Saturday, 18 February 2017

Breaking down those walls of stone

    If someone had told me I'd see over forty transgender people in a room expressing something approaching agreement, I'd never have believed it. We are by our nature a very diverse grouping, you might say a broad church. You could safely expect an argument over whether the sky is blue on a clear day.
     But yesterday it was something of a surprise to see just that. Stonewall, the national LGBT campaigning charity, were holding one of a series of consultations on a document intended to lay out their trans strategy now that they are embracing the T in LGBT.
    Stonewall, you see, are an organisation with a bit of a problematic history in these matters. In the past, they have quite happily pretended to be LGBT when in fact they were more LGB, or a bit more accurately, LG. If you're being brutally honest, LG. Even LGGGGGGGGGGG, some people will tell you, such was the attitude of the coterie of middle aged gay men that once held sway at its helm. They'd take money on an LGBT ticket and even talk to politicians on that front too, but when it came to the crunch they'd throw us under the bus every time. Thus you'd see its name sometimes written as "Sonewall", because there's no T in it, or even occasionally "Sonewa", because at times there could be precious little L either. Not an organisation that had much trust from within our community
    A couple of years ago against this backdrop along came a new Stonewall director, Ruth Hunt. She immediately set about refocusing Stonewall to be genuinely LGBT, and to facilitate this she had the organisation recruit a trans steering committee. This committee put together the draft document, and yesterday's event was one of a series in which they placed it before the trans community.
    It was a document into which a lot of effort had been put, and it shows how much they have changed. In front of us we had a well-thought-out enunciation of trans rights and experiences, both as they are and as they should be. And here we come to the agreement between the attendees, while there was plenty to tweak around the edges the tone of the document was as far as I could see universally approved.
    Since I was there wearing my trade union hat I made a few suggestions on workplace rights. I always feel as though I've said too much or even made a fool of myself at these occasions, let's hope I made a valid contribution. We'll see the completed document in the coming weeks, and then its contents will be the subject of Stonewall's campaigns on our behalf.
    A long day involving a sprint across London between connecting Tube stations to get back home for another engagement in the evening meant I couldn't afford to hang around and socialise. My fellow attendees were a diverse bunch among whom was my friend Paula, and there could have been a lot to chat about had I had the time.
    I'm still beset by the crushing onslaught of my recent GD relapse, which isn't ideal when you're in the icily polite loneliness of a packed British commuter train. A self-important middle aged lawyer kept trying to invade my space with his elbow, then fell asleep and toppled onto me. I proceeded to invade his space with my elbow, placing him upright and awake in no uncertain terms.
    Before my evening engagement, an online conference for one of my current part-time employers, I went to the toilet in their office building. In the mirror, despite all the annoying stuff, I saw an image I liked.
    Pictures of me are not common, so it was the first time I'd been tempted to take a selfie in many years. It shows how far I've come, even if in some ways I'm no further forward.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

What a difference a few years makes

    So yesterday morning, there I was in my doctor's waiting room. I've gone back seven years, asking to be referred to a gender clinic again. Only of course it's rather a different situation, I'm asking to be referred back to the clinic. Not the same clinic, in the intervening years another one has opened up a lot closer to home.
    Into the doctor's office, and explain why I was there. Discuss where I am in the process and where I want to be, and that I need to be referred with my referral stating very clearly that I'm there only to get surgical referrals, I have served my time.
    The difference between now and seven years ago was this. Back then my GP, a different one from today, had that rabbit-in-the-headlights look. Transgender people were something of an unknown to him. Yesterday, completely different. I went in expecting to have to explain the whole process, and was pleasantly surprised to find this GP fully clued-up. We're coming out of the woodwork in huge numbers, and of course the professionals have had to learn about us. It would be difficult to explain to a cis person how positive this is, but it's evidence of an inexorable process. A decade or so ago you would never have met a transgender person in an average small British market town, now we're part of things. The dinosaurs in the media who still have a go at us on a regular basis can't fight that, when their readers all know people like us it becomes ever more difficult to demonise us.
    It'll be quite a few months before I get an appointment, and thereafter there will be more delay as I traverse the final few hurdles. But I'll get there.
    One thing's for certain though, I'll heed the advice a friend gave me quite a few years ago. Transition, she said, doesn't end with any particular medical procedure. It never ends, and there is always more to learn.