Law and society

Some trans women want it to be difficult to get a gender recognition certificate, not knowing it is irrelevant in real life.

The fee to the Gender Recognition Panel has been reduced to around £10, and the response was mostly a yawn. We still need a letter from a specialist psychiatrist on an approved list, which might cost hundreds. I commented that ICD 11 confirms I am not ill. Why should I need a doctor, to confirm I am not ill in a particular way?

S. said there should be medical involvement. What about someone still on the waiting list, who has been expressing themself in their true gender for two years? She said they would be able to get a GRC. When T. corrected her- you need a psychiatrist from the “T493 list”- she said “Whilst the current system in place is perhaps not ideal for everyone, it does work successfully for the majority”. She has “come out the other side all smiles”.

J. has just had a referral for GRS, and is “glad there are checks and balances in place”. B. has just had GRS and getting her GRC was “the simplest”. T. commented the current policy is wrong, especially with waiting lists as long as they are now, and a longer wait for the second interview after which you might get hormones. Private waiting lists are lengthening too.

This was an argument between trans women on the medical route. Three of us, whether we had completed it or not, cared about those waiting. Three had completed it, or almost, and did not. The lack of empathy, with people who were in a position these women had been in quite recently, saddens me. Two had left trans groups, “attacked by the trans police”- or, challenged for their too-rigid views.

One characterised “self-identification” as a “camp male with a beard who insists they are lesbian, but don’t intend physical transition”. So, how does the law affect how society treats such people?

Imagine Dave, a cross-dresser turned on by appearing female, who thinks transsexuals are a class apart and has no intention to socially transition. His pronouns are he/him, most of the time. Dave goes to the pub dressed female, and into a women’s loo.

People can’t tell if Dave is protected under the law or not. He could be someone who has decided to transition but is not that good at expressing female yet. Or Dave, after years of practice, might look more feminine than some trans women. So most people will not object. He’s not protected under the law, and if he wanted to sue a pub that would not let him in he would have to lie, but he usually won’t have any problem out in public. People might not know details of the law beyond a vague idea that trans people are protected, and won’t have any reason to believe he is not.

If he does something objectionable, people might object, but not because he is “only” a cross-dresser. Trans people can be excluded from spaces, generally in circumstances when cis people would be excluded too.

Now consider Stephanie, who has had GRS and has a GRC. If she is read as a trans woman, an anti-trans campaigner might object to her in the women’s loo. She is protected by the law, but that does not guarantee she will not face bigotry.

Even in South Carolina under the “bathroom bill”, a cross-dresser might get away with going into a women’s loo. If anyone noticed they might not want the effort of objecting. Sometimes women with a masculine appearance face objection. It’s a matter of luck.

Sandra is still on the waiting list for the gender clinic, so can’t get a GRC, but has changed her name and is now expressing herself female. She can get a bank card and driving licence in her new name. She can get a passport marked F- she may need to change GP. A GRC might make slight technical differences to her rights to marry, but otherwise would be useless. The law already treats her as a woman. Mostly, society will too. For the law to say she is a woman is very little more. That’s what a gender recognition certificate means. Already, she would have a good discrimination claim against a business excluding her from its women’s changing rooms.

Harnaam Kaur, a cis woman with a genetic anomaly and a full beard, might be stared at, or face objections in the women’s loo, but a beard does not make her a man.

What would GRC reform achieve? It would be the law, which helps to mould society, acknowledging trans people. It would be symbolic but would have a real effect on society as a whole. What does the denial of GRC reform, and the loud campaign of Tories and Republicans, achieve? A moral panic, and increased hostility to trans people whether we have had surgery or not. Their refusal to modernise the law, and insistence on “checks and balances”, produces unjust suspicion against post-operative trans women as well as cross-dressers.

