By Jamie Jaxon
“Just break down the gender stereotypes”, “Trans men are ‘lesbians in denial’”, “Mentally ill and should get treated”, “Trans is a cult”, “Just want to join the patriarchy and get male privilege/gender traitor.”
Comments like these have been prominent over the last few months but are not a good fit for some of us. My teenage years were in the mid-70s/early 80s, a time when little girls joined Brownies and then went to Guides. I did that but only until I could join the air cadets and then the Territorial Army. Being a part-time soldier and working in a shop weren’t enough so I joined the Regular Army. In terms of sports I ran around without a top on for as long as I could – playing football, hockey, and then did Martial Arts. I was the non-conforming kid, going against the gender stereotypes.
I didn’t know I was trans, I had never even heard of it back then. Being in the army gave me a chance to be myself, the not very feminine person that had short hair and preferred combats and boots to dresses and tights. Being a soldier meant that I could hide a bit, it also covered the more masculine traits I had. None of the things I’ve said mean that someone is definitely trans but looking back the signs were there and I was happy-ish being the odd person. I didn’t know any different.
In 2009, after my 22-year army contract finished I started university. It was a much more relaxed and diverse world than the one I was used to, a place where others were exploring and affirming their identity. At this point I was in my mid 40s and still not trans. The turning point came in 2011 after seeing a documentary style show about a group of trans people. I saw people who I could relate to. Even then, I spent a year trying to prove I wasn’t trans. Eventually I gave in.
One of the key deciding points was I wasn’t a lesbian and that is one of the biggest arguments I’ve seen during the GRA, the recently closed public consultation that wants to change the legal process of changing your birth certificate. There is a belief that trans men are butch lesbians and should happily carry on without messing about with our bodies. I found out after I started to transition that others assumed I was attracted to women but I never was, just butch without the lesbian bit.
Why would anyone go through the tortuous process of seeing a clinician to agreeing that you can have hormones and surgery if you don’t need to? There is a degree of evaluation as it was defined as a mental illness until Jun this year, but for me it was more to ascertain that you have the capacity to understand what you are doing. There is no way that people take this on lightly, labelling yourself and putting yourself through surgery is not fun. In fact, for some surgery is not an option. Some will never achieve, and some don’t try, to fit the binary in looks. Emotionally and physically it can get very difficult. And that’s without friends and family not understanding or being dismissive or worse.
My life changed. It wasn’t so much me that changed but suddenly I no longer had to hide or down play or apologise for aspects of my personality. That’s what I find so incomprehensible about the current trans debate.
Somehow being trans “isn’t real” and if you just smash gender stereotypes, get some therapy and accept you’re gay, then everything will be fine.
Except it’s not.
The harmful arguments that opponents of self ID are putting forward about what trans people should be doing are the very things I spent 40-odd years doing.
But it wasn’t enough.
I was trans without knowing or trying. Some people are trans and no amount of delaying tactics changes that.