Transgender Life

I don’t want this site to be solely about being transgender. From my experiences so far, it’s not even something I could write about every week – being in the closet is far more intense and frustrating and writeable. However, there are moments when things happen, unique to trans people. I’d like to share those moments with you, and let you into the mystery.

18 months after graduating, 10 months since surgery

Gina-cold-times-four Me, times four, freezing my arse off

Life is winter right now. This time last year I got a part-time job as an academic manager at my university. I am grateful for it: by itself, it doesn’t pay enough to cover my bills, but in surveying the scene, there are people doing better than me and people doing worse. I’m especially thinking of the people doing worse. It could have been me. I’m not stuck in some warehouse somewhere (as I was up ‘til April 2021). The worst thing is having your energy drawn from you while doing something you hate. Until the last few months when lecturing (I love lecturing) and post-doc/job applications (not so much) became the order of the day, I was writing and publishing stuff, and a new cycle is about to begin. I don’t need much, but what I do need, I can’t imagine life being worth living without it. I have a nice apartment that I’m sharing with others, I have enough money to buy whatever food I desire. I’m not sure I have enough money for heat. I have friends and I live in a beautiful city where I walk everywhere. When I walked to university this morning, it gently began snowing.

I was at the university library today trying to sort out a problem, the person dealing with me was nice. Being a transgender woman in the real world is not like social media, or the mainstream media. Everyone’s just trying to live their lives, and either they don’t care or they might even admire the fact that in spite of everything, as a transgender woman, you’re also just trying to live yours.

My diary entries these past couple of years have had a focus, until now. Whether it’s lethargy or serenity, or whether it’s the seasons, the leaves have fallen, and with a touch of frost, a trans woman walks among the skeletons of trees as the snowflakes fall.

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JK Rowling and the Echo Chamber of Secrets

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Adapted from my article for Transgender Studies Quarterly

Special issue: Trans-Exclusionary Feminisms and the Global New Right

Volume 9.3, August 2022

 

Abstract

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The Stoning of Stonewall

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The stoning of Stonewall during the new Trans Panic: how the U.K.’s most popular progressive newspaper, the Guardian, aligned with the right-wing legacy media’s attempts to delegitimize the LGBT+ charity Stonewall for its advocacy of trans rights

(to be published in October 2022 in U.C.U. LGBTQ+ conference papers. Ed. Seth Atkin)

(wordcount: 5,474)

Abstract

The explosion in the number of stories about trans issues since the late 2010s, published by a U.K. legacy media largely devoid of trans voices and related specialist knowledge, has seen coverage deemed “aggressive and damaging” against transgender people (IPSO, 2020: 12). Such trans testimonies, registering their distress at the negativity of the coverage by the U.K. legacy media, are supported by the findings of a number of international bodies such as the Council of Europe (2021) and ILGA-Europe (2021) which claim the U.K.’s legacy media has been contributing to the demonization of the country’s transgender community. One surprising participant in this media campaign has been the U.K.’s most popular progressive news outlet the Guardian. While the reasons behind the apparent anti-trans tendency remains a point of conjecture, the evidence of transphobic framing is discernible and measurable. This article provides a frame analysis for some of the recurring patterns of delegitimization from the period of 2020-2022, specifically its coverage of the largest LGBT+ charity and trans-advocacy organization in the U.K. and Europe, Stonewall. As has been recognized (Trans Legal Project, 2021; Paton, 2021), Stonewall has increasingly become a collateral target of the U.K.. legacy media for its refusal to abandon its advocacy of trans rights. This study analyses how the Guardian’s coverage has contributed to this attempted delegitimization of Stonewall, specifically in terms of its selection of key words and omission of key information in its coverage of the charity.

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Sex-change and happiness

Post-op-Gina My post-op self: happy, healthy and smiling

Sex-change and happiness

It feels like something of a taboo for a trans woman to talk about her surgery. But recently, I've seen a lot of negative stories on Twitter about transgender surgeries, with at least one detransitioner campaigning to ban trans people from having surgery, saying it's life-ruining. I'd like to provide a different narrative - my own, personal narrative - about the surgery I had last February, just over four months ago, and which is one of the best decisions I have ever made.

For the benefit of those who may not know what surgery I'm talking about, I'm referring to 'vaginoplasty' (reconstructing my genitalia as a vulva, including a vagina). It's described variously as gender reassignment or gender confirmation or bottom surgery, but for the purposes of this blog I'll use the term that's meant to be pejorative: sex change. Partly this is in tribute to our wonderful media and their framing of the surgery as 'sex-change op' - ever the populist, I will replicate the language here, in a kind of ironic tribute. Also, ‘sex-change’ is quite a dramatically retro term, like ‘transsexual,’ or 'BMX bikes,' they're terms I grew up with in the 1980s and 90s, from the non-halcyon era of Rupert Murdoch and the tabloidization of the British media in which the British public discourse coarsened (though we did have good bikes). Also, I know gender-critical feminism doesn’t believe a person can change sex, so I think it’s a fun term to use on this count too, a political one that’s provocative.