Here’s Abigail Thorn. I am a fan. I looked at her oldest currently available video when she did not have a decent microphone, but was developing her comedy and clarity of explanation of complex concepts, already at a high standard. Now she has professional recording equipment, a studio, props. Her Amy Coney Barrett video, with her male voice but looking feminine, feels so strange.

She says there is a difference between passing as a cis woman and being seen as feminine so read as a woman. She says when she first went out dressed female she was seen as a bloke in women’s clothes, then later she was seen as a woman, even if as a trans woman. I find her charismatic- she seemed an attractive man, with that beard, but now is gorgeous. Her voice is warm and lovely, and the few hints of sounding like a counter-tenor will fade away. I am feeling self-conscious about my appearance. And, usually, I am treated with reasonable courtesy. My GRC does not affect that at all.

Passing, or masking?

Trans people are often ambivalent about passing. Just because someone is courteous, does not mean that you pass- it could mean that they were not transphobic! If you pass, you may be worried that someone will read you, your secret will be out and you will never be seen the same again. So we pay out vast amounts for facial feminisation, for surgeons to grind away our foreheads and shape our noses, or perhaps masculinisation. The thought of a surgical scar across the top of the head, even if covered by hair (mine wouldn’t be, but by a wig) was enough to put me off.

The term used by autistic people, masking, gives a different view of the matter. Why should we (or they) pretend to be normal, just so normal people are not discomposed? This account of an autistic breakdown is a good example:

To be autistic is to live in a world where everything is too loud, too smelly and too bright, populated by people who say one thing and get angry when you fail to realise that they really meant something different. At the same time, your brain is struggling to keep track of and process the stimuli constantly bombarding it. Your brain and body then shut down and go into overdrive at the same time. Adrenaline courses through your veins. You are swallowed in a cloud of panic and cannot help but scream and sometimes lash out at others or even yourself.

That’s a clear example of the social model of disability. The autistic person does not melt down because of autism, but because of the need to mask her or his condition. Ideally, before meltdown, the autistic person would be able to reduce the sensory overload in some way, perhaps by withdrawing. Either other people nearby would notice and take care of them, or they would notice that it was getting too much. It seems the shame and exhaustion afterwards are socially enforced rather than natural. You have tried to mask too long, and that is exhausting. So, of course you have a meltdown. It should be nothing to be ashamed of.

Masking. You are different, and you hide that, because you know mockery or worse will ensue when your difference is discovered.

Autistic people devote energy to masking, to pretending to be normal so as not to disconcert the neurotypicals, when stimming or other ways of relieving the pressure would enable them to use their gifts far more productively. That we NTs demand the “normal” behaviour rather than being kind and accepting of their weaknesses, so their gifts may shine, is our loss as well as theirs.

If only we could just be people! There is no need to pass, and you would not be judged according to how well you conform. I could enjoy looking striking, without fearing the second glance that read me as Trans therefore Bad. I could be myself more, not wanting to conform so much (not that I want to conform, particularly).

Masking makes you safe. Masking avoids perturbing the neurotypicals, or the cis-het folk. We will all want to mask sometimes, even if only to go places where we would be less safe when read. But masking is a burden we take on, for no-one’s benefit really, from the stultifying social pressure to conform. If people could reveal their diversity more easily, everyone would be happier.

Everyone moderates their behaviour, in order to fit in, to a greater or lesser degree. If only we were freed from that burden!

Grayson Perry

I am a transvestite; I am turned on by dressing in clothes that are heavily associated with being female…How can I, brought up as a man, know anything about the experience of being a woman? It would be insulting to women if I thought I did.

This is enough for some people to write Grayson Perry off as a transphobe- it implies that trans women insult women too. He speculates about how his mother, venting her rage about men, or her partner, the Minotaur who could be the only masculine one in the household, might affect his gender- it’s nurture, not just nature. Then he refers to his “gender dysphoria”. Later he says boys fear that putting on a dress will turn them into a girl. (If only!) He may be a trans woman who cannot admit it even to himself, but the truth keeps leaking out. Or, loathing makes him express it negatively- cross-dressing is “childish”, a “fantasy of femininity”- but also he (p52) calls it “adopting femininity”. He wears little girl dresses, the clearest transvestite fetish opposite of the serious trans woman in women’s trousers, and finds women dote over him like they would over a little girl, drawn into the narrative of the costume despite the incongruity of the wearer.

