Health LGBTQ+

Promises we can’t keep

I blogged a few days ago about the problem with mental health services: it’s all very well to urge people to get help, but the help needs to be there for them.

This excellent piece by Vic Parsons explains how the system is failing many LGBT people.

People are still being left in limbo, on waiting lists, for more than two years – largely because of the tiny pool of resources.

I live in Scotland, where the NHS is considerably less beleaguered than it is in the rest of the UK: there are fewer people in the whole of Scotland than there are in London, and as a result our services are under considerably less pressure. But even then things move glacially slowly.

I had an initial assessment for counselling services yesterday, some 19 months after I first self-referred to the Gender Identity Service (in Scotland you don’t need to go through a GP to access such services). The counsellor felt I’d benefit from six sessions or so, and put me into the system. I can expect my first appointment approximately nine months from now.

That’s February 2019, from a referral in October 2016.

I’m not in crisis. I’ve already had private counselling that I found very helpful; counselling I was fortunate enough to be able to afford. And I’m currently being treated via a private GP, again because I’m fortunate enough to be able to pay for it. But a system that effectively forces people to go private or go without treatment is a system that’s broken. It’s particularly bad for trans / NB people, but it’s bad for everybody.

As Vic Parsons writes:

I know that I can wait for that appointment. But what if I was a teenager, young and alone and afraid?


White van, tran

When I came out as trans, I joked that I did it because I wanted to get yelled at in the street by people in vans. But until last night on the way to the pub, it had never actually happened to me.


Tired and emotional

The writer Tess Stenson posted something to Twitter earlier that really resonated with me.

When I first joined Twitter, many moons ago, I pointedly decided not to turn my feed into a trans feed. I joined so I could promote my upcoming book, and franky, I didn’t want to bore people with those issues.

As Tess goes on to explain:

With the rise of the alt-right, and right wing politics dominating the political discourse, and an increased awareness of trans people (that part being a very good thing, mind), the more transphobic elements in our society have only got louder.

Factor in the bullshit being spouted about Gender Recognition Act reform and the dread hand of the religious right using trans people to try and divide the LGBT community and trans people are under attack constantly.

I’m aware that I post more trans stuff here and on Twitter than some people might like, or be comfortable with. But Christ, it’s a drop in the ocean compared to the stuff I wade through each and every day.

I see more than most because I’m a news junkie. Every single day – and I really mean every single day – my news reading app delivers dozens of anti-trans pieces published in mainstream US and UK publications. The vast majority of them are either misinformed or misrepresenting easily verifiable facts, and some of them are downright hateful. And the news app also gives me lots of the more right-wing publications, which are even more hateful.

This stuff comes to me. I don’t go seeking it. Algorithms decide that because I’m interested in trans rights, I want to see a gruesome, uncensored photograph of a trans woman hacked to death with a kitchen knife. That because I’m interested in legal protections for trans people I want to read endless news stories about trans women murdered in North and South America. That because I’m interested in LGBT issues I want to read right-wing columnists calling me subhuman. I block, and I block, and I block, and the tide just keeps on coming.

And then there’s social media. Going on social media while trans is electing to pour an enormous bucket of shit over your own head. When I follow a Twitter link to, say, a Sky News piece about an upcoming documentary about a trans person I know not to look at the replies or the comments under the video. It’s just an ever-growing litany of bigotry and hatred.

So I switch off. Take a break. Try to make myself look nice, pick out something I think makes me look good. Head for the pub and after just twenty metres I’ve been mocked in the street by four shaven-headed, overly muscled lads because while most people are great, some people are pricks.

Sometimes they mock you in the street, sometimes they stage whisper “that’s a MAN” in the pub, sometimes they call you perverts in national newspapers and sometimes they dedicate their life to trying to deny you healthcare (this NHS consultation was deliberately targeted by anti-trans activists promoting quackery such as discredited and dangerous conversion therapy; the report [pdf] makes that clear).

Back to Tess’s Twitter:

The strain of it all is immense. Pretty much every trans man, trans woman, and non-binary person I know has felt it.

