Tag Archives: my transsexual summer

The Scope and Limits of Representation

Generally in society, we consider representation to be a good and helpful thing. It is very necessary, for example in a court case, to have someone who knows in detail the ins and outs of the legal system representing you, in order that due process is followed and any court proceedings are carried out fairly and justly.

Campaign groups are also an important force for good. They may often be asked for a quote to beef up a particular news item or story, in order to save interviewing thousands of people, it is far easier to go to one group for a quote. They have to be sure to be speaking on behalf of their members and supporters.

But, I am sure we have all experienced a news bulletin, or story, in my case as a member of three minority groups, where we have thought that, even though the organisation speaks for people in our position, it is not upholding our individual views.

This is why representation as a societal force, has scope, and limits. What is the scope, what are the limits, and what can we realistically expect of those who represent us.

The other night, I was aggrieved to see the following status on Facebook.

I don’t represent you i represent myself. I speak for my rights which benefits us all. but I am ME ONLY”

This status was posted by good friend and lovely person Drew-Ashlyn Cunningham, who fights to the death for equality and better rights for trans people, and everyone really. In my view she is a great ambassador for humanity, and for the rich diversity it encompasses.

However, at times she has been accused of “letting down the community” and giving it a bad name due to opportunities she has chosen to pursue. This is frankly absurd. 

Let us look, and look hard at some facts. Drew has a job, and therefore contributes money to the economy. Secondly, any opportunities Drew has gained, she has gained through her own courage, determination, infectious personality and drive.

She used the springboard of My Transsexual Summer effectively overcoming shyness, gaining confidence and becoming a much happier, more together person, going on to get a job at Illamasqua, where using each face as a canvas, you can see her confidence shine through every day. You can see that confidence shine through on the faces of her clients every day.

So, that is what I think of Drew, and I am sure you will agree with my sentiments. Why are people angry with her though and what are their grievances?

A point worth making is that trans men and women, and the genderqueer population do not come vacuum packed as identikit models. Indeed, looking through my own Facebook friend list, it is as rich and diverse a representation of humanity as I could reasonably hope for at this point, given my open and inclusive mindset. That diversity is therefore  no surprise to me.

But we are not all the same. Even though we have a shared (and strong) empathy due to being trans, we all lead different lives, have different backgrounds and different histories. But, that thing that unites us is indeed stronger than that which divides.

Drew can represent people regarding certain things, and so can I. Mainly, we come together when we want to make a big statement on a big issue. For example, Drew is a patron for Gendered Intelligence. I have also blogged vociferously in support of and about the trans community. The My Transsexual Summer cast have also encouraged the World Health Organisation to de-classify transsexuality as an illness by starting an online petition.

But as much as we all belong to a collective minority group, we are always, thank goodness, individuals. We have different thoughts, feelings and opinions. Crucially also, we have different lived experiences.

One of the reasons I began to blog many moons ago, was because of trans narratives I had seen. Now they had all the factual information I could want, but none of them told my story as such, with the unusual narrative and some would say, difficult marinade of disability, transsexuality and being lesbian.

So I began blogging, pouring out my story and people seemed to enjoy my outpourings. I love the freedom that blogging gives me. It can be as multi-faceted as I want it to be. In short, I set up the blog because there was nobody publicising my story, and I wanted to, not out of conceit or vanity, but to add my own twist if you like, to the myriad of stories already out there.

Representation does bite you on the arse in a political context though, as Drew has found. Sometimes too, my blog posts get people riled. It is impossible for one woman, however open minded they are, to represent the views of all trans people. Nor can she be held to ransom over people disagreeing with how she chooses to live her life. She is merely expressing her unique and beautiful self. She is not letting anyone down, as she is not responsible for every person  within the community.

As a community too, we should celebrate activists and advocates, not push them into the shadows, as the cisgendered population have done historically.

I have a theory about why people send Drew the vile and abhorrent abuse they do.

When they accuse her of letting them down, this is a red herring. In fact, they are letting themselves down, but as we know in a blighted society, it is far easier to blame others than it is to take responsibility for your own shit.

Instead of flinging mud at Drew, use her and my experience to help. If you feel your voice is not being heard, then make it heard. Start a blog or a vlog. Become active and passionate. Sign petitions. Pester people. If you want to make change, you have to be the change, not impede those people who are trying to bring it about.

Also, if we try to represent an abundance of views, we make mistakes, perhaps we express something not as somebody would have wanted. So therefore, it is better not to take the risk.

Representation does a lot of good on a global scale, but do not expect one person to represent your views. Remember we are all human and have our own shit to deal with. Also, as long as Drew is happy in her own life, no one has the right to question what she is doing, and place upon her a torrent of disapproval from chattering trans people, who do not do a lot apart from bitch from the sidelines.

It is a bit like complaining about the X Factor result when you did not vote.

To conclude then, Drew has done a lot of good for the trans community, along with the rest of the MTS cast and Channel 4.

If you feel your voice is not being heard, or your story is not being told, then it is in your power to tell it, and speak out. It is the only way. Carping achieves nothing.

Good and effective representation of the self and the whole achieves many things. You have no right to expect others to make the case and complain if you are not involved. 

People too have no right to expect Drew to be a carbon copy of them. She is a wonderful talented individual who celebrates her life.

You could be too. Whether you are or not, is up to you. Are you jealous of success or do you want to be successful?

It is not Drew who has let the community down. It is those individuals who have taken exception to her right to a personality who have let the community down. Trans women and men and genderqueer people are individuals. Drew is, I am. You are. I and Drew have fought hard for our individual true selves. You can do the same. Will you?

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A Good Time To Be Trans

Do you know the feeling, when the weather is baking hot outside, and you rush to the fridge to grab an ice cold drink? Alcohol is of course optional. 

Then, you feel the catharsis as the icy cool hits the back of your throat and your thirst is quenched. It has a good effect on your body, and makes you feel good too.

Metaphorically speaking, that is what I feel like about being a trans woman at the moment. I feel  like I have drunk a thousand cold drinks and had my thirst completely quenched.

Of course, this is not to say there is not still work to do. I am, as is every human being, a work in progress. But the fact that my thirst has been quenched for now does not mean that I am becoming complacent. There is work still to do. Therefore, having had my thirst metaphorically quenched, it galvanises me to strive towards my goals.