He conflates things we would differentiate, and states etiologies we would dispute. He boasts of using the men’s toilets “even” when wearing a dress, “out of respect”. Most say “cross-dresser” rather than transvestite. Yet he challenges Masculinity, which has poisoned us and which we flee. I would go beyond the failure to see trans as we see it, to his whole view. We can’t impose an orthodoxy on everyone. Many people will say “Trans women are women”, still, thank God. Does anything he says advance our cause?

Unfortunately, his book The Descent of Man is confused. It seems he has thought a lot about masculinity, as a transvestite, but not read widely or systematically. Parliament being half women would bring in consensus, steady debate and empathy in leadership. So women are other, and I don’t get the same sense of women’s variation. High-achieving, ambitious men revel in the status quo. “Sexually promiscuous,” he calls them. That could be envy, though he is married. Men lower down the pecking order still benefit from the patriarchy. But “those who lose out”- probably “unmanly” men like him, have nothing to lose and might rise up alongside women. How many? “A lot of them,” that is, no idea.

Later, he writes “A lot of men are sold the narrative of male domination, but lead lives of frustration and servitude”. So the macho men who dropped out of education and have no job, but who beat up their partners, might rebel? They would rebel in quite a different way. Men compete unconsciously, talking of their achievements, possessions, and strengths. I have noticed that sometimes I do not feel the need to compete, sometimes I compete, and sometimes I can add nothing to a conversation, as if invisible (once on Saturday). I am aware of it. Not feeling a need to compete is a relief, but perhaps it was that I did not see the man telling me his boastful story as competition.

The props, gestures and script which signal gender are temporary social constructs. Yes. I would like a discussion of how our symbols relate to our underlying qualities, real or feigned, but it is not here. But he has interesting things to say about passing. He mimicked the “pimp roll” of older boys, being keen to pass as a real man. All men do, he argues. Authentic manhood, merely expressing ones inner qualities, is the ideal, and men have ways of pretending to that, such as leather biker jackets. We work at passing in many ways: sexuality, class, race, occupation or nationality. However for me, we imagine our interior selves fit our ideal. We do not know ourselves.

Explaining ourselves

We got to the villa, large and well-appointed, which we got cheaply because of being slightly before the season. The owner welcomed us, and showed us round. He introduced us to the three big dogs- as we walked through the town later to the café, there was a dogs’ chorus. Be friends with your burglar alarm: he wanted them to get to know our smell. “If you have any questions, please do ask,” he says, but we have no questions for him. Really, we want him to leave.  His parents in law are the next house, overlooking the garden. His English seems excellent, with little foreign accent.

We are shy. We do not want to explain ourselves. “They are shy of you, because they have Asperger’s Syndrome,” I could have said. I am shy, because I am Trans. We can pass as normal if we interact as little as possible. Why on Earth would we want to pass? Because explaining does not necessarily make others friendly- they might be put off by our odd manner, but might be mocking or hostile if they knew what we really are. Or even exploit us! And- I am worthwhile to know, but not trusting. I want you to spot that, imagine I might have good reason for it, and work to gain my trust!

Self-hatred is very useful for being able to pass. I have no right to be as I am, and the hostility of others is only to be expected. Or, you despise them, you put on an act for others. The main cause is fear. We pass because we fear you.