If you think it’s a slog to read about a tiny proportion of it, imagine what it’s like to live it.

Hell in a handcart LGBTQ+ Media

After the ‘quake

I wrote about Channel 4’s Genderquake debate a few days ago, and it’s safe to say the programme has caused a lot of controversy.

The people who refused to take part were proved right: Channel 4 was trying to start a fight.

Here’s a piece by Pink News on how the audience were told to behave.

Audience members at a controversial televised debate about gender claim they were “encouraged to heckle” panellists, including transgender activists Caitlyn Jenner and Munroe Bergdorf, by the programme’s producers.

That’s an interesting contrast to the programme as it was pitched to potential panelists. CN Lester:

I was one of the dozens approached from March onwards by Channel 4. An email from the production company explained that it would be: ”nuanced intelligent discussion around gender, identity and society. We aim to shed light on such complex issues and ask important questions in a safe environment.”

Lester declined to take part, guessing – rightly – that the programme wouldn’t be remotely like that.

This is what the so-called trans “debate” looks like: people shouting “you’re a man!” and “penis! penis! penis!” at people who thought they were there for a “nuanced intelligent discussion around gender.”

These are the “mums”. The women with “legitimate concerns”. The ordinary people who just want to have a “respectful debate”.

It’s not just the fact that they heckled. It’s that they were specifically invited so that they would. Channel 4 appears to have deliberately invited bigots – some of whom are currently under investigation for hate speech, some of whom have been suspended from their political parties – and given then prominent positions in the audience. When they did what they were asked to do and heckled the panelists, they were allowed to remain in place for the rest of the programme.

Imagine for a moment the programme was about the experiences of an ethnic minority and Channel 4 sat members of Britain First and the EDL at the front, letting them shout racial epithets throughout the programme.

Jenny Boylan, a writer I very much admire, in the New York Times:

This is what happens when we act as if the humanity of vulnerable, marginalized people is up for debate.

The people doing the shouting are the same people you read about in the Sunday Times and other papers. They say they aren’t bigots, that they want the chance to have a reasonable debate.

And when you put them in a studio they shout “Penis! Penis! Penis!”

Boylan again:

At the end of the “Genderquake” program, Ms. Jenner said, by way of conclusion: “We have to create a more loving society. We have to celebrate the differences in people. Show love toward one another.”

The audience booed.

Not the whole audience. You can guess which section.

I’ve been asked by a few people why I post about trans things here. That’s why. Every day we are libelled in print, slandered on social media, accused of unspeakable depravity and evil by people who question our right to exist and who repeat long-discredited bullshit.

Here’s just one example, from the supposedly LGBT-friendly Guardian this week. Gaby Hinsliff linked the issue of trans women being able to change their birth certificates with the vile attacks by Canadian sex offender Christopher Hambrook in 2012.

It was discrimination law, not the recognition process, that came under scrutiny in Canada after serial sex attacker Christopher Hambrook attacked two women in domestic violence shelters in Toronto, which he’d entered dressed as a woman. (The state of Ontario had previously passed a bill prohibiting discrimination against trans people.)

The law Hinsliff mentions wasn’t passed until six months after Hambrook committed his crimes. The non-existent link between Hambrook and anti-discrimination legislation was invented by religious conservatives to try and prevent the so-called “Toby’s Law” from being passed. It’s a favourite of the “Penis! Penis! Penis!” shouters too.

Hambrook wasn’t trans, incidentally. He was a serial sex offender who’d been incarcerated for child abuse and who was freed despite being an obvious danger to women: other inmates complained about the violent fantasies he made them listen to. Yes, he dressed as a woman to access a women’s refuge; had it been a disabled person’s shelter he’d have rolled up in a wheelchair. The judge who finally sentenced him to indefinite imprisonment said that nothing – “no other measure” but permanent incarceration – could protect women from such a dangerous man.

The number of trans women who’ve sexually assaulted people in toilets or refuges, worldwide, is zero. That’s why people keep bringing Hambrook up: if they had actual examples of trans people being evil you can be sure they’d use them.