At the moment, it feels like a good time to be trans.

I think that today, the trans community has much to be optimistic about. 

Lana Wachowski, the director of such iconic films as The Matrix, has today come out as trans. As a sentence in and of itself, learned readers will think, oh well, someone has come out, big  deal. But, let us consider it in context. I would hazard a guess that the majority of people have heard of The Matrix even if they have not necessarily seen it. Therefore, people involved in films in whatever capacity have a massive sphere of influence at their disposal.

The consensus amongst commentators today, appears to be that Lana Wachowski’s coming out will contribute a lot towards trans visibility, that is to say trans people in the public eye just coming out and living life. For my own part, I think it will serve to make the state of being trans and living as trans more acceptable, amongst would be trans people who have been in a state of struggle, and may be contemplating transition, or those of us who are younger and perhaps less able to be our own advocates. It provides hope, and hope can only be a good thing.

Musically, the presence of the trans community is being felt too. This year so far has also borne witness to the coming out as trans of Laura-Jane Grace, lead singer of punk band Against Me!  The fact that it ended her relationship is proof positive, if proof is needed of what being trans is not. It is not fetishistic, nor a choice, nor a phase. It is a life changing, defining, and altogether completely liberating moment in one’s life.

Some people do, but I have not gone between gender roles since my transition in 2005. I am one hundred per cent committed to my life as a woman, as it is the life I yearned and ached for, always.

In the world of broadcasting too, there has been a sea change. The trans predicament seems to be a hot flavour on the tellybox right now. More4, Channel 4’s more longitudinal catch up service, is now re-showing My Transsexual Summer first aired last year. It is capturing the imagination of a whole new audience who missed out on it when it was first aired.

But having the privilege of counting the cast as my friends, I know how much they have all grown and developed in that intervening time. I also know that many others have been touched, encouraged and helped by the sharing of their collective, and individual experiences.

That series was seminal, in making trans acceptable, as well as increasing visibility of us as a part of society, and not some othered fraternity.

A documentary on Ria Cooper too, showed that whilst being trans is not always plain sailing, and people forge their own path based on individual experience, it is possible still to attain and achieve a more authentic life for yourself.

This summer also, BBC Three will break new ground with their slate of programmes focusing on The Body Beautiful unveiled by BBC Three Controller Zai Bennett.

As part of that slate there will be the documentary Jackie Green: Transsexual Beauty Queen charting Jackie’s journey through the Miss England Contest. Now to have a trans woman entering the contest is wonderful. I shall be watching with interest, and would suggest that my readers do so too, of course with an open mind and heart.

Moving away from the wider picture now, I would like to talk about something pretty lovely in my own journey.

As those who know me will know, I am a party girl and do like a drink. I had the lovely happiness of being invited to the 25th birthday of Paris Lees, META magazine editor, trans activist, and lovely person as well.

I had an amazing time, and met some incredible people, and hope to meet them again.  However, I thought about something after I had slept a bit and the hedonistic mist of alcohol had evacuated itself from my brain.

I knew no one else there personally, although I had corresponded with some guests via social media. I began to mull over not only the macro changes in the trans landscape but the micro changes within myself.

One thing I believe in with a passion is writerly integrity. I never bullshit when I blog. If I did my words would have little credibility, meaning and impact.

So why the qualification? I am about to make a bold claim.  This is the sort of thing I would never have done, even with the best coaxing and cajoling available to humankind. When I think about where I could have ended up, possibly in a day centre singing bad karaoke, I shudder I really do.

I used to be ultra scared of going outside. It was a major effort to get me outside and on to the bus to go to Southampton.

A birthday party of strangers would have been unthinkable. I want to say two things here. Firstly, strangers can quickly become friends if you let them. Secondly too, all that was required of me was a change of mindset.

Instead of seeing being trans as a curse, I would rather see it as a blessing and an opportunity. After all, if you squandered it and wasted it, would it not be like flushing a gig ticket down the loo after paying for it? I would also like to see what I can give to people, as well as taking their wonderful support.

So in short, it is a good time to be trans. An opportune time even to bring about everlasting social change. That is to say, trans is for life, not just for Christmas.

We are becoming a visible force, and not only that, a force to be reckoned with too. With views, thoughts and opinions, expressed with eloquence and candour. 

What would I like to see going forward? Mainly less intersectionality I guess. Social movements are at their best, and effect the most change when we speak as one with a united voice.

I would also like more voice and prominence to be given to the thoughts, needs and narratives of those who consider themselves non binary. Their contributions too are valid, and need to be considered too. As a woman with a disability, I understand feelings of isolation only too well, and I think feelings of non binary and intersex isolation do exist.

I am not ending this on a moan. I just think that as the trans community is moulding itself into a really positive animal, the time is right to address these issues, whereas before it may have felt like too big a quantum leap to make.

Furthermore, I would not wish to re-write history or suggest that we in the trans community do not get bullied or victimised any longer. We do. It happens. But I think understanding is slowly beginning to trickle through to the cisgendered population.

In general, we also need to tackle prejudice. I heard a man saying to a woman on the bus this week, that just because he was single, it did not mean he was “queer or nothing”. Now, where did he get the link from and why feel the need to couch queer in a negative way? Sad.

Finally though, I feel society is moving forward. We live in times where trans people are becoming  more visible in the media and in the general social sphere.

So we have a chance to grasp a nettle. The nettle of campaigning, the nettle of greater equality, the nettle of creating, and the nettle of shaping, and bringing greater understanding and empathy of and towards one another.

But above all, do you know what that nettle represents for me? Being yourself, being authentic and being alive.

I long for a time when being trans is no longer tabo0 and pathological. When instead, it is just another facet of the rich and beauty tapestry of life, just like race or disability is. 

It is a good time to be trans, so let us grasp that nettle and grasp it now.

Trans Evolution

It was my friend’s “trans birthday” the other day, and I have no doubt it was a very happy occasion for her. A year has passed since she honoured her true self.

Birthdays generally are exciting occasions, they mark ageing, in some cases maturing, and sometimes celebration. But I am a tiny bit biased in thinking that trans birthdays are a tiny bit special.

