cruelty of certain MCs with something to prove. It’s knowing that there are performance environments it’s not fair to ask my fans to come into, because they’ll  be misgendered, insulted, ill-treated. It’s being ignored as a musician, because being trans negates everything else about me, in the eyes of people who still see being trans as some kind of unfortunate freakshow.


It’s one of the reasons why I organise so many events on my own, with artists I respect, enjoy, admire. It’s the reason why performing in more alternative spaces is so much more comfortable. But, and this is the point that feels almost impossible to say – it does mean that I make a lot less money from my alternative music than some people think I do. Most gigs I play are for travel expenses only, if that. I try to play as many free and low cost gigs as possible, because god knows our community faces terrible problems with both employment and benefits. I organise fundraisers. I give away music.


I’m not trying to say that I don’t love doing that – I’m not trying to guilt-trip anyone, or claim that my life is a terrible hardship – it’s not, and I love my career, my audience, with a deep passion. But, I guess, what I am trying to say is – I can’t do this on my own. And I would really, really appreciate your help.


I know that money is tight for any awful lot of people – it’s tight for me, and I’m luckier than most when it comes to economic security. But if you have valued the work I’ve done for free over the past couple of years – if you read this blog, or my other articles, or come to Transpose, or download my songs – I would be so grateful if you could lend me a hand – in return for more music, or a gig of your own, or some beautiful artwork.


I’m prouder of Aether than almost anything else I’ve ever done – I just hope that you’ll share it with me, and let me keep making music for the people I care about (which, to be fair, is most people).


I’m now I’m going to disappear, and feel embarrassed somewhere else. Thank you.


Aether for blog 1

10 seriously easy things cis people can do…

January 24, 2014 § 21 Comments

…to make the world a better place for trans people. And, ultimately, everyone. Because that’s how it works.

I have a lot of wonderful cis people in my life who care desperately about equality and justice for trans people – and one of the most common things I’ve heard from them, when just starting to find out about transphobia and cissexism, is “I never knew it was this bad.” Swiftly followed by “what can I do to help?”

So. This is what you can do to help – I’ve asked a number of trans people I know, and this is what we came up with. Small things, most of them – but if every cis person with a trans person in their lives did them then we’d be living in a kinder world than the one we live in now. Please spread the word. And do your best.


    “Never, ever use the phrase “a man in a dress” again”Evil Felicity
    Same goes for “she/he”, “tranny”, “she-male” etc. – some trans people will choose to use these words in reclamation – you don’t get to do that. You’ll cope. Promise. And while you’re at it, take a look a phrases such as “sex change”, “third gender”, “sex change operation” – there are a lot of really good reasons why trans people debate the language we use, and the majority of words and phrases used by the mainstream media to describe us are neither friendly nor accurate.
    “Ask people what their pronouns are, and honour the choice with no microaggressions no matter what the answer”Alice
    “Accept the title someone chooses for themselves”Quinn
    “Don’t use phrases like ‘All you girls’ when you don’t know the genders of the group. It feels very isolating.”Elliott
    You so often can’t tell by looking – what our pronouns are, what our histories are, how we’d describe ourselves – so don’t try. Making assumptions is generally a rubbish way of interacting with other humans, truth be told.
    Whether someone is ‘out’ as trans (or having a trans history) or not can genuinely be a matter of life and death – you don’t get to make that call.
    “Privacy uber alles. Above all else you must respect a trans person’s privacy. Their business is not yours to share.” – Joey
    “Not outing us to people before we meet them. I’ve had too many friends try and be considerate by warning their friends i’m trans and use male pronouns before they meet me. It’s just ‘I get you’re trying to be nice and make it so I don’t have to deal with being misgendered but stop it.’”–Sam