One of us ate something which disagreed with him, and as soon as we got home he was copiously sick in the gutter. There is a hose in the car port, and I hosed it down the drain. Later, the father in law came over. “We wondered if you are all alright? We saw he was sick in the gutter.” This could be friendly concern, and I experienced it as checking up on us. What are they doing wrong? Make them stop. Even, punish us in some way. We just want him to go away. No, no, we’re absolutely fine, there is no problem at all, and we say this not meeting his eyes, looking shifty. I fear, loathing the thought, that I come over as submissive.

I did think, later, of going over and asking for help, taking both at their word, getting to know them a bit, letting down my guard, approaching directly not circumspectly. Are there any tourist attractions for our friend, who has huge difficulty with stairs? I am a human being. Every human being has idiosyncrasies. I should not be judged for mine.

There is a large pile of wood, and a fireplace between the living room and my bedroom, with glass doors to each. I get a fire going easily- just call me the Pyromage! It has a strong draw, but we have more difficulty getting heat out of it rather than going up the chimney.

The kitchen is lovely. Twice we had sausage and mash, and twice we had pizzas. The trouble with passing, of living in fear of and at war with the world, is that you have less energy to explore how the world’s beauties and gifts may delight you, or to make it delight you, for you do not realise you deserve that.

The Only Cross-dressing guide on the web

Beware what you read on the internet. A spam comment took me to Cross Dressing Guide, which breathlessly promises, Learn how to crossdress — and pass as a genetic female — from the most comprehensive feminization guide on the web…PLUS learn how you can develop your own female voice!

Jamie is probably not your best guide. I almost embarrassed myself in front of others by following the “tuck away” tip I learned off the site — didn’t hold its place. Tucking is very simple. Here is the only guide you need, and if Jamie could not manage it himself, he can’t teach anyone else. I never had a problem.

He thinks passing is very important. Even though he worked really hard to pass, I still looked like a dude in a wig and a dress. Well, of course. You need a great deal of practice. Reading a book or looking at photos is not going to teach you, certainly not in a few short days. If you are a cross-dresser, there is no need to go out in public at all; there are lots of accepting places you can cross-dress. Facebook is full of groups. More seriously, I hate what Jamie writes, I strive to create as near perfect illusion of being a woman as I can. Passing as a woman is one of the most important things as a crossdresser, transgenderist, transvestite or transsexual…Your goal is to be totally accepted as a woman when you go out….you don’t want to embarrass anyone, including yourself…. you want to be treated with respect and dignity by those you encounter. That threefold division, TS, TV, TG is more than ten years out of date. No-one talks like that any more, and the tips may be similarly out of date.

And Jamie cultivates paranoia. I want to be treated with respect and dignity, but if I am not, it is not because I have failed to pass but because the other person is discourteous. Passing is good, but you need a brass neck.

I decided in 1996 that I didn’t want to be a sad, lonely pervert- I wanted to be a happy, gregarious pervert. I went to Stephanie Anne Lloyd’s Transformation shop in Manchester. I see she’s still going, and still promoting her gender clinic- a friend spent vast amounts of money on that, and got nothing. I asked if there was anywhere I could dress in the city, and they said their shop was the only place. I got my first wig there, at a time I would have been too embarrassed to get a wig anywhere else, before I had internet access- so I am grateful- but they do exploit trans folk terribly. The place to go in Manchester is the Northern Concord. Jamie bad-mouths everyone else- small handful of tired tips… just awful!– but could hardly be the only trustworthy person in the business.

You certainly don’t need a garment especially designed for tucking- Jamie’s use of the term “cache-sex” just like Transformation makes me suspicious they are linked. Transformation was terribly exploitative, with low quality clothes at very high prices.

A local gay bar started using my guide to train their drag performers. And many patrons wondered why there were real women working in the establishment. If that were so, they were failures. The point of being a drag artiste is being absolutely fabulous.