For the decision to honour one’s self truthfully and congruently is huge, massive and gigantic. I can still remember my first day of putting on female clothes and of living as Hannah, after the irritation of living as H for a substantial period of time. It was great to have an identity again, as the H experience felt limiting, psychologically and in terms of lived experience.

Then, fast forward to a year and you think PHEW! I made it. But over the course of that year, you change, evolve, and blossom. 

I happen to think being trans is akin to the Eastern beliefs around reincarnation, and rebirth. My own lived experience has definitely felt like that in recent times.

I ended counselling when I was ready to, and not before. I concluded it when all the necessary work was done. The end result of doing that work is a trajectory of dominant happiness, and I no longer experience long periods of depression.

So anyway, what has provoked this extrapolation on Trans Evolution? Well, soon I have a potentially exciting opportunity coming up, a chance for my voice to be heard, a chance for me to engage in dialogue with others, help them, and hopefully make a difference.

I am choosing not to say too much more about what the opportunity is at this stage, just that it could be really positive, exciting and a chance for real personal development.

But let me say a little more about what putting myself forward for this potential opportunity involved. It involved telephone conversations with a stranger, a meeting at a strange venue, plus when I got there, the stranger firing off lots of equally challenging questions at me. There were also periods when it was a monologue, with me talking freeform in response to a pre-prepared list of questions which I had already seen.

 Now those who know me will know beyond doubt that talking is not an issue. However, they will know that I used to suffer from an extreme lack of confidence earlier on in transition, and would come up with endless excuses and prevarications to avoid leaving the house.  Now the excuse is less endless, but heavy rain is a sensible one since rain and electricity do not really mix. However, other excuses were a mere smokescreen. They just covered up the fact that I had not really grown into the identity I had always craved to the point of obsession. As others craved chocolate, I craved womanhood.

But now you know, I am grown. All I am making clear to you is this. The kind of opportunity I went to the meeting about would have been unthinkable. Now, I see it as a must do.

To be doubly clear, I cannot be more emphatic about the word unthinkable than I have been. Indeed, when asked to participate in a project during early transition, the more I turned it over in my mind the more I became terrified. I am glad not to be in that state of mind any more.

One of the overarching things for me that came out of my meeting, was that notions of community are real, and tangible, in the LGBTIGQ world, and not “imagined” as the commentator Benedict Anderson once claimed.

Bearing this in mind, I have come to realise that I have a responsibility, not only to myself, but to others in my situation too. If dialogue is to happen, and greater understanding is to be a product of it, the best start we can make on achieving such dialogue is surely to talk to each other. Sometimes the obvious points are the best, and it is good to try not to overlook them.

I see the LGBTIGQ community as a continuum, with each section of the continuum facing its own issues and challenges, but I would far rather see us come together for the greater good more often, rather than us hiving ourselves off into mutually exclusive compartments.

As Barry Manilow said, it is all about that one voice!

I also have a great emotional connection to the trans journey, having been so depressed at the start. I think in the long term though, that rock bottom state does give us the impetus we need  to better our lives.

The questions were a challenge even for me.It is like digging for gold in the most elusive, private crevices of the human mind. Particularly, questions around my disability and family relationships were a challenge.

I think at the end of the day, whatever the views of others, you should not stop yourself from following your heart, soul and dreams.

In many ways, there is a lack of complimentarity and tension between disability and the trans predicament. I sometime feel extreme anger towards my disability periodically, but I confront it, deal with it and move on.

The interview itself was a very surreal experience. Even at times, I could not believe the confidence with which was speaking. Yes I have always been articulate, as many suggest, but you can still be articulate and full to the brim with negativity and simmering self hatred.

I still struggle, particularly around the limitations of my disability,and a brain that is far more active than my body will ever be.

But whilst those two variables may forever lock horns, I am now brimming with self love, as opposed to self hate. I do get pissed off sometimes, but there is a huge difference between full blown major depression and an off day.

That is why I wanted to partake in this project, as I am compassionate and understanding, and to have the opportunity to hear other voices.

The misery narrative tropes are a sad part of our history, but they came about because the world was less accepting. The tragedy of a less accepting world is that it also gives rise to less acceptance of the self.

I can ignore my mother’s views, as I know they are hogwash, but if they represented a world view, as was the case historically, the battle would be harder to win.

I also think My Transsexual Summer was a gamechanger. The intricate weaving together of their lives at the retreat and their personal lives normalised being trans as never before. De-medicalising, de-pathologising, and deconstructing.

It showed people living normal lives, and that skilful interpolation of normality and diversity is to be celebrated.

Here is the key to it all though. Trans means change. During that interview, I had to metaphorically pinch myself at times to check it was still me talking. There were so many points where I thought, an unchanged old me would never have said that.

But here is the point, I thought, you have changed and improved. You are not a different person, but you have changed for the better.  You are happier, brighter and more fulfilled than ever before, Hannah Buchanan.

Transition is sometimes reduced to looks, which is understandable in a sense as one needs to pass. However, the biggest change takes place inside. You can look a million dollars, and have no confidence inside, or vice versa.

But I think I have made the biggest inner transition. For it is that transition which spurred me on into wanting to take part in this project. I barely recognise myself sometimes, in a good way.

I am not a different person, but I have a different outlook. Now I evolve, not revolve. Now I step forward, and do not stand still. Now I apologise to and not for. I evolve, and always will.

But the bits of me that were having a negative impact have gone, and a new day has come.

The day has come for me to do, rather than be done for, to set the agenda rather than react to it, and that step fills me with Pride. I took that step of getting involved, because there are those who need my help, and it fills me with pride and happiness, both in and for myself, that I am ready and able to give it.

Years ago it would have felt impossible,  but impossible, also means I’m possible, as Sark once said.

I just think back to my mindset years ago, and my mindset now, and I feel like a changed woman. 

The key to transition is to love you. If you love you, you will have confidence, and think you owe it to yourself to top it up now and again, cos you’re worth it! I love me and I hope you love you too.

Trans Mood Music

Paris Lees was recently interviewed by Stephen Gray for The Pink Paper.I found the interview very galvanising and encouraging to read. In it she talks about launching new trans magazine META, as well as the trans community in general.