    “I think there’s something important in the way that cis people engage their empathy with trans people. I guess it’s to do with privilege gradients and recognizing that, for example, a cis person being misgendered and a trans person being misgendered are two very different experiences.” – Anon
    “Not playing ‘devil’s advocate’. “But if someone thinks they shouldn’t have a right arm, should we cut it off? What I’m saying is are you SURE you need top surgery to be happy?”” – Quinn
    It’s not helpful when a cis man tells a trans man “but I’d LOVE to have boobs”. I don’t want to hear about how you consider yourself so so so post gender that you could have any kind of body and be happy – that’s great for you, but useless for me. Maybe you wouldn’t mind being called ‘Miss’ in a shop – that doesn’t take away from my pain when it happens to me.
    “Don’t make any assumptions about what medical interventions (surgery in particular) I might or might not want, and don’t ask about that stuff immediately after I come out to you! I might want to discuss it at some point, but if you want to talk about it, please check if I’m OK with that discussion first.” – Anon
    A trans person’s veracity does not rely on what they may or may not have done with their bodies. If there’s a genuine reason why you need to know our medical histories and medical plans then we’ll tell you.
    “Not giving ‘tips’ on how to ‘pass’ or ‘complimenting’ me on how ‘masculine’ I look today.” – Quinn
    You are not the authentic version that we copy – we don’t need lessons on how to be ‘real’ men or ‘real’ women or ‘real’ anything. Though I wouldn’t personally object if you told me how glorious I look in a frock coat – not because I need you to ‘affirm’ my gender, but because I do and I like compliments.
    Did you know that 24 European countries still require trans people to be sterilised in order to be legally recognised as their correct gender? That trans Women of Colour are disproportionately at risk of contracting HIV – and are usually not given the correct medical care? That trans people are at greater risk of domestic violence, homelessness, suicide? Don’t let ignorance be your shield – educate yourself, and then educate those around you. Gendered Intelligence and the Sylvia Rivera Law Project are great places to start. Don’t act like we’re a taboo, shameful subject – bring trans issues up – share articles on social media, recommend writers that you like – email your bloody MP – but don’t just shake your head at how awful something is and do nothing. Oh, and remember – trans issues are for all ages.
    “Educate your children to be broad minded” – Susan
    “Using me as a teaching example! Like, for serious, a concrete thing cis people can do to make my life (& life of other genderqueer etc folk better) is, when talking about me to other people, gender me correctly, and explain if necessary. (Provided you can, you know, explain competently rather than offensively. >_>)” – Alex
    Never without permission – but if someone is happy for you to use them as an example to spread awareness, then it can be a powerful thing to do. I prefer it when my friends and loved ones explain about my pronouns before I meet new people – and I’m happy for them to explain a bit about how I see myself in terms of sex and gender, and the kind of work I do in trans activism. But never, ever assume it’s okay to do this without checking.

    “Speak up when they hear people being cissexist/transphobic. Too often people stay silent because they’re afraid of what other cis people will say if they are challenged.” – Quinn
    Don’t just be supportive to our faces – real support is standing up for us when we’re unable to defend ourselves.

    I know that there’s precious little money around at the moment – but if you have any going spare, do please consider donating to a trans organisation – every donation matters. Trans groups and charities often operate on a shoestring budget, achieving incredible things with very little in the way of monetary support. Here are a few ideas, but do please look up organisations local to you, and see if you can give back to people who give so much to us as a community.
    Scottish Transgender Alliance


Do please leave any further suggestions in the comments – and, really, it all comes down to this:

 “Sit back, listen, and understand that you don’t know everything. That might be more than one thing but it goes together under the rubric ‘humility’”. Claire


A very short post

January 11, 2014 § 1 Comment

As facebook friends will know by now, an awful lot of the search terms leading to this blog are variations on a theme:


Can a cis man fall in love with a trans man?

Do straight guys ever fall for trans guys?

Are trans guys interested in straight girls?

Are straight women attracted to trans men?


ALL the variations on this theme. So…for all the people who found this blog by such searching…


Hello! How’s life treating you? How’s the weather where you are? Good? Good. I have only one piece of advice here, and that’s love who you love, and let that love be the best of who you are. Everything else can come later. Life is very short.


And for fuck’s sake, make the person you love some brownies. Easy.

Transpose Hallowe’en Thank You Edition

November 12, 2013 § 2 Comments

Late but not forgotten – please consider this post an enormous thank you (shall we capitalise? oh, go on then) – THANK YOU!

We raised €385 for Transgender Equality Network Ireland, wore some incredible costumes (“50 Shades of Grey” won my heart) and danced our arses off to the Time Warp.


Jacq Applebee looking dapper

Jacq Applebee looking dapper


Squid and The Krakens

Squid and The Krakens


HUGE thanks to all the artists – Hel Gurney, Kat Gupta, Sandra Alland, Jacq Applebee and Squid and the Krakens – they supplied a whole smörgåsbord of emotions and all of them were delicious.


Sandra Alland

Sandra Alland


Kat Gupta (this is what a feminist werewolf looks like)

Kat Gupta (this is what a feminist werewolf looks like)


Please go and read a lovely review we had here – and, for those of you who are thinking of coming to the next edition in February, I wanted to share an anonymous review that might possibly have made me misty-eyed. Thank you guys – you’re the best.