What he promises is worthless. You don’t need to figure out how to…use skin products and cosmetic that suit your own skin type. You need help, which a beauty counter will provide, if the shop is quiet. I found beauticians very helpful. Learn to dress as a female by knowing different styles of dresses– well, most women wear separates, and trousers. If you wear dresses, you will stand out. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but does give the lie to the suggestion that he can give fashion tips. Walk like a female using feminine movements that will make you a fashion model. You don’t want to let your masculine movements blow your cover. A sashay might draw attention too. I found walking in a feminine way was more a matter of relaxing than learning tricks.

Keep your $50, but you might go to his site- if you want a good laugh.



People who don’t pass don’t want to do the work needed to pass. I read that and thought, that’s a bit harsh; but, yes.

It is a lot of work. How do you express yourself with clothes, and also fit into the fashions, when you have an unfeminine body-shape? I know that many women have unfashionable body-shapes, that there is a great deal of body-shaming and that fashions can be at one moment flattering to particular people, the next month not. It is not easy for cis women; I tend to feel it is more difficult for us.

I don’t get my voice right. I have a story for that: the speech therapist told me to practise a little bit throughout the day, and that meant breaching my male presentation. Like carrying a heavy pack: I could just about plod on, grimly, but repeatedly putting the pack down then shouldering it again was unbearable. But then, it is a long time since I transitioned, even if immediately after practise reminded me of that distress. I have practiced my voiced th, which is particularly difficult to get above the break. You start with n and m, easy enough, and go onto more difficult sounds.

This That the Other.
This That the Other.
This That the Other.
This That the Other,

I say, listening to the sound. Then other words with that ð sound. Father. Brother. Thus. Lathe. It is a “voiced dental fricative”. Blogging gets me doing the work, I have broken off to google the sound.

ð and Ð

run in my mind. There is value in practice, and in other sounds, other words. Oh, I could say I like being able to speak baritone, for emphasis, or when I am tired and not thinking about it; singing, my baritone is better able to keep a note, pleasanter, and much stronger than my countertenor/falsetto;

And there are mannerisms, responses and habits- women are less likely to drink pints, or single malts-

It is a great deal of work. Do you have the motivation? Is not-passing bearable? Does it fulfil some need for attention? Right now I don’t pass. I see that passing might have some advantages, in encounters with people uncomfortable with trans folk- certainly in job interviews-

Not just motivation but belief in its possibility. Is it that every marker I shave off makes it longer before people read me, or do I just have so many markers that however much work I do I will never make it? There are markers no work will alter: I am tall for a woman, though not shockingly so… my face does not look that unfeminine, surely? Not to me, not when I am feeling confident… There may be markers I am not aware of, unknown unknowns…

Why is my life so hard? It ought not to be this hard (sense of entitlement)…

For whatever reason, fourteen years on, I have not done the work. Is it worth it? There is another view: trans women suffer gender dysphoria, and the work required to pass is the work required to minimise those male characteristics which make them dysphoric.


Trying to see me as a woman

A one-time friend, who is not obviously wicked, looks at a trans man. He writes,

I don’t have any issue with this person cross dressing, or going further if they want.
Nor that they want to call themselves a man, use a man’s name…. want to identify themselves as a man, (i.e. if they look in a mirror and say… “that’s a man”)… and want to play being a man. I don’t see any issue.

Unfortuntely this person also wants me to experience them and identify them as a man.

I would dearly love to, as it means much to them, and it (i can see) would make them happy.

Sadly… I just don’t.

It’s not that I can’t experience them as a man (it’s not about ability),

nor that I won’t experience them as a man (it’s not about will)

It’s just that I… don’t.

M shows minimal levels of tolerance. “I don’t have any issue”- you’d better not. Objecting to the trans man using a man’s name, etc, is like objecting to a woman wearing a mini skirt, or flats: imposing his own standard of morality on how the trans man expresses himself. Some trans people like neutral pronouns, but if the man wants to be called “he”, using “them” is below the standard of courtesy I would expect.

However M uses “they”. Why? Both to honour their preference to no longer identify as their birth gender, but also and at the same time honour and validate my own experience (when I don’t experience someone as a gender other than their birth gender). Oh, God. He claims the right to define the other.