But there was one quote in particular, which jumped out at me when I read the piece, as follows.

Tell us, what prompted META magazine?

“There’s a new mood in the trans community and we wanted to capture that, to provide something celebratory and aspirational.”

Then, Paris goes on to say when questioned about her work on Channel 4’s acclaimed series My Transsexual Summer;

You worked on Channel 4′s acclaimed My Transsexual Summer, how do you see the role of trans people in the media developing?

“I think we’re increasingly seeing a younger, louder, less apologetic generation of trans people in the media – and that’s great. There are infinite ways to be trans but we’ve been fed the same tired standard narratives for decades now. The only story that was being told, for about 40 years, was that of the “classic transsexual”, the male-to-female middle-aged misery narrative.

 “Of course, that’s a totally valid experience, which many trans people identify with, but it’s time for some fresh perspectives. Sadly, the media seem more interested in replacing the old standard narratives with new ones: so we get the “pregnant man” trope or the “child transitioner” repeated ad nauseum. These identities are almost always presented as freakish. What we really need now is for happy, healthy successful trans people to stand up and say, Hello world; I’m having a great life – what’s the problem?”


I hope as I begin this piece that I am representative of both the new mood in the trans community, not to mention the “younger, louder, less apologetic” generation of trans people to which Paris alludes. I will come back to this notion of being less apologetic later as I think I will have a lot to say. In this entry however, I want to talk about my childhood in a mismatched outside and inside, the bad mood, also my tentative steps towards transition, the good mood (good in the sense I was doing something about it) and the brilliant mood the present and recent past.

As you will see I have set this entry to music, using a soundtrack I have selected. I advise you to read with headphones or speakers on so you can feel the journey as well as read it. Seat belts on and off we go.

THE BAD MOOD

Creep, Radiohead

On January 17th 1981 a baby was born. They said I was curious to come and see the world. If I had known then what I know now, I would have waited until my due date.

I was born three months prematurely, so it was not exactly an auspicious start to life. I was also born with cerebral palsy which in simple terms renders me unable to walk, but in the present time, I have a real passion and zest for life.

But as soon as I became conscious of the world and my place within it, I knew something was wrong. Yes I played with cars and conformed to the social role of being a boy, but I just did not feel comfortable

Thankfully though I did get some chances to spend time around women at school. Even then though, in an almost millennial landscape, this was frowned upon. I loved my little table of friends at school, but then my tutor Mr G. ruined it for me.

Looking back, I am sure he meant well, and was trying to protect me. But truthfully and honestly you cannot protect somebody from gender dysphoria. The force is too strong, and eventually the truth will out. I just had no inclination to align to my birth sex, nor did I see why I should try.

So why is Radiohead relevant at this point?

Thom Yorke asserts in his poignant, heartfelt, gutwrenching vocal that he’s a creep, he’s a riddle, and he does not belong here. That sums up very neatly how I almost always felt in my pre-transition life. There were even times when I felt that I was trapped inside something that did not belong to me, that is to say, I could not take ownership of myself at this point, nor did I want to.

I just knew, knew, and knew even more that something was not right, and this flamer of knowledge never went out for many years.

The other resonances were the the desire for a perfect body and perfect soul. The perfect body is the simpler one to understand, for me a perfect body simply meant a walking one. A perfect soul on the other hand? How do you swap souls. With the inevitable passage of time, I have learnt that I do not need to, but all that was swirling around me at the time was a sea of confusion and mystery. I listened to Creep ad nauseum. When I listen now it reminds me of how far I have come.


Whilst still stuck in the sea of confusion, this song would have epitomised my feelings.  Founded by the frontman of Slipknot Corey Taylor, Stone Stour were an even darker proposition than Slipknot and their masks.

You see, early in transition, I felt different, and really low and lacking in confidence. Now this song did not come into my life early in my transition but it is frighteningly relevant.

I had better be honest and say that the lyrics I am about to post may be triggering and painful to some, and shocking. I decided to write this entry after someone said to me that people just don’t understand what we go through.

So I feel in writing this I have to, have to be honest. I know some people will be upset by that. But my integrity is important to me.

Of course, a way round that is the classic triumph over adversity trope. This is how I was, this is how I am now, all normally boxed off very nicely into a nice slot for the reader or the viewer.

But everyone has a journey, and it is that in between journey that journalism and the media rarely addresses. The beginning and the end is ok because that warms the cockles of the heart.

But here, I am seeking to tell you, the reader, some of what we go through so you can be better informed, and if you are a trans person reading this, perhaps it will help you.

But initially, taking the song title, “Bother” I did not know why I bothered. I had been in and out of counselling since the age of 16, for emotionally abusive stepfather issues, and for other issues as well. That is what I was really. An issue.

Wish I’d died instead of lived
A zombie hides my face
Shell forgotten with its memories
Diaries left with cryptic entries

Yes there were many times when I wished myself dead, many, and many times when I could see no colour, apart f rom a relentless black. I was sent to the college doctor at 16 with depression for fuck’s sake.

You see, people always rave on about democracy. But there is no such thing as birth gender democracy. There is not.

It does not exist. Which is fine for the cisgendered majority, but for the trans minority. Now you may look at me pejoratively and suspiciously and say, “You’re born how you’re born, live with it!”. 

Why though? That would be my response. Why live with a conflict between soul and body? Why live with crying yourself to sleep? Why live with suppression? Why live with double Jack Daniels at 1pm just to escape when you are at a sporty university and it is not just that you cannot be one of “the lads” because you’re in a wheelchair, as some would have it, but instead it is because you have no inclination, desire, or motivation to be something you are not.

I predict, using the best of my self awareness, that had I not acted on my gender dysphoria when I did, I would not be here now. There were many times when I too wished myself dead.

After all, why live a life that was given to you, rather than one you want to own and nurture? I was living inside a shell with a zombie instead of a human. Every day just seemed like pointless drudgery and tragedy. Why would you want that?

Where even your eyes do not want to be open. Why would you want that?

Another thing I detested was wearing boys clothes. Sorry to the boys, but men’s clothes really do not fit me at all. They are functional rather than fabulous and boring rather than beautiful. There are clothes nearer to the spanglier end of the spectrum, however it just did not sit right.