This is the most beautiful thing going on in London. It’s about community and love and art and passion, it’s about trans and/or genderqueer people making art that fortifies you against death culture (by which I mean a culture that wants a lot of us dead) whether by making you laugh or cry – either way you are reminded that trans people matter profoundly, that life matters profoundly, and that art matters profoundly. One of the gifts of Transpose is inspiration – seeing people up close making their art (their music, their song, their poems and stories and movies and pictures) makes it more possible to go home and make your own. One other gift of Transpose – possibly the most life-saving one it has to give – is community. Many people who come to Transpose get to know each other. If you come by yourself, and feel able to introduce yourself to anyone, please please do so – there will be other people there who want to meet you!


« Read the rest of this entry »

My Genderation

October 9, 2013 § 2 Comments

So, over the past few weeks, I’ve been working with Raphael Fox and Lewis Hancox on an episode in their My Genderation series – well, it’s done. Out into the world. Watchable below. I’m a little nervous, but mostly really grateful to have been asked to be a part of such a great project.




I managed to make a truly Freudian slip on my age/my brother’s age when he died – which is inevitable, and kind of funny – but I wouldn’t have done anything differently. I think there’s a real power in this series – not just because each episode is exquisitely filmed and produced – but because it shows what you can achieve when trans people take back the gaze cast upon them. Just – go watch the whole lot. And please share.

But not for you

October 3, 2013 § 11 Comments

I’ve said before that I don’t usually write in the first flush of anger – I prefer to let it simmer down and reduce into something luscious and thick and punchy. But right now I am very, very angry – and it’s not new, but it’s been stoked up fresh today, and there’s nothing for it but to write it down.


I am so sick and tired of trans bodies being seen through the lens of cissexism, in all its forms, that I could break something – many things. Two news items today that managed to tick every box in the othering, the judging, of trans bodies and the individuals who inhabit them. First, a seemingly well-intentioned but still infuriating piece in The Advocate – My Attraction to Trans People is not a Fetish a claim I would have taken more seriously if the author hadn’t used such fetishistic terms for trans people, nor recycled so many of the usual tropes about trans bodies. The second – a heartbreaking story about a Belgian trans man who applied for and received euthanasia – titillatingly retold by news agency after news agency. Here’s a typical example - ‘failed’ surgery (‘botched’ has frequently been used) – and nothing to contradict the tragic claim from an abused and depressed man that he was ‘a monster’.


Ask yourself – the last time you read about trans bodies in a piece written by a cis person, did it contain any of these assertions/hints as to these beliefs? Or have you encountered them in everyday life – because god knows it happens to me all the time:


  • That trans bodies are ‘mutilated’ cis bodies – even when it’s couched in the politest of terms. Both as a threat/plea against physical transition (“but you’re so lovely as you are/it would be such a waste”) and as an attack against those who’ve been through all kinds of medical transition. I’m not going to write out the things frequently said about trans genitals – they’re just too hateful to be on this blog.
  • That trans bodies are ‘failed’ cis bodies – ‘well done old boy, but not quite cricket’. Poor old things. Not quite up to scratch. Done their best. Best you can hope for. What a shame.
  • That trans bodies are so different…so sexy…so exotic. Yes. All trans bodies. Because we’re all alike, and we all have a mixture of differently societally gendered bodily attributes (but only in a way attractive to cis people! otherwise fail!) which make us special and exciting. Even if you ‘can’t tell by looking’ we give off a magical aura that no cis person has.
  • That trans bodies are so different…and terrifying…and help, dystopian nightmare! Franken-something and something-bot. Freaks! All of us! Run away!


Not all cis people do this, not by a long shot. And it’s not that I don’t want a person attracted to me to also be attracted to my body – for better or worse it’s the one I’m stuck with – I’d done my best with it and I want to be desired and found beautiful as much as the next person.
But my body is not a metaphor or entry into a crypto-category of fetish object. No other person has the right to write over it, or depersonalize it – try to dissect it or approach it in a way that negates the intellect that drives it. It’s not a prop, or a bogeyman, or a sex toy – I will not have read back to me what a cis person does or does not find acceptable about the physical embodiment of my self, regardless of the actual self in question.


There are cis people who steal our bodies away from ourselves – through gatekeeping, through cultural pressure, through ‘humour’ and abuse and pity and scorn. We need to take them back.

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