I am not sure I understand M’s lines about ability or will. If I look at a black man and see him as different to ordinary people and then feel intensely uncomfortable around my own racism, and seek to treat him reasonably and suppress my seeing him as different- the conscious effort to accept, while better than intolerance, is still racism. I can control how I respond, to an extent. I can avoid voicing objections.

M would accept a black man, I assume. I don’t accuse him of racism, even the smallest internal vestige of it- but he is forced to say this is different. The trans man is not a man, so we should treat him differently from men. Or M suffers some loss: “This has changed the safety of the [men’s] space for” him. Aha. So now we have a conflict of rights, rather than a failure to accept another human being as he is. See the winsome way he expresses that: I’m not threatened by the person. I do feel that the person’s presence in that space has broken the nature of what I had previously gone to that space to find.

You don’t have to like everyone but disapproving of their way of dressing, or not recognising their change of name, is claiming a right to define them in a way they reject. If you want to define another person you had better have good arguments why that is appropriate. I include refusing to accept their choice of pronouns in that right they have to self-define.

Do you want other people to see them in the same way? On Friday night I discussed a man over the phone. I had not met him, but my friend warned he behaved in a disconcerting way around older women, and I take her suspicions seriously and feel she has a right to tell me. If I meet him I will make my own judgment. But again, if you warn others against a person or want them to feel the same way about that person, you should have a good reason for that.

There are times when I DO experience someone as other than their birth gender (usually through error but sometimes because they are more successfully presenting as their transgender’d self than some do and haven’t yet outed their own previous “status”). i.e. I’m convinced and have bought into their presentation. This is passing privilege. We can be accepted as we are as long as we give no clue of our history- so we can never talk of it, never use a male voice for emphasis or provocation, we are constrained into the cliché way of being a woman. Once outed, we trans women are known as men. Then you judge us on the way we look, and feel deceived if you find us out.

M says he wants to see the trans man as a man, but just does not.

This trans man wants to go to a men’s group. What does a men’s group have in common, exactly? If M is happy to have me there, it has to be something which I share: perhaps a Y chromosome, or some experience, or lack of it. Women’s experience of patriarchy might bring them together: what brings men that includes me? And- why do men attend a man’s group? For practice recognising man’s emotions, or expressing in a man’s way- for stretching that expression? Learning how to be a man now, or unlearning old lessons?

Maybe I should try a men’s group. I don’t see, though, how the trans man can alter the group’s nature in a way that I can’t- in the things people say or do, in the arguments or feelings- except that his going changes the definition of “man” from one not recognising the reality or value of trans, to one that does. It changes M’s definition of “man” to a broader one M has not consented to.

I said I would blog about this. We had been messaging back and forth. This surprises him. Well, like everyone else I am trying to navigate the impossibility of “being myself” and “fitting in”. I can’t be certain it is more difficult for me than for anyone else, but I know from experience my own desperation to fit a particular kind of Manliness- it certainly felt taboo to permit myself, as a man, the feelings I felt- then the feeling that my way of being was grudgingly accepted when I call myself by a woman’s name. I got a passport saying “F” when a doctor certified I would probably present female for the rest of my life: if I fitted the State-defined idea of “trans woman” I would be acceptable. But M does not accept that. I feel erased. It feels like we are discussing his right to erase me. It does not make it any better, from my perspective, that he wants to make the trans man happy. I am trying to be reasonable and respectful, but I feel intensely uncomfortable.

It’s all about him- his perceptions, his feelings, his loss. I find it hard to see that he has a loss beyond a slight discomfort at the man’s presence in his man’s group. He has made much of it, but really could just say, “Oh, OK then” and think of something else. Any man in the men’s group may change its dynamic in ways he dislikes. We are never in control, and that might make him more eager to exclude the trans man- just in this moment, when he can make some sort of rational-sounding argument, he can exclude the trans man, exercise some sort of control, and feel better, however bad he makes others feel.