I think pre-transition, life is very hard and cruel. Mostly, the one piece of stability the cisgendered majority can hang their lives on is their gender. For them, there is no conflict between biology and Sociology. There is a truism here too. Psychologically, people deal with what they can see better.

At school, Mr G could see my wheelchair, but he could not hear the silent screams of gender dysphoria. Interestingly, a point worth making, I had had a lot of respect for him. It is never easy being the new kid, and he helped me to settle in well. But after that, well my respect for him ebbed away.

This trans narrative persisted throughout college and University too, and then came a turning point.

MAN IN THE MIRROR MICHAEL JACKSON

At my darkest time before transition, and at some point during, I knew something had to give. The turning point came when I confessed to C that I felt like a woman. To be honest, it did not exactly seem like a shock to her. So the process of disclosure went from there. It never really felt like changing a man in a mirror. It was more like becoming somebody I liked, recognised and seemed to fit me like a glove.

There’s a fantastic line in the Prologue of the Andrew Lloyd-Webber musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. The narrator sings this.

If you think it, want it, dream it then it’s real. You are what you feel”

That you know is highly relevant to transition. It is a slightly childish sentiment. But a useful one. You have to dream to believe transition can happen for you.  That it is not some external thing, or an unreachable star. It is possible for anyone, if it is a path they wish to go down.

Asking a man to change his ways? Not really. More like allowing someone to fly and be themselves.

SKUNK ANANSIE AND SIMPLE PLAN

The first time I heard Twisted was at college, ad nauseum for two days, blaring from someone’s bedroom after she’d split up with her boyfriend. The strength of both songs Twisted for its pounding unapologetic and uncompromising guitar and lyrics, almost screaming. At my worst I thought Skin gets it, she understands me. Each and every day was hurting and in the world there was only black.

By the time it came to Simple Plan I was self harming. Please be careful reading further if you are triggered. As the skin pours blood, I believe the soul does too. The soul needs to bleed and mourn for the biology it suffered, and feeling physical pain is a way of doing that. But it is the same soul that will spur you onwards to a happier path.

 I want to be clear that being trans is not easy. It is fucking hard. You go through pain, grief, and what seems like neverending sadness. Bodily contempt, hatred, loathing. It feels like you have been made to put on a disguise that does not fit, and you yearn for authenticity of the self, ardently, obsessively and with real longing. It is not a fetishistic whim. Transition for me was a vital process. To the person who said people do not understand what we go through, I hope they do now. That was partly my motivation for writing this post, to get that message out there, uncut and uncensored.

BEETHOVEN’S MOONLIGHT  SONATA

Oooh classical!! Yes I am congruent in every way but perhaps the one thing I am a little secretive about is that I can be a classical music junkie sometimes.

Moonlight Sonata is perhaps the musical equivalent of the misery narrative Paris alludes to in her interview. It has been used numerous times on television to convey feelings of suicide, loss, guilt, grief and hopelessness.

I do not think I am being dramatic when I say that I grieved a lot for my womanhood, which I felt entitled to. I grieved mainly that I was not born with it. But then I realised I could do something about that.

GOOD MOOD

The second major turning point was meeting Tina. I am not going to reference every song from here on in, as I do want people to be able to read the entry before Christmas. Meeting Tina was a huge turning point because I had always wondered why my own reflection was somebody I did not know. She was able to put those curiosities into a non-sensationalist, non-freakish context, and walk with me calmly while my head spun at a million miles an hour with oodles of questions.

I also became stuck for a period of time, and enmeshed in childhood narratives of stepfather abuse. But Tina was kind and patient enough to stick with me through this, but also offer me tough love. Though I was shocked at moving out of candyville, I am glad the tough love happened. It made me a fighter and gave me rhino skin. It enabled me to love myself and to honour and follow my heart, plus make my own decisions.

I also made peace with my disability during this time. Granted, there are times when it pisses me off, as my transition would be easier without another variable, but I live with it.

Another thing I do struggle with is love. I hope I meet someone one day as I have a lot of love to give.

It is the one thing I think would complement my own big and vivacious personality. I know there are people who are much worse off than I am and I try not to complain too too much. However, this is an ongoing struggle.

BRILLIANT MOOD

This is I guess the part of the entry I would term as the present. So how is it now compared to the life of pre-transition? Indescribably and infinitely more wonderful, whole, congruent, colourful and more beautiful. The best thing in the world is to know your own reflection and think actually, in spite of everything, she looks good. 

I had a support network, experienced the LGBT scene, and I am now taking some time out to focus on my own stuff. 

What I feel though, what I can smell is a sense of optimism from the trans community. My Transsexual Summer was a watershed moment doubtless.

It was the very antithesis of the misery narratives Paris alluded to. Rather than allowing their stories to be told, each one  of them told their own. Yes, there were highs and lows, but they are a common feature in the life of every member of the human race, are they not?

Yet, nor were they victims. They were survivors. They are all individuals who embrace the challenges life throws at them  and aim for succes and dream big.

But also, they, like me, believe in themselves. No-one should have to  apologise for being trans. That is the bottom line.

Transpeople, like all people, are unique and special in their own way. But I believe people are beginning to become more savvy. They are learning the lessons of other minority groups. Rather than being spoken for, they are speaking for themselves. Loudly and proudly, and I include myself in that via this blog. Rather than being controlled, they are controlling their own narratives. Rather than being history, they are shaping, and reclaiming their own history.

What makes this all the more remarkable is that for a long time, I did not even want a narrative. Now I want to wake a shape our future in any and every way possible.

The turning point came when I was moaning and bitching about something, and Tina asked me what I was going to do about it? From passive to active in one easy question.  There was no religious-esque vision, and no miracle. But that question changed my life. My life. No one else’s. It was my life to win, and to own. 

I stopped caring what others would think, and began to live, and love living.

If any of this has resonated at all, whether the bad mood, the good mood, or the brilliant mood, I am glad. Even if life seems impossible at the moment, it is not. I used to think it was.

If life is good, I am happy and share in your happiness. For me it has been a battle, and one which is not yet over, but I am glad I came on to the field.