The Hambrook case is about many things: lax sentencing of dangerous men, sexual assault against women not being taken seriously enough by police, and so on. But it had nothing to do with trans people whatsoever.

But, you know, another day, another insinuation that if you see me in the bathroom I’m there to rape you.

We are getting tired of this shit.


The question I’m left with: how much longer can this script play out? Is this still enjoyable for anyone apart from the fanatics who want to spew hate at trans women?

…I don’t have a choice about living in a culture shaped by such a regressive, dehumanising script.


…transgender people don’t need any more think pieces about the legitimacy of our lives. What we need, and what we deserve, is justice, and compassion, and love. What we need is freedom from violence, and protection from homelessness, and the right not to lose our jobs, or our children, or our lives.

That’s the sinister transgender agenda right there.


A letter to Channel 4

Pretty much every well known trans/NB person I can think of has signed an open letter to Channel 4 over the Genderquake “debate”, which airs tonight. The inclusion of Caitlyn Jenner and Germaine Greer suggests it’s a stunt rather than a sensible discussion.

On a related note, pretty much every well known trans/NB person I can think of was approached by Channel 4 and asked to participate, and refused.

CN Lester is one of them. As they wrote on Twitter earlier:

“Everything I’ve seen from the team putting this together suggests that they’re going for a fight, not a discussion – hence the refusal to participate.”

Jack Monroe, also refused, also on Twitter:

I signed this because I believe that trans people should not be subjected to abuse and harm for entertainment. Pitting us against known transphobes for ‘debate’ is harmful, reduces us to reactionary stereotypes, and legitimises transphobia by broadcasting it. Time to #takeastand

And we wrote this letter because dozens of well-known trans people refused to take part in this ‘debate’, all of us explained very very clearly why, and Channel 4 decided to go ahead with it anyway despite widespread concern from almost everyone they approached.

If around 50 trans people are separately refusing to be part of your #Genderquake programme, surely you’d get the message and reconsider your framing?

I won’t be tuning in.

LGBTQ+ Media

Nothing to fear

BBC Scotland in Glasgow

For several years, I did a monthly technology surgery on BBC Radio Scotland. It was fun to do, but I was always scared that one day everyone would find out I was trans and the gig would be up.

This morning, I did a technology surgery on BBC Radio Scotland. I wore a nice dress.


Dangerous waters

I don’t swim any more. I used to, because I preferred it to going to the gym. And of course when you’re a parent it’s a cheap way to keep the kids amused. But since becoming me, the thought of going to a swimming pool scares the shit out of me.

Owl Stefania puts it very well in this article for Refinery29:

…I can’t remember the last time I actually went swimming. I don’t think it will be anytime soon.

Likewise. I’m not scared of much any more, but I’m scared of that. Scared of public humiliation. Scared that someone will be scared of me. Scared that even in gender-neutral changing facilities where the only time I’m naked is in a locked, private cubicle, someone will loudly object to my being there and claim I’m somehow dangerous.

Dangerously clumsy, maybe. But dangerous? The only risk from my presence anywhere near a swimming pool is if I fall on you or belly flop nearby.

There are trans-friendly, private swimming sessions around the UK, I know. The next Glasgow one, I believe, is on the 3rd of June. I can’t make it, but I don’t want to go either. I know they’re well-intentioned, that the idea is to create a safe space where trans, intersex and non-binary people can swim and change without fear, but I’m not a great believer in segregating people. I’d feel second-class, like I was sneaking in to use a space I’m not supposed to be in.

Trans, intersex and non-binary people shouldn’t need safe spaces. There is nothing inherently dangerous about a changing area, or a swimming pool. And there’s nothing inherently dangerous about a trans person.

The reason I’m scared to go swimming is because of people pushing the predator myth: we can’t let group X near our children or women because they’re violent, sexual predators. It was said about various ethnic minorities. It was said about gay, bisexual and lesbian people. And now it’s being said about people like me.

These days no decent people mind sharing a changing room with people of different ethnicities, nationalities or sexualities, because they know that most people with different ethnicities, nationalities or sexualities are decent people too.

