I’m female to male transgender and I’m binary. And I’m bisexual. As well as cis-gender binary, there are also binary trans people as well as non-binary. Gender is very important to me as an individual. Among binary trans people there is this concept of passing and going stealth. To pass is to be recognised as the gender that you are transitioning to go stealth is to not tell anyone that you have transitioned. Gender is important to me in that I’d like to go stealth one day, I think I’d want to fully pass. The divide between male and female isn’t that important to me, it’s just what I want to be seen as.
I think, in a way, I am vocal for myself. If I can get acceptance for myself that means other people who identify as female to male are going to get that same acceptance. So, although my goal is making life easier for me, in the end that helps other people. Those who are non binary have a lot further to go. We are fighting for different things. I am fighting to be recognised and to pass as male but non-binary people are fighting the ignorance around it. They have got to break through all that as well.
I came out privately aged about 14 or 15 but then publicly I kind of had to because I wanted to change my school’s uniform policy just before I went into Sixth Form. For me coming out was necessary. A lot of people say you shouldn’t need to come out, that should just be the norm. But in the end there is always going to be that stating of how you feel. I think it should be more seen as that’s how it is rather than being a big thing. When someone says “Oh I’ve found a cute guy” or “I’ve found a cute girl” that’s a statement of fact. I think coming out should be a similar statement of fact rather than a big anxiety inducing life changing thing. I don’t come from Cornwall originally, I’m from Brighton kind of helps with getting in touch with the Gay community. You have to really try not to in Brighton!
Changing my school's uniform took about a year of fighting them to allow a gender-neutral uniform policy and in the process I had to explain to everyone why I wanted to. Everyone I spoke to asked, “well why do you care?” When I first got the idea, I was talking to people informally about it. I was told it had been tried before, that people had tried every year to change the uniform policy and the school always said no. So that was a challenge. I did a petition at first to try and get people who would be in support of a change to prove that people wanted it. The school basically said to me to fuck off. I decided to go and talk to the administration team one on one. I had a lot of conversations with the headmaster, a lot of conversations with his second in command and they were quite resistant to it at first, they said the grounds were bullying. I remember them saying what if one of the boys just wanted to come in in a skirt one day to make fun of it and I just remember thinking that that seemed a very stupid cover up reason for why they didn’t want to do it. A, no one is going to go out and buy an expensive uniform skirt as a joke and B, so what if someone wants to come in in a skirt one day? Let them, that’s their choice.
I remember at first, I negotiated that you had to have a gender dysphoria diagnosis to be able to change uniform which was stupid because it takes ages to get a gender dysphoria diagnosis and you shouldn’t need one. It’s incredibly unrealistic to expect someone to have one when they are changing uniform and first coming out. By the time you’ve got that diagnosis you are probably already socially transitioned. So then I negotiated it down from that to just needing your parents permission. This seemed quite difficult because often people don’t want to come out to their parents, often it’s not safe for them to come out to their parents but if they can go out and buy the uniform themselves, I don’t see why that should be an issue. I had to leave it then because I was leaving the school. As far as I know the Pride Society at my school has now got it so everyone is allowed. When I was doing my petition, I had to emphasize to people that they should sign it because it’s for someone else. A lot of people told me they liked our uniform, but no one was going to force them to change.
I definitely hide that I’m trans in some areas. For example, if I go for a job interview I don’t tell them, but it’s definitely given me more social opportunities through queer clubs and LGBT youth groups. In more professional aspects it’s still a difficult subject. I’ve only seen myself represented when I went looking for it. I think there’s more now, but I first recognised myself in a book called ‘The Art of Being Normal.’ It follows one binary female to male and one binary male to female person and is a YA novel on top of that. I’ve noticed that there is more representation now than when I was coming out. Then, there wasn’t much to notice unless you went looking for it.
I know some people think that passing is redundant and that you shouldn’t need to but in the same way that I think coming out is a statement of fact, for some people it’s important to them. To say that passing is a transphobic notion completely ignores the feeling of the binary and non-binary people who feel it is important to their transition. People need to transition enough to alleviate their dysphoria. People who don’t like the term passing, perhaps certain types of transition is enough to alleviate their gender dysphoria and for some people it's not. They need all the surgeries, to go stealth otherwise they would still feel dysphoric but for some people social transition is enough it’s a spectrum. There is a lot of focus on how you don’t need to pass and that’s fine for some people, but some people really do. Good on the people who don’t feel that passing is important, is a big factor in alleviating their dysphoria or helping them live their life as they want to, but some people really do. I guess that’s where the differences come from.
Some people really like labels because they help them figure out their own identity and some people really don’t because it constricts them. The only danger with ‘Queer’ is shoehorning people who don’t identify with queer into one umbrella because I know just as with shoehorning people into any identity some people will identify with it and some will not. Some people have negative experiences with the word Queer. There is the danger, especially with the older members of the LGBT community who might have had it used as a slur against them, of labelling them as something that makes them uncomfortable. But as we get comfortable with the word Queer in a non-derogatory way, it is getting reclaimed. As it is in that transition period from a slur to an identity again there’s the danger of fucking up on both sides.
This is just a thought, but why are people more offended when you get their dogs pronouns wrong than when you get their child’s pronouns wrong? Have the same energy for your loved ones. No one is forcing you to change how you are being, it’s for someone else. A lot of trans activism in general is asking people to please just be kind and supportive to help other people in the long run. It doesn’t have to be at the forefront of your mind all the time. It’s more about respect rather than having to learn everything. If respect means doing a little bit of background research, then that’s fair enough.
Interviewed by Amelia