Also, do listen to the songs. The Jason Mraz one is particularly inspiring and like my good friend Hippy Clare, makes a virtue of living in the moment.It even has a hippy drum.

Let me leave the last words with a wise man.

“Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life; define yourself.”

~Harvey Fierstein~

 


Raising the bar and reviewing the situation

In my previous entry, I spoke about the trans community perhaps having a different modus operandi to the rest of the LGB community, as being trans is primarily concerned with gender, “who you go to bed as, not with”. This is a popular explanation, and often used as it is quick, easy and simple.

I also mentioned about perhaps visiting The Edge less in order to concentrate more on doing things with and for the trans community, and by extension for other minorities as well. It can be observed plainly that there are many overlaps between the trans discourse and many others, including disability, confidence, self esteem, and empathy for example. Even something like agoraphobia would be relevant since many trans men and women at least initially struggle to pluck up the courage to leave the house.

In this entry, I want to move the topic of a different modus operandi on a little further and wax lyrical about the benefits of it. 

Plus I want to talk about what those benefits have done for me emotionally and where my mind is at currently. Finally I want to talk about some interesting developments which are going to be like lexical Marmite to some. I cannot wait to get to that part of the entry. 

But some of you may not like what you read so be aware of that.

On Thursday of last week (now Saturday as I type) I went to London.  I do go to London quite a bit but normally to appointments or the theatre to see something campalicious, aka high culture high brow entertaintment.

However, on Thursday there were no theatres or musicals in sight. I am confident though that they are not going to cease to exist if I want to visit them in the future.

On this occasion thought I went there to spend the day with some trans friends of mine. The journey up was uneventful and relaxing, and the weather was beautiful, sunny and warm. What more could you ask for? I was also lucky because the train I wanted was already on the platform. The only drawback was no music as the headphones are very large and non portable. I like to do things in a big way, especially my music. Fuck off world I’m not listening to you..

I went with Zina, all round good egg and my faithful PA, and partner-in-crime. We got into Waterloo at about 1.30 pm, Zina had to go and do something urgently, so I met up with my friend.

We had a bit of a mission looking for her, during which we played on some African drums without much success in my case (not got the dexterity) walked past the Houses of Parliament and tried to queue for the London Eye without much luck either. However, it was beautiful just drinking in the ambience, feeling the relaxed buzz of London and chatting to my friend in the sun.

We were then reunited with Zina. She’d done what she needed to so we carried on walking. Zina met my friend for the first time and we all got on well together.

Then, we walked around for a bit longer before meeting up with another mutual friend.

After this it was straight into the funk of modern London. Young, sunny, cosmopolitan London.

The best bit for me was not being stared at. Now being trans and disabled is not an easy combination by any stretch, but I’m used to being a museum piece. The worst bit is when they bore into you with their eyes and actually stop what they are doing in a very non-subtle way to do it.

But in London, nobody actually cares because they are all too busy with their own problems and worries. It is the only place where you can perv at policemen, if you wish, where you can sing Petula Clark’s Downtown  in perfect falsetto, whilst skipping like a kangaroo and nobody cares.

Honestly if I had been any more relaxed that day though I would have been horizontal. What a thought.

We then had a walk into Leicester Square, and had a bite to eat in Yates.

The conversation was so relaxed, we were joined by some other lovely friends, and the conversation flowed nearly as well as the Malibu’s and Cokes that found their way somehow down my throat. Malibu and Lemonades too. Basically I will drink anything that does not taste too bitter, but a cheap date, well you decide!!

I am not going to reveal details of the conversations here, out of heartfelt respect and genuine love for the people involved.

However though I will make this general point. It may be bloody obvious but I believe it is worth making. It is amazing how much more relaxed you feel when around others in your situation. How nothing is off limits, and you can be open and honest. The best thing is, someone will more than likely have had a similar dilemma, or even better a solution to what you are saying.

What I will say though is this. A huge diverse range of issues were raised around that pub table. However, there was an unlimited supply of love, support and understanding available for every issue raised.

We then went on to G-A-Y and had more drinks, fun and laughter at the bar. Can I just say at this point, well done to Zina because she was not very well that day and carried on regardless? She’s a credit to herself and she’s a fab friend and carer.

Now I guess, on to the real substance of the post. 

I did not want to come home. Now you are probably thinking, yeah yeah whatever you had a nice time get over it. Maybe some bold type will help.

I did NOT  want to come home period full stop end of sentence. I did not think we came home too early, I did not want to stay a little longer, I wanted to stay a lot longer, just sort of permanently.

No biggie then really.

For a sentence’s worth of context, have this.

Since my counselling finished, clearly I am at peace with myself. However, it also makes you turn your attention to other things that are less than perfect in your life. One of the major headaches has been my living arrangements and location.

Many of you who have known me for a longer period will know that I have never been particularly happy living in Eastleigh. I feel very much like a museum exhibit or a goldfish.

It is not the most cosmopolitan nor forward thinking place. It is hard to be trans here, very much so. I cannot put this down to one single thing, more a collection of things over a wide range of areas.

One main thing is that it was not my choice to live here. I came here by proxy as a result of living in Eastleigh through John Darling Mall, the place where I was rehoused temporarily after uni. Now, it was not all bad. If I had never come to Eastleigh, I would have never met Tina, probably transitioned in a clunkier way and had much less support. 

But in a very non sentimental, honest way, that was then, this is now. I was as happy as anything in London. I did not get stared at, pointed at, laughed at or stressed. Furthermore I did not worry about all the driving I had to do in my chair, I just loved it and enjoyed every second of it. I really did feel a kind of happiness I had only tasted at brief intervals before.

Then, obviously, my mind asked the next question. If I was this happy now, why couldn’t I be this happy all the time? I could, of course, if the conditions were right. That is of course entirely within my responsibility and grasp to make that happen.

So, that is basically the first thing. I want to initiate a move to London, at the earliest opportunity. I do not quite know how I will do it, but I have a few ideas.

Having a gregarious flamboyant personality can be tough sometimes, especially in a small town. I am well aware there are those who would say well tone it down then. To that I simply say why should I?

Let me quote from Sunset Boulevard again. The quotation is from near the beginning of the piece, when Joe Gillis and Norma Desmond first meet.