I’d like to think decent people think the same about trans people, but in the current climate I’m too scared to test the water.

Before I came out, I was scared of men. Now I’m scared of women too.


The truth about trans wars

There was a good piece about anti-trans hysteria in the (Glasgow) Herald this week. I know the author, Oceana Maund, a trans activist who couldn’t be more different to the lazy, malicious stereotype of trans activists as angry young people wearing masks and shouting. Maund is a brave and thoughtful person who seeks to build bridges, not burn them.

The combination of being physically assaulted in public on two previous occasions and the fact that I am a single parent with a teenage daughter means I am probably more concerned than most.

In Scotland the law means that anyone found using public toilets or changing rooms for nefarious purposes, regardless of what they are wearing or what is between their legs, will rightly face prosecution and severe penalty.

To claim that trans women are likely to use toilets and changing rooms for anything other than the designed purpose demonises an already misrepresented minority.

The piece is on the long side, but fair play to the Herald for running it: it once more debunks the complete bullshit being spread about proposed reforms to the Gender Recognition Act.


Automatic Trans Mission

I mentioned Jake Graf’s wedding a few weeks ago; now I’m sharing one of his films.

I was reminded of it this morning when I called to change my car insurance policy. After going through all the security questions I got stuck in a bit of a loop.

“Okay, and your name is?”

– Carrie.

“No, sorry, I need your name now.”

– It’s Carrie.

“No, I mean *your* name.”

– It’s Carrie. I’m the policy holder. Carrie Marshall.

“But it says here… it says Ms.”

– I know, your system doesn’t support Mx. I’m transgender.


Bear in mind that the very first question he’d asked me in the call was “can I take your name, please?”

Eventually we agreed that my name was indeed Carrie, but he wasn’t happy about it. I lost count of the number of times in our short conversation the agent asked, “are you sure there isn’t anything else you need to inform us about?”

It’s annoying, but thankfully it doesn’t happen very often: when I called my bank the other day to try and resolve a name issue (RBS has been trying and failing to change my name on two accounts since November), the chap on the phone used my old name. I hadn’t even noticed, but he spent so long apologising I was starting to worry that the call might end with him committing seppuku.

And as Jake’s video shows, sometimes people are not just okay, but actually brilliant.

I was calling my insurer because I’d bought a car (one with an auto box, hence the puntastic title of this blog post). The guy I’d bought it from wasn’t just okay with having a trans customer; he was delighted. In a previous life he’d ran nightclubs and as we waited for various computer things and branch things to happen he regaled me with frankly unrepeatable tales of some of his more outré trans friends’ tomfoolery and shenanigans. And he gave me a really good deal too.

There’s a cliché: people buy from people. And it’s a cliché because it’s true. I’ve recommended (both personally and on review sites, Google etc) businesses for no other reason than they made me feel like a valued customer and I wanted to tell other people about it. I won’t be doing the same for my current insurer.


Absent friends

I went as me to see Manic Street Preachers at the SSE Hydro tonight, assuming (correctly) that if any band’s crowd would be cool with trans people it’d be theirs.

But it was still a really big deal, a major step for me. I spent most of today absolutely shitting myself at the prospect.

I go to the Hydro a lot, but before tonight I hadn’t gone as me. It’s too big, too busy, capable of holding 12,000 people. That’s a lot of potential trouble when you’re tall and visibly trans. The long walkway you travel post-gig can be pretty rowdy too. For a while I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to do it.

So I’ve been working up to it. The bar of King Tut’s, capacity a few hundred. The new bit of the Royal Concert Hall, capacity 500. The O2 ABC, capacity 1,200. The O2 Academy, 2,500.

And tonight, the 12K Hydro.

Not so much out of my comfort zone as on a completely different planet to it.

And like every other big step I’ve had to take, I had to do it solo. No wingman to give me confidence. No voice offering assurance that I can do this. No shoulder to cry on when the sheer enormity of it all seems too much.

It’s a hard road to walk. Harder still to walk alone.