On the subject of my experience of 'changing sex,' I want to elaborate here that as someone who went on female hormones in 2016, then came off them from the end of 2019 (on medical advice), before going back on them at the end of 2020, I’ve experienced the real-world impact of a mode of female puberty, that led to a degree of menopause followed by a second male-puberty, then a second degree of female puberty again as I finally returned to oestrogen. Through biological changes, I’ve experienced the real-world impact of what it is to pass and not pass, to attract male threats or avoid them, I've felt the menopausal hot flushes and the raging of testosterone. These are significant biological changes with huge social and psychological implications – life and death implications, employment and unemployement implications, violent/non-violent implications. Do I think it’s possible to change sex? Not in an absolute way, but partially, yes, and if I was once male-bodied, I’m now trans-female bodied. From the impact of different hormones on my psychology and body, to the social impact on your appearance, the difference is life-changing.

I digress. Last week a detransitioner called Ritchie Herron went public in the British press about his regret having the ‘sex-change op’ and has suggested the whole procedure be reviewed. I want to say immediately that if Herron is a victim of a bad surgery - he complains in the interview with the Daily Mail that it takes him ten painful minutes when urinating - then he has my sympathy. However, Herron’s claims of being fast-tracked by the medical authorities appear less convincing: it seems the process took him approx. 6 years (2012-2018, according to the story), from talking to doctors in his mid-20s to having the surgery at 31 years of age. In some ways the length of time mirrors my journey (and probably most people's journey), which also took several years from first appointment to the surgery. It is a long period of time, with lots of ups and downs, many periods for reflection, and plenty of opportunities to get off the ride if you so wish. In 2020 and for a period of months, also like Herron though for my own complex reasons, I considered detransitioning. But to then make the leap and actively campaign against trans rights and trans people's access to healthcare is not inevitable, and this is where my sympathy for Herron absolutely ends.

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Call for Papers: At the Digital Margins?

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Call for Papers: Workshop for Early Career Researchers
At the digital margins? Researching and communicating
marginalisation in online political engagement


Monday 21st March - Tuesday 22nd March 2022

University of Birmingham

We invite proposals from postgraduate students and early career researchers working on critical, feminist or queer approaches to social media to a two-day workshop. The workshop will involve research presentations (Day 1) and skills sessions on publishing and public engagement (Day 2).

Social media is often considered by political scientists as a digital public sphere, offering new spaces for democratic engagement and collective will-formation. In European and international politics, it is understood to play a key role in facilitating participation in transnational democracy. Despite increasing public attention to online abuse, however, the experiences of traditionally marginalised groups have been insufficiently explored. Women and people of other marginalised genders often receive misogynistic, highly sexualised and often racialised messages when engaging in democratic debate. Such forms of gendered and racialised online violence can be considered a form of ‘participatory inequality’. Social media nevertheless offers opportunities for resistance through what Nancy Fraser terms subaltern counter-publics, in which minoritized people can seek support and mobilise. Yet, such online spaces are not automatically safe for everyone: Trans women and gender non-conforming people face particular risks in spaces dominated by cis people. Likewise, women and gender non-conforming people of colour experience racism in spaces dominated by white people. Despite this, there has
been little intersectional research to date about the extent, nature, and implications of such patterns of exclusion for democratic participation.

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Graduation 2021

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 The idea of life as a transit point has never felt more relevant. I attended my PhD graduation at Edinburgh Castle with my partner in crime, Valentina, last week (see picture, on our front lawn before the taxi arrives to sweep us off to the ball). You probably can’t tell from the photograph but the dress I’m wearing is so tightly bound to my body that on trying to remove it one time in London as I attempted to go to bed in my hotel room, I nearly died of suffocation. I’m glad it didn’t happen last weekend too, after getting a PhD and then walking through the streets of Edinburgh with dreams of a glittering career, it would have been quite the anti-climax to that career. I imagine the gravestone: Dr Gina Gwenffrewi: died of auto-asphyxiation while getting stuck in versatile officewear.

They say the PhD is an achievement, but there’s always the immediate aftermath of finding the job that fits your new skill-set and qualifications. You’re more than you were, but also, materially, just the same as before, which in my case can be characterized by the words 'temporary contract,' 'minimum wage,' and 'Amazon.' That gap can lead to sleepless nights, and I'm not talking about the nightshift work I recently ended at Amazon. I was thinking today about how I once thought coming out as trans would make me happy. But I realize now that coming out was just a piece in a jigsaw puzzle in which happiness is about being the best version of yourself. Will the transitioning never end?

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Faded Routes - On Street Harassment

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Today I went for a walk while altering my route, to avoid a man whose attentions have become a little too close for comfort.

I've been vaguely aware of him for a year or more, as he watches the world go by outside his apartment window. There was only ever a face in the gloom of his apartment. Then last week a man stopped me alongside a canal to give me some kind of compliment, and I realized it was him. He told me he'd fallen in love with me from afar, from his window.

He seemed under the influence of alcohol. I smiled politely at his words, and kept walking in the opposite direction. I felt sorry for him for being drunk in the early afternoon.