JOE: Aren’t you Norma Desmond? You used to be in pictures…you used to be……..big.

NORMA: I AM BIG!! It’s the pictures that got small.


The thing is, I guess I really don’t want to be too big for a small picture. I do not mean big in terms of stardom or fame, here’s what I do mean though.I mean this. I have a big personality. I am quirky, often misunderstood, and out and proud. I have a low boredom threshold. But in London, you could never get bored. There is always something going on. It is vibrant, diverse, and multicultural. Aside from that, I love London’s buses. The ramps go down on their own. Just these simple things make you feel more empowered, more in charge and less reliant on others. I love theatre, and nightlife and there’s so much of this in London. I guess it really raised the bar for me in terms of what I can expect from life and myself.

So that’s that dealt with. I move to the next thing I want to address.

I move to the next thing I want to address, The Edge.

I will be significantly lessening the time I spend there as I strive towards future goals. The goals do require strict financial prudence and discipline, and I will need a lot of money to achieve them. Having said that, a few trips are not that costly so what am I really saying.

I have been finding the interplay between gender and sexuality incredibly hard recently. Then there was getting the ramp.

I am extremely grateful that this was purchased. I am extremely proud too to have attended the My Transsexual Summer night at The Edge, and to have met everyone.

However though, I think my interests are better served again by focusing on more urban environments.

Sexuality and gender are two very different beasts, and while people may, and do try their best to understand, they do not live it or breathe transsexuality. This is what I need now, in order to ramp things up a gear.

I hope people will understand and respect my decision. What I will say though is that it has not been an easy one to arrive at. You see The Edge will always have a place in my heart. It gave me a place to be where I felt safe secure and wanted.

But there are down sides too. You see I am not like the the others. For me, there is more at stake psychologically, sexually, and in terms of sexuality also. In The Edge in general, sexuality is very much in your face. I am not suggesting for 0ne moment that anybody has done anything wrong. I just find it painful. So therefore, I feel it is better to go out on a high and remember the best times I have had there, before I keep going and it turns in on me. 

As I alluded to in my previous post, it is a different modus operandi being trans, and it does not always sit so comfortably inside the LGBT acronym as it could.

Also, I want my friends to have happy and joyous relationships and I cannot just turn them off to suit me. But the road I walk, coupled with the disability is a complex one and I need to allow my brain space to get to grips with that.

You see, the thing is dear readers, I want the same as you, a boyfriend or a girlfriend. I do not always want to be your attached gooseberry as lovely as you all are. Perhaps I just need a break, I’ll get back to you. 

But I do believe the way forward is to spend more time with people as I did in London. Also, job prospects there may be better.

There is an issue here of the ability to relate to people’s lived experiences. Sometimes, being with other LGB friends reminds me of what I do not have, and wish I did. Even though we are on the same team, the means to the end are very different.

However, I would like to thank everyone at The Edge for putting up with me for a year and wish you all well. James deserves a special mention, as he’s always been helpful. As well as James, I would like to thank Bex, Linzi, and Cath for their casual laid back attitude to what is my life and I love them loads. Lianne and Tiani too.

But what it boils down to is this. Everyone wants to be understood, and assimilate. In the Edge sometimes I find it hard because I cannot relate to the challenges and pressures of having a boyfriend or girlfriend, splitting up or arguing.

That said though, I have challenges of my own, which I am now going to take the time out to address. Around that pub table last week, I just felt trannytastic. Usually when people ask how I am, I will say ok. I find it hard to use the more optimistic range of adjectives, since they don’t normally fit the situation but last week I felt fantastic and awesome.

Continuing in the vein of awesomeness, I will shortly be starting electrolysis for hair removal on my face. The hair will be permanently removed and will not grow back. Yay! I shall be setting up a gofundme page when I have an idea of costings.

I am aware that gofundme has caused a lot of controversy for the My Transsexual Summer cast so was dubious about using it. The NHS will not fund any form of hair removal. I know this as my gender psychiatrist applied to my Primary Care Trust on two occasions and each time the application was rejected.

For trans women, electro or laser are not cosmetic. They are essential for trans women to pass, and my carer and I are at one on this. If anybody thinks for one moment it is for vanity, you are wrong. If anyone thinks it is for luxury, you are wrong, and if anyone does think that, then I do not wish to be your friend. I do not wish to carry passengers, only people who 100% support me, understand me, and understand my aims and goals.

Further down the line or maybe sooner than further, I would also like some botox and fillers for my lips to make them a little bigger. The primary goal is absolute, total, complete feminisation. I want to look good, and feel good too.

I completely support trans women using cosmetic procedures. I supported the My Transsexual Summer cast unequivocally on this, and still do. I now also support myself too.

It has pained me to watch people have to justify the things they have wanted, but if I have to do the same, I certainly will.

Another thing I am considering is vocal cord surgery for feminsation. I am making an appointment with my GP to discuss this and to arrange an appointment with Charing Cross in London.

I am aware this entry will probably anger some people, mystify some people, shock some people and a whole spectrum of other emotions.

But you see, I am my own counsellor and my own sister now, and I have to do what is right for me. Round that table, I tasted, smelt, and touched utter euphoria.

I am not saying my life would always be a bed of roses, it never is. But I think my quality of life would be improved in a more vibrant, cosmopolitan environment.

Let me tell you something. I came home to bed and cried that night last Thursday, because I did not want the best time of my life ever to end.

The next morning I just thought……… well Hannah you need to make sure it has only just begun girl. That is exactly what I am going to do.

Birthday Turbulence Mid-Flight

When I began this new blog, and in doing so closed the old one, I made a pact with myself. I said that I wanted to be less emo-ish and a bit happier about the positive situation  I find myself in, and that for the most part is possible.

However, life does still throw you curveballs. Being transsexual does not END  life’s problems and can increase them. I guess you could say some pain for internal gain. By internal gain. I mean how you feel about yourself inside.

But when the pain does bite, it bites hard.This entry will not be a pity party, just honest.

Around me, I have supportive friends, a  supportive carer (very) and a supportive counsellor. Did I miss out supportive family? Oh well this was not a deliberate mistake.

Returning to the theme of curveballs, one such ball hit me full square in the face on my birthday. I still have the emotional bruises to prove it.

