Erasing Transphobia on Big Brother

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve deliberately kept a distance from Big Brother during its decade-long run, and I can’t help but feel you’ve got to be a little bit weird to even consider going on the show. I found out, however, that it was impossible to avoid picking up random, seemingly pointless gossip from both people around me and the “Entertainment” section of Google News as I scrolled past.

Amongst these random tidbits of information, I was pleasantly surprised to hear about Nadia Almada – a trans woman – winning the show a few years back. Nadia’s victory and general media presence seemed to signal that an important step forward had been taken in terms of tolerance and acceptance. She seemed to be a broadly popular figure during her fifteen minutes of fame, and it was positive to see that most of her detractors criticised her in a way that didn’t question her womanhood. I only wish we could take that kind of thing for granted.

Fast-forward a few years, and Channel 4 seem to be doing some kind of “Ultimate Big Brother” show in order to “celebrate” the long-awaited demise of their former flagship “reality” programme. Once again, I can’t help picking up the odd bit of news…and this time it isn’t so positive.

Nadia is apparently unpopular this time around…well, I thought, perhaps she annoyed people, perhaps the public are fickle, etc. A few stories caught my eye, however, and you didn’t need to put too many of them together before you started to pick out some emerging themes.

Reality television shows have always thrived on conflict and drama and it’s no surprise therefore that a great deal of the said drama is completely made up. I remember a TV crew turning up at a local venue in my area to film a reality show that followed some girl around…they basically took over an existing night, booked their own band, plonked their girl in the middle of the dance floor and told her what to say. Similarly, there’s a fair few stories out there about how protagonists and villains are created within other shows by editing the footage, showing particular events and hiding others.

I suppose this is all par for the course when it comes to reality television. Look a bit deeper though, and you can see something far nastier is going on.

It appears that one of the other people in the show was sustaining a fairly constant barrage of transphobic abuse in Nadia’s general direction. Moreover, it seems that this was cut from a great deal of the TV footage. That kind of treatment is enough to put anyone on edge – particularly if others aren’t standing up for you. The show’s producers and Channel 4 seemed content simply to hush this up, and paint Nadia as some raving angry woman.

A couple of examples:

‘I feel betrayed by Channel 4′ says Ultimate Big Brother’s Nadia Almada

[…] Numerous tantrums and arguments with fellow housemate Coolio, as well as harsh words to winner of Big Brother 11 Josie Gibson about her relationship with fellow housemate John James Parton, caused Nadia to leave the house to a chorus of boos. She returned home to find her car had been egged and a stack of hate mail on her doormat. Once again the question is raised as to whether it is all in the edit and if even the most well known Big Brother alumni know what is in store for them when they leave the house. Nadia said: “Going back on Big Brother has ruined my life. I was the victim in that house but I was shown to be the villain.

“I feel betrayed by Channel 4. There was no loyalty from them, no duty of care. They failed to protect me.

“Coolio targeted me on the first night and he wouldn’t leave me alone. He kept asking about my gender status and he humiliated me over it.” […]

Ex-housemate Makosi Accuses Big Brother of Covering up a Race Fight

Apparently the now evicted housemate, Makosi, has accused Big Brother producers of trying to cover up a race row. She went on to claim that bosses chose not to show viewers clips of Coolio using racist and homophobic comments on the show.

The American gangsta rapper agreed to leave the show during a long series of blazing fights with transgender housemate Nadia Alamda. However later, after being kicked off the show, Makosi revealed why Coolio, age 47, had to be let go.

She said that she was just disgusted by his behavior with Nadia, because he kept calling her “they.” The first thing that he asked her when he got into the house was if Nadia was a he or she. Makosi told him that she was a girl. Then on the second day he tried to get Makosi and Josie Gibson to touch Nadia in an inappropriate way. […]

The deliberate editing of Ultimate Big Brother seems to have fucked over Nadia on a pretty epic scale. It seems like she’s been made into (one of?) the villain(s) of Ultimate Big Brother – the viewers see one set of events in which she shouts at people, resulting in her becoming unpopular and being evicted. However,  anyone who has to put up with sustained abuse is likely to have a “tantrum”.

If the accounts of various Ultimate Big Brother contestants are true, the makers of Big Brother seem to have been facilitating harassment and discrimination even as they downplayed their importance. They literally erased transphobic abuse even as they got rid of the guy who was responsible for it, thereby turning the victim into the troublemaker.

