“I am a girl”. I generally call myself gay as well, but it doesn’t tend to come up as much. It’s important to have a voice because it makes it better for others in similar situations. To know that there are other people in support of them and for normalisation within the community. Even if there is no one else who is in a particular role or whatever, the fact that you can be present in someone’s mind makes people more trusting of the group in general. I’ve seen quite a few studies that show that the more familiar you are with a demographic, the more accepting you are of these demographics in general. Being a member of the trans community, or the bi community, or an ethnic community doesn’t just help that community it widens people’s likelihood of being accepted by all.
There are always examples in mainstream media of X group. If you want a token LGBT person, you put a gay women in. That’s the standard I always find. You see trans people sometimes, often frustratingly as a joke, but you never see any asexual or a romantic representation and most people don’t know what this means. You never ever see any of them combined. The likelihood of seeing a trans lesbian on a mainstream TV programme is basically nil, or seeing an aromantic lesbian. Outside of things that are aspects of me, it’s the same. You might have one token that represents part of you but it’s unlikely, as part of a marginalised group, to see multiple things of who you are. I know quite a lot of people who have felt pushed by the idea of compulsory heterosexuality. I’ve seen a lot of trans women talk about how they feel they have to be attracted to men because that’s how so much has been portrayed.
The major systemic problems that we face are not at university level. The university can’t really do that much other than punish or reprove all misdemeanours. They can’t fix the laws around these sorts of things or to fix people’s prejudices. The university is doing what it can but that isn’t much. We’ve got gender neutral toilets dotted around. I haven’t really discussed this much with the university, the only exception being when I was getting my name changed and they just went ahead and did it. I don’t tend to be part of the Falmouth LGBT community. I don’t like going out to clubs and such, I’m just generally rather asocial. I’m someone who likes to get stuff done on their own.
Narrowing down a single point of coming out is very different. There are multiple things that I realised at different times and then since starting HRT there have been very distinct changes. The first time I came out as anything beyond just cis het man I was probably about 14. I started calling myself asexual, aromantic and was pretty sure at that point I was non-binary. Then it was only in the last two years that I started thinking beyond that into more trans-feminine sort of positions. It must have been October 2018 when I first said to people that I thought I was transgender, first to a close circle of friends then to a wider circle of friends. At the beginning of last year I started using it in public without actively telling people. On my twenty first birthday I changed my name on Facebook and put up a post about it to actually make people aware of this. In March I started HRT. Then after eight years of thinking I was ace, that completely changed in the summer so then I had to come out with all of that as well. So you can’t really pin it down to that I came out on day X because it’s over the course of seven and a half years of not only learning more about myself but fundamentally changing as a part of that development so you really can’t narrow it down to a single point.
Being out hasn’t made a difference to me in most ways because most people have been okay with it. It inconvenienced me, but it hasn’t stopped me from doing anything unless you want to talk about the economic angle, in which case it cost a hell of a lot of money. I could have done a lot more stuff with that money had I not needed to get my passport changed so it’s hindered me in that respect. In terms of social life, I’ve not been inhibited.
Binary gender has a place in that it’s a useful way to visualise an entry point into the way people discuss gender but as something that should be upheld by society and imposed upon people it absolutely shouldn’t be a thing. I am saying this as someone who identifies as close to or as binary. I’ve stopped caring about how close that bit gets. I know quite a lot of people care about the specific minutiae of their identity and what specific words matter to them. Whereas I think close enough, it doesn’t matter in most situations.
I really like the word Queer. The problem I have with LGBT, LGBTQ+, GRSM (gender sexual minorities) is that as acronyms, you are inherently ranking them. If you have LGBT you are excluding aromantic people, intersex people, people who are questioning about their identities even if you add the plus which does include them it minimises them in comparison to other identities. Any acronym-based discussion minimises certain groups in a way I don’t think is fair. I also think it obfuscates what makes the Queer community. Queer doesn’t have that problem because it’s just a word. It binds them together. This is the oppression of the patriarchy. People are in the same way oppressed by societal norms and that’s what groups LGBT and all the other things together as well. A collection of random letters is very easily broken apart and doesn’t really express why they are a group. Queer is a good word because it has a meaning for why things are bound together but also because it doesn’t separate and hierarchically define which groups matter and who needs to be in control. That said, I am aware that some people don’t like queer and it’s not just about me. There are some people that have issues with the word; this may change in the future.
Labels are neither a negative or positive thing. They can be negative, but I think everyone who is trying to say oh let’s get rid of labels is rather naïve. A label such as lesbian is a lot more convenient than explaining yourself every single time. Labels aren’t inherently harmful but they can be abused. That needs to be looked at. I’ve seen quite a lot of discourse around labels but it still remains useful that we have words to describe who we are. Visibility and language are two of the most important things. There was a gay man from New York, I can’t remember his name, and he talked about how when he used words like homosexual to talk about himself, he acted like he was depressed about it, like it was something that was a problem because he didn’t have the language, because of the labels. ‘I am a homosexual’ is a lot less exciting and positive than ‘I’m gay’. Language is important, and labels are a part of that language, but we shouldn’t overlook how they can be abused.
Coming out depends on what you are. If you’re aromantic you don’t need to do anything at all, you just don’t have a girlfriend, and nothing happens. If you are gay, you may not have to come out. You turn up and that’s it. Whereas someone like me who is trans, I will need to express it now what my situation is but five years down the line I may never need to mention it again and just go completely stealth and that’s in my past. If you are someone who is non-binary, if you want people to respect your pronouns you cannot ‘pass’. It’s something you need to do every single day. This is quite overlooked in terms of coming out. With sexuality, once you’ve done it, it doesn’t stop. People don’t just know. You have to come out every time you mention your partners. Although you don’t have to say it if you are trans (at least if you are a binary trans person) people will often be able to just know. Coming out is often seen as a singular event and then it’s just done, but in reality you have to come out to everyone you meet so it isn’t a singular thing.
Things like micro entities aren’t something that bother me, and I can understand the difficulty of not knowing every term. But equally, if someone says to you that they are a peri-lesbian it takes five seconds to google it. It’s not hard. I’ve got a friend who’s that, I didn’t know what it means; it means approaching a lesbian so bi with very strong preferences.
I mentioned how my sexuality very much changed over the summer. The feeling of worry as that happened, which is a very common thing when people go onto hormones (although it normally goes in the opposite direction that mine did) that’s something I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone talk about. Just that feeling of what’s happening, what are these feelings. This happened to me then but obviously it happens when you are much younger as well. It’s not something that I’ve mentioned in an LGBTQ+ context, people always act like you realise who are attracted to and then you are so much happier. It isn’t necessarily like that and your preferences can change as you age.
I don’t pass yet, I have sometimes if I’ve put in some effort. I know a lot of people who pass. It’s frustrating that people quite often see what I don’t want them to see. That’s inevitable at this stage. It’s been eight months so I don’t think it’s something I can avoid. People are always going to make assumptions even if you don’t want them to. That’s not necessarily an LGBT issue, it’s a wider issue of which the queer community is affected by as much as anyone else. If you see someone who is overweight, there is often a tendency to think of them as lazy which may not be true at all. It’s the same problem with people assuming things such as pronouns based on how you look. The fact that people need to pass at all, and we can’t just use neutral terms until you’ve said is inconvenient but it’s also just a fact of life. I don’t think there is an easy solution.
Interviewed By Amelia