Required reading: Whipping Girl (Julia Serano)

Whipping Girl: A transexual woman on sexism and the scapegoating of femininity

I came across this book when I read a post entitled Charring Cross in breath of fresh air shocker, in which some of the Doctors from charring cross were asked in a panel setting if they had read this book. Dr Lorimer is quoted as saying he:

“had found it a very uncomfortable read, in places”.

This piqued my interest – what could make a key person from the UK’s biggest gender clinic make this admission?

I promptly downloaded it onto my Kindle and started reading it. It’s pretty intense in places. She starts off by challenging the case that transphobia is a fringe thing, but is actually an offshoot of misogyny. In short – men are better than women; masculine is better than feminine; what could be worse than a man that wants to be a woman? It’s quite an angry start, but her writing style and erudition of argument had me hooked.

She goes onto talk about her thoughts on how to reconcile the popular argument that “gender is just a spectrum” with the other elephant in the room that most people are straight & cisgendered, so how can it be? Her solution is simple and yet intricately clever. It’s really intelligently debated.

Each chapter does build on the last, but at the same time each stands alone, so I have been just dipping in and out reading a chapter her and a chapter there. Whilst the subject matter is intense – it’s actually a fairly easy read. I would strongly suggest anyone that is a trans-woman, knows one or is interested in becoming an ally to trans people read this book. Required reading.

My father & transphobia towards a colleague

This incident is probably number 1 in my (yet to be defined) top 10 Transphobic incidents that pushed me deeper into the closet with the knowledge that being trans is a deeply shameful and disgusting thing. I don’t say it to humiliate or express anger at him – He is a product of his time an upbringing and in the days of this incident trans people were much rarer in mainstream culture.

I really struggle to remember how old I was at the time. I was definitely post university so maybe 22 or 23. It took me another ten years of living in the closet with my feelings before I even really started to open the box of stuff inside my head. I cite this incident as key to keeping it closed. Clearly our parents hold great power over us.

My father came home from work and shared the news that one of his colleagues “was going to have a sex change”. I vividly remember the way my he told this story. It was a combination of disgust, and a sort of gleeful, perverse, sensationalistic, excitement / outrage that someone could be doing this near him.

Apparently this person’s ex-wife had been spreading rumours and one of his colleagues mentioned it to him in the context of “you might want to get her to stop spreading lies”. His/her response was “Well.. actually… I can’t do that…”. (S)He* was intending to transition in his job and this conversation was a semi-intentional coming out.

He quickly added that “I don’t want him working on my team”. This shocked me absolutely. I knew my father was a redneck when it comes to things like this, but I hadn’t imagined it would cross the boundary between private, personal opinion & what I consider to be unprofessionalism.

I had never expressed any pro-trans sentiment before, for fear of someone suspecting ‘my dirty secret’, but I was so disgusted at his position that I needed to speak out.

I challenged him on it. For context he worked in a Power Station in the north of England, probably with 1000 men and maybe 100 women. It was a pretty blue collar environment. I think this has to be an extremely challenging environment to come out and transition in. I expect she was scared shitless – her bravery is off the chart by my book. I asked him “Why don’t you want to support this person?… She has been so brave and had to find the courage to do this in front of 1000 sniggering men – why can’t you just support her? – It costs you so very little to be kind”.

The conversation that followed was justified by many of the classic transphobic excuses: “Transexuals take lots of time off work for all their operations and it will make my job harder”, strongly stated opinion on the women’s toilets and how it would make women feel uncomfortable at work and “I shouldn’t have to acknowledge her as a real woman anyway, because she can never be one”.

The punchline was “I don’t see why everyone is forcing me to have to accept these people because of their beliefs and no-one is accepting my beliefs – what about my rights not to want to have to accommodate them?”.  I didn’t make this point at the time, but nobody should have the right to be a bigot and marginalise vulnerable people.

I woke up this morning thinking about this incident – maybe because I’ve been thinking about coming out to him at some point soon. I wonder how he will react? I wonder what happened to the trans woman in question – maybe I’ll find out one day.

* I use ‘he’ because at that point in the timeline she was still living as and publicly presented as ‘he’. I get that some might take issue with this and I apologise if that is the case – I don’t think the rules are really super clear on how to refer to a trans person when they lived as their assigned gender, so I have chosen the convention that makes sense to me.

HRT Week 4 – Better energy levels and something going on in the boob department

In last weeks update, I reported total lack of energy and over the top emotional reaction to small things. This seemed to pass as quickly as it happened, although I’m still tired in the mornings. On the one level – ‘yey!’ – I don’t feel like that anymore. But at the same time I sort of missed this very physical reminder of the changes that are happening.

This week – my energy levels are mostly recovered & I don’t feel quite so on the edge of tears all the time. Yesterday I noticed a little tenderness when one of my daughters was leaning on my chest & this morning there’s a definite sensation there – like a not entirely unpleasant dull ache.

I’ve also noticed a significant decrease in size in the downstairs department – probably around 50%.  Morning erections seem to be a thing of the past – which is good not having that reminder.

Last time I was on hormones I started to feel these things after three months rather than just one. I wonder why things are different this time?

I suppose the only other thing to mention is I saw a friend of my Ex’s who several times squinted her eyes at me and said “something’s different”. I think this is probably the fact that I superficially look completely different and my mannerisms are more feminine now. But maybe she’s picked up on some very subtle softening of facial features or skin?