17th January 1981. The day Hannah Buchanan entered the world, 3 months prematurely, and via an incubator. More of that journey and my j0urney to being Hannah full time is covered in my other blog, via my Facebook page if you’re lucky enough to be my friend. If not……well, not quite sure.

I was born in a small town in Scotland, Dunblane, as Wikipedia quaintly puts it,just off the A9 Road heading to Perth” . In relative history, Dunblane has become famous for all the wrong reasons, but I am not going to go into that here. 

So, Dunblane, what can I say, Dunblane is the epitome of normal. Normal however is based on perception and self definition. I myself have never bothered with it. Normal to me signifies conventional, ergo boring. I was brought up in a backdrop of men don’t kiss men and a lot of other heteronormative bollocks, which is a prime example of cultural hegemony. Thank you Antonio Gramsci. I salute you.

But Dunblane to advance my argument is the sort of place where nothing out of the ordinary happens, everything is normal (ergo boring) and everyone knows everyone’s business.

Really though, it is when hegemonic norms are broken that the shit hits the fan, in a very scientific sociological way. I remember my guru, Tina, telling me about a funny anecdote from a conference she’d gone to in Exeter. When a fellow counsellor asked her what she was there to speak about, and she mentioned trans issues, the counsellor replied that they don’t have transsexuals in Exeter.

Well dear friends, I do not think they do transsexuals in Dunblane, or on the outskirts of Edinburgh where I was born. If they did my trans status would not be an issue for my mother here and now. Those last two sentences are written with my tongue firmly positioned in my cheek by the way.

But given that it was a source of tittle tattle for my mother when a gay couple moved in over the road, and “there’s a gay guy at work” I should not really be surprised at what unfolded on my birthday.

She has very perfectionistic standards, and if you do not agree with her opini0n you are wrong, there’s no “entitled to your opinion” in the Benign Communist Autocracy of Mother.

I knew there’d be trouble when she got cross over an onion. Yes, you read right. A motherfucking onion. Onions you see, ought to be wrapped in clingfilm in the freezer. Don’t forget!

So anyway, things spiralled downwards after this, until this crescendo;

You were my boy and I loved you the way you were!! You were **** and you just want to sweep that away and I’m not saying sorry!”

The asterisks are deliberate. It still pains me to say or hear my in-appropriated name in conversation, written down , or heard. I will not be revealing it here either.

However this is not what pained me most. It was not the end of the onslaught.

“You will NEVER BE A GIRL!!!”

I have to say, this was a bit of a Jerry Springer the Opera moment for me. You know the what the fuck tap dance? It felt a bit like that for me. My brain started going at 90 miles an hour, I was so stunned and shocked and saddened all at once that this blatant homophobia and transphobia could come from one so close. Our relationship has always been turbulent but I thought we were making headway. It appears not.

What pains me more is that this is not exactly new. I began my old blog back in 2005, roughly around the beginning of transition. It documents accurately and fairly the start of that process. I still remember the milestones. Deed poll, local psych, first appointment at Charing Cross, speech therapy, all those sorts of things.

But what pisses me off even more is the TOTAL misundertanding of why people transition, and what gender dysphoria is.

It is a devastating travesty of the truth to suggest I have never been a girl when I already am.  The truth is, I have never been a boy. The truth is, there is nothing to sweep away because I am a girl who was born in the wrong body. The word never also, is pretty finite. It is conclusive. There is no ambiguity. To tell somebody they will never do something closes down the possibility. It is also devastating to morale and emotional stabilty. The truth is I am only starting to put myself back together.

But, in 2012 we know my mother’s transphobic assumptions are poppycock. Gender is as fluid as a DJ’s mixer, or as fluid as an artist’s canvas. That my friends is what makes it exciting. Endless possibilities, combinations, interpretations, visual, and emotional stimulus.

Take for example, the recent Channel 4 series My Transsexual Summer. All different characters with very different backgrounds and stories. However, the support and kinship they all gained from each other was nothing sort of inspirational. Before the show started, I expected a whole myriad of professionals to be involved, daily counselling et cetera. But the focus very much was on the people themselves, and gives credence to the view that we are all counsellors really!

So I have theorised around this but how did it feel? Truthfully, shit. I lost it and cried my eyes out. I told her she was horrible and cruel and had never said sorry for anything that had happened in the past. We have not spoken since my birthday, and to be honest, this is a pattern. It has happened so many times now, and I have given her the benefit of the doubt. It feels like there is a massive fracture line down this emotional X-Ray.  I am not a pushover and I do not always want to be the one to play nice. Just to be clear, I am proud of my status as a woman, a transwoman, and a lesbian. I have never been a boy. Transsexuality is not a mental illness, it is not a delusion, they screen all us infidels for those at the beginning. I have NEVER been a boy but as a woman, I’m living the dream, I really, truly am. I am proud of who I am, I am not sorry for it and I never will be. To apologise for being trans would be to apologise for my true self. It would also feel like a betrayal of myself. 

Apparently also going to The Edge is not mixing because everyone is in a minority. I am not even going to grace that with a response, frankly. I did not have a good birthday, but I had a lovely time at The Edge the next day.

People I feel misapprehend the bond between mother and child. They get sentimental, and believe that this bond has some kind of special status.

As I discussed in a recent session with Tina, love is not unconditional. It is a populist notion which appeals to the sentimental masses, but is also a dangerous heart wrenching untruth. Whilst many transsexuals do enjoy the support of parents, many do not. Therefore, I treat my mother in the same way as anyone who spoke to me in this way. I ignore them. Some people are just not worth having in your life, irrespective of their relationship to you. Some are toxic, some are not. What I am saying is that nobody who spoke to me like that would be accepted into my life for a good while. 

So, the midflight bit. With trans status comes stigma. With stigma comes fear. With fear comes prejudice. However I will not allow any further hurt or damage to myself from my mother. If I condone her behaviour, then each time I become upset, I can blame no one but myself for allowing it. I am in control. The reality of flying on the rainbow is that not everyone will come for a ride, but those who do, my friends from The Edge, and my fellow trans friends are a blessing and a support. The last week has been rocky, but I can get back on course. Feeling smiley already.