To an extent, I don’t care for myself. I am a man- a woman- both- neither- whatever- Clare. I don’t need you to see me in a particular way to feel good about myself. But others of us do. It can really hurt. And he could behave courteously to trans people. That he does not feel the need enough to actually do it is unpleasant.

Wearing dresses

Trans women dress more femininely than cis women. I have often noticed in a group I am the only woman in a skirt; or been in a group of trans women, all in dresses, where cis women in similar circs would be in trousers. For years I never wore trousers at all- though a man I knew wore trousers three times in five years: he was a hotel manager in the Highlands, and always wore kilts.

I like skirts. I don’t have particularly good dress sense, though it is better than it was. The play Bakkhai represented my experience beautifully: the King appears in a ridiculous skirt suit, out of fashion, ill-fitting, with feminine flounces; and I thought, I have worn that suit, and seen others in it. Dress sense is something cis women learn from childhood, and we have to pick up later.

You pick it up in part from watching other women. I have a problem with that, too: I tended to walk along the street quickly, to get where I was going, rather than looking around at people and things. Friends think I have snubbed them when I have not noticed they are there. Partly this is not noticing others’ attention, which I feared might be hostile.

You work on it slowly, because you have other things to work on. I had a few looks I liked, and I stuck to them, because I had to think about work and friendships. One trans woman I met bought lots of clothes from charity shops and wore something different every day, to find what she liked and what looked good on her, and what other people liked on her.

I found the fashion a few years ago for leggings or black opaque tights, and short flippy skirts, too exposing. I was scared of it. It was the sexy end of feminine, and I don’t want to look sexy. Neck lines go up and down, but I wore high necklines and was roundly mocked for it by one woman in about 2007: no-one would wear a shirt like that, buttoned up to the neck! And with the leggings, a woman in her sixties had been told her long skirts were frumpy, she should show off her legs, and she told me I should show mine. So I do, now and then, I have a shorter skirt and a couple of shorter dresses. I still feel self-conscious. Not everyone is looking at me, and those who are might be appreciative not derisive.

It has never been that I want to appear feminine so I choose clothes which I think look particularly feminine, but that I am feminine, so choose clothes I like- bright warm colours, soft fabrics, floaty shapes. And I wear jeans a lot, because they are practical.

Madame Monet in Japanese Costume

A well-travelled man

I may be passing better. I had not seen Serra for nine weeks, and she thought I looked different. You can’t tell you are passing better because of pleasant conversation with strangers, because people are capable of courtesy, even to an obvious tranny. Imagining that if I am read people will avoid me or be horrible is internalised transphobia; and yet I feel more relaxed, more comfortable in my own skin, and people may be seeing me as a woman. When someone is actually horrible, that is a better guide: would he take the opportunity to insult my gender, if he read me? You can’t be certain.

I got chatting to Faye on the train. She had been to York for a day’s tattooing. She has had three days, now, and expects five more to cover her back with a complex floral design, at £350 a day. It was this, or a car. If the colours fade, she will have them redone. “I have had electrolysis,” I said.  I wanted to show I shared the experience of painful needle insertion. When she asked where, I said, “Upper lip,” which is misleading as I had it all over the face and did not want to say so. We shared experiences of trying to relax. It was lovely. We connected, talking of feelings.

On the other side of the table, Dave was trying to make friends, telling a man of Bangladeshi origin of his trip to India, not put off by the other’s lack of interest. He told how there was nothing like Mumbai, of how Delhi was nothing like Mumbai- “In what way?” asked the man. Delhi is an old city, full of parks and old buildings, Mumbai is just crazy. “What do you mean, crazy?” So fast, such a buzz! Would you like a beer? Dave is on his second Newcastle Brown Ale, and we all decline.