I told my flatmates. They described it as harassment and asked me if I was okay. I shrugged. Was it harassment? Wasn't it just some drunk guy trying to be nice? And again, I felt sorry for him. He might be an alcoholic, an illness that turns people into something terrible, not least for themselves. Who was the real victim here?

But then the other day, I was returning from my graduation ceremony in a black dress, black tights and boots, a little more eye-liner and mascara than usual. I entered a particular street and recognized the mix of 1980s and 1990s music booming from a certain window. I looked up, inadvertently, and there he was, staring at me. Eye contact made. Fuck, fuck, fuck. Keep walking Gina, like it never happened. Keep walking, like you're not aware his eyes are lasered in on your back and every step you take as you walking down the street away from him. But the flurry of thoughts came anyway: what if he thinks the outfit and extra niceness is for him? What if he takes this as flirting, as a signal?

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Retreating from gender-critical feminism: my reflections

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Retreating from gender-critical feminism: my reflections Some months back, I reached out to the people who were meant to be my enemies: gender-critical feminists. I was worn down and had had enough of the media attacks and the hate, the JK Rowling furore and GRA reform, the weekly articles questioning our intentions and validity. I was worn down by...
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Trans Hell-thcare

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The picture accompanying this post is important to me. I took it yesterday, 16 November 2020, unsure what I'd find. It's been nearly eleven months since I came off oestrogen for reasons I'll get into in a moment. Undoubtedly this has had an effect on me, bodily and therefore psychologically, but the accompanying selfie gives me a reassura...
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Silenced by The Scotsman

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On 11 June 2020, The Scotsman published a deeply hostile article against transgender rights and activism in an opinion piece about the JK Rowling furore by its deputy political editor Gina Davidson. After much distress, I wrote a counter article which The Scotsman quietly ignored, after they had offered to pass it on to their Comment Editor. I expe...
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My 2020 Vision

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My 2020 Vision I've been away for so long from these postings, don't be offended. I used to write three times a week, because I needed to, in the maelstrom of early transitioning. Now, things are calmer, my gender feels more normal, we've reached the point where it's all about finishing my PhD in Trans Female Representations in the Americas this su...
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Sterile like the moon: the joys of transgender healthcare

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Sterile like the moon: the joys of transgender healthcare Summer, 2016: Gina's Big Bang, as transitioning begins A bureaucratic question in a sun-lit room. My medical practitioner asks me if I intend to have children. The question lingers, but the self-loathing is instant. No, I won't be having children. The practitioner nods. She moves on to the n...
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General Election

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General Election 12 December 2019 I spent the last election in an office, alone but for the company of a colleague. We watched the BBC's coverage while I drank wine, downbeat and expecting austerity and the absence of hope to triumph. Then we saw the exit poll and hung around, disbelieving at the sight of the kindled embers and lukewarm glow of a f...
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While transphobes get more hateful, I become more freckly

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While transphobes got more hateful, I became more freckly Written weeks after the conference Transgender: Intersectional/International There's nothing good to say, even the films I enjoyed watching this past week, Midsommar and Apollo 11, I've lost the Sunday will to write. Perhaps Brexit Britain will become like the village cult in Midsommar, burn...
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Personal Reflections on Transgender: Intersectional/International

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Personal reflections on the conference Transgender: Intersectional/International (28-29 May) ​​Note: these reflections do not represent anyone else who contributed to Transgender: Intersectional/International I got involved with Transgender: Intersectional/International in order to create an LGBT/queer space that accommodated discussions on racism,...
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Gina's Moving Castle

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Saturday afternoon 27.04.19 Enough with marking papers. Enough about conferences. Outside is a blue sky. There's a book shop nearby, my temple, its owners are trying to remove stickers of transphobic messages pasted on their door. Yesterday I met a guy who'd been set upon by a group of 17-year-olds. He still had the scars, and the trauma. They saw ...
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A Brexit Feminism That Fears And Excludes

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This article follows a number of events that shook me this week. First of all, the filmed harassment by two Trans-Exclusionary-Radical-Feminists (TERFs) of trans woman Sarah McBride at McBride's workplace. I watched it online and thought: that could be me, caught out, disoriented. How do you respond to the equivalent of door-stepping, as out of the...
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2019 I am ready for you

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2019 I am ready for you After a Christmas of deadnaming, trans-shaming and get-in-the-car-quick confidence-maiming, I am back, like a fist through a million-dollar painting. I am adult enough now to disregard what's not important, as I survey the field before me. I am unlikely to romance or murder anyone. I'm also not planning to die. I will work h...
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Transgender milestone (#5): visiting a foreign country

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It means nothing to me This means nothing to me Oh, Vienna ('Vienna' by Ultravox) It's up there with your first full day as an out trans female, with the admin changes, your first job and that conversation with your family. I went to Vienna this weekend to a conference, my first time out of the country with my passport grasped at my tender bosom, s...
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San Francisco Forty-Something

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San Francisco Forty-Something San Francisco, my city. I have never been there. I met a San Franciscan last Friday in a bar, like a Catholic meeting the Pope; or a younger version of me discovering you've been to Disney World in Florida. We sit there, two forty-something cis and trans. I hang on the person's every snippet of daily existence, ad...
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