Moreover, the fact that Nadia has apparently recieved serious harassment since leaving the show is particularly troubling. On one hand, any individual who takes part in reality television is putting themselves in danger of negative publicity: on the other hand, the creators of these programmes should surely take responsibility for their part in ruining someone’s life. This is particularly the case when we’re talking about individuals who are already more vulnerable than most. As a trans woman, Nadia is particularly at risk of harassment, violence, murder, self-harm and suicide. Removing transphobic abuse from Ultimate Big Brother was not a neutral act: it facilitated further abuse and possible violence even as it invisibilised the processes by which trans people are discriminated against.

To add insult to injury, presenter Davina McCall threw in an offhand transphobic comment of her own.

The whole affair is reminiscent of how other individuals from minority groups have been treated on reality television in the past: for instance, selective editing created a handy villain on Castaway 2000 whilst downplaying the impact of homophobic abuse. Quite frankly, the whole genre stinks of exploitation, and always has done. In that sense, the treatment of Nadia isn’t in the slightest bit surprising, but it’s no less sad for that. I wish her the best, and hope ill-wishers start leaving her the hell alone.

The human cost of wars within feminism

Australian blogger A. E. Brain has caused a stir by digging up a clause within the new UK Equality Act that effectively gives organisations which offer gendered services the opportunity to legally discriminate against trans people. The offending clause reads as follows:

Equality Act 2010 (c. 15)
Schedule 3 — Services and public functions: exceptions
Part 7 — Separate and single services

Gender reassignment
(1) A person does not contravene section 29, so far as relating to gender reassignment discrimination, only because of anything done in relation to a matter within sub-paragraph (2) if the conduct in question is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.

(2) The matters are—
(a) the provision of separate services for persons of each sex;
(b) the provision of separate services differently for persons of each sex;
(c) the provision of a service only to persons of one sex.

Equality Act 2010 (c. 15)
Schedule 9 — Work: exceptions
Part 1 — Occupational requirements
(3) The references in sub-paragraph (1) to a requirement to have a protected
characteristic are to be read—
(a) in the case of gender reassignment, as references to a requirement not to be a transsexual person (and section 7(3) is accordingly to be ignored);

A helpful example is given in in the Act’s notes:

Gender reassignment: paragraph 28

749. This paragraph replaces a similar provision in the Sex Discrimination Act 1975.
A group counselling session is provided for female victims of sexual assault. The organisers do not allow transsexual people to attend as they judge that the clients who attend the group session are unlikely to do so if a male-to-female transsexual person was also there. This would be lawful.

Schedule 9: Work: exceptions
Part 1: Occupational requirements

A counsellor working with victims of rape might have to be a woman and not a transsexual person, even if she has a gender recognition certificate, in order to avoid causing them further distress.

I was aware some time ago that this clause might exist since I campaigned heavily on issues relating to the Equality Bill prior to it’s passage. Due to other demands on my time however I didn’t managed to keep track of this clause. I’m extremely disappointed but not surprised to see that its still present in the final text of the Act.

As the analysis from Questioning Transphobia makes clear, this is actually a backward step: it effectively overrides the Gender Recognition Act (GRA), which previously allowed trans people who had a Gender Recognition Certificate to “count” as appropriately female or male for all legal purposes. Now we have a situation whereby an organisation with the right excuses (e.g. a rape crisis centre) can potentially get away with keeping out trans people (and kicking out anyone they discover to be trans).

Without another change in the law through legislative means (and I don’t imagine this is going to happen any time soon), any trans person who wishes to challenge this situation legally will probably have to bring a challenge through the European courts, which will be incredibly messy. It’ll cost huge amounts of time and money (for the individual concerned, any organisations supporting them, and the rape crisis centre itself) and it’ll be politically disasterous for pretty much everyone. It’ll probably be an even more fucked-up re-run of what happened in Canada a few years back.

This is particularly sad because much of the Equality Bill represents a step forwards. For example, trans childen have gained extra protections to deal with discrimination in schools, many individuals with non-binary identities are now legally protected from discrimination in the workplace and the provision of goods and services if they can demonstrate that they’re living in a “new” gender role (with no medical intervention necessary, huzzah!) and there’s now a positive duty for various bodies to work towards trans inclusion. Why, then, is there this gigantic screw-up?

It’s not the fault of any of the trans rights organisations (e.g. Press For Change, GIRES) who were campaigning on the Equality Bill. They were furious at the time, and I figure they still are now. They, along with other groups and individuals campaigning on the Bill, lobbied the Government Equality Office (GEO) to no avail, and also lobbied the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to lobby the GEO, but the EHRC didn’t have a lot of luck either.

It’s not the fault of the NHS or private medical organisations, who might conceivably take advantage of this loophole to deny trans women access to particular “women’s” services. They didn’t push for this clause, and apparently no other groups did either…apart from a number of rape crisis centres.

This is the most sickening aspect of the whole affair: I’m aware from my involvement in the Equality Bill campaign that  rape crisis centres, which exist to help some of the most vulnerable and damaged individuals in society, pushed for the inclusion of this clause: a clause which doesn’t merely allow them to deny access to trans people, but also sets a disturbing legal precedent by rolling back the GRA and offers the opportunity for others to legally deny services to trans people.

Now it’s important that I clarify at this point that not all rape crisis centres are transphobic. I know that some in particular work extremely hard towards ensuring they offer a trans-friendly environment. I also honestly have no idea which centres in particular were pushing for this clause, and it would be dangerous (and hence deeply inappropriate) to guess. I cannot stress how incredibly important and vital the services offered by rape crisis centres are.

The argument offered by certain women’s rights activists will be that trans women may threaten or disturb some survivors because they look like men. This argument is a variation on the idea of universal womanhood, and as black feminists demonstrated long ago, it simply doesn’t hold up. There will be those black or asian survivors who feel threatened by white people because they have been victims of racist violence, and others who feel threatened by some other women because they were sexually assaulted or raped by another woman. As far as I’m aware, no woman is rejected from rape crisis centres in the UK because of her sexuality or the colour of her skin, and for good reason. Kicking out trans people is transphobic, plain and simple. This situation has come about because of the vile dogma of a certain brand of radical feminism, and quite frankly I’m horrified.

Because of the doctrine that trans women aren’t real women, that trans women don’t suffer sexual violence (in the face of huge amounts of evidence to the contrary), a certain school of feminism has been responsible for pushing back our rights. As a trans woman, I’m pretty upset. As a feminist, I’m furious.

The idealogical “trans wars” within feminism deal with real lives and result in real hurt, real pain. With various services given legal recourse to deny services to all trans people, those women who have argued for this change in the law on supposedly feminist grounds will have blood on their hands. Shame on them.

Know Your Enemy

Last year, Ian Tomlinson was violently attacked by a policeman after quietly walking past a political protest which he wasn’t any part of. He died shortly afterwards, and (contrary to statements made by the police to the media) was not helped by officers upon collapse, although he received support from protesters. The Guardian notes that:

“Tomlinson died at the G20 demonstrations after being bitten by a police dog, hit with a baton and then pushed so strongly in the back by a police officer that he fell heavily to the floor.”

Video evidence exists to prove all of this. However, it’s taken around a year for the Crown Prosecution Service to decide that they will charge the police officer concerned with…nothing.

To say this news is deeply disturbing is an understatement. I don’t see a great amount of surprise amongst all the rage, however. The position of many is that it’s obvious that those in authority look after their own.

I really can’t say anything about the death of Ian Tomlinson that hasn’t already been said. The internet is full of anger, and messages of solidarity with his family. I, like any other human being with a sense of decency, feel that his death was utterly unnecessary and the whitewash that has followed is completely unjustifiable. I feel for those who were close to Ian, and wish them all the best in their difficult fight for justice.


Last week, an American friend of mine was pulled over by the police, who suspected her of Driving Whilst Trans. Despite being asked some threatening questions about the fact that she apparently didn’t look right, she managed to make it home safely, if shaken.

Her experience wasn’t unique. Trans people worldwide – like individuals from other minority groups – are often at risk of harassment from figures of authority, particularly if they’re perceived as looking different. The most tenuous evidence may be used to accuse (or even convict) trans people of crimes: for instance, if someone who they decide is a “man” dresses like a “woman”, then maybe they are attempting to solicit prostitution (this accusation was levelled at my friend). Woe betide the victim should they happen to have a condom on their person

Obviously these incidences vary from country to country, from region to region  (and in the USA, from state to state). There are places with laws that offer trans people particular protections, and with police forces who actively engage with minority groups. In my own area, the police force has an outreach programme to the trans community, and is attempting to record transphobic hate crime and incidences (as separate from homophobic hate crime and incidences). There are a lot of good people working within this force, and as an institution they’re heading in the right direction.

However, it only takes just one police officer to screw up for the system to be shown up as utterly rotten. I have friends with Indian ancestry who were regularly harassed by police in my supposedly liberal, prosperous hometown, and they knew