Dave announces that he missed his train by fifty seconds, and now will have to “lie through my teeth” to the ticket inspector. He got the train from Tongue, he could say. I tell him the nearest station is Thurso. Or he could say he just got on at Leicester. Kye is looking up the timetable on his phone so Dave can make a plausible fib.

He wants us to introduce ourselves again. “I have heard your name twice, but still am unsure of it,” I said to the man.
-What is it then?
-Don’t be horrible, says Steve, rebuking him, protecting me, and my skin crawls just a bit more. I don’t need his protection. The name is Rakesh: not a name I am familiar with, so it takes longer to go in. I got it the third time.

Rakesh reverts to silence, and Steve tells me of walking and climbing in the Pennines, then for the third time of his plan to lie- “Don’t tell us, we might shop you,” I said. He did not reply. His father met his mother in an orphanage in Woking, and aged 11 told her he would marry her. He died of a cerebral haemorrhage aged 44, having become a middle to senior manager in BT just before there was that great reduction in the BT management.

-How long was he unemployed?
-Two seconds.

He got himself a better job immediately. Steve’s parents hated each other. His father had a string of affairs.

I don’t know whether to believe any of this, or how Steve has always lived in London except when he lived in Winchester, which is horrible because it is not at all diverse, just self-satisfied unquestioning middle-class.

When we approach my station he wants a hug goodbye, and we have an A-frame hug. Then he wants to take my hands. “Oh, she’s taking off her gloves!” he exclaims. Well, yes. That seems to me merely courteous. I don’t find it threatening only because he is so bizarre. He might have tried to make a connection by telling of “Trans people I have known”, had he noticed.

Rousseau, the Monument to Chopin in the Luxembourg Gardens


Some transsexual people never get “read” as transsexual. This is known as “Stealth”.

Stealth is a particularly poisonous version of the Beauty Myth, that beautiful people are better, and we should all strive to be beautiful- and our beauty is never enough. If “she looks like a man” is a particularly hurtful insult, how much more hurtful when I actually do. A bit. Not everyone reads me, but most people do, fairly quickly. Few comment on it: just as on meeting someone you do not comment on the purple birthmark half-covering her face, so people don’t usually say, “So you’re a tranny, then?”

Some people do not get read. One friend achieved stealth by changing job, city and friends when she transitioned. She retained one friend from Before, apart from her contacts in the “trans community”. She has a perfect right to get on with her life, and no obligation to campaign for other trans people, or to come out, and suffer bad consequences for doing so.

“My value as a human being does not depend on my physical appearance,” I declaim, portentously, and people who are pretty have life easier. Looking weird sucks. And- one gets on, as best one can, I suppose.

It is of more than academic interest to me that in April, Chris Wilson, a trans man, was convicted in Scotland of obtaining sexual intimacy by fraud, because he failed to disclose his trans history. He had casual sex. He had lied about his age, claiming that he was 16 rather than 22- with female bone structure, he looks younger- but the charge was that he had failed to disclose his trans status.

Why should I ask permission to be me? Pick someone up in a pub, go to a nice quiet place- hotel room, her house, the lavs- and then I have to say, by the way I am Trans. Is that OK with you? Some jurisdictions specify that recklessly infecting someone with an STD is a criminal offence, and Wilson’s case makes me equivalent. Someone might be happy to have casual sex with me, who would not be happy to have it with a trans woman.

It means that I am female by consent- not just of the Gender Recognition Panel, but of everyone, and anyone can withdraw that consent. I say I decide what sex I am, I decide how I should express myself, and while I want to be presentable, no-one gets a veto.

Trans women have objected to the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill on the grounds that a person with a Gender Recognition Certificate has to disclose gender history to a prospective spouse, or that spouse can have the marriage declared void, later. However, the Bill will also reveal the person without a GRC. As same sex and opposite sex marriages are slightly different legal institutions, when the trans woman without a GRC marries she must be registered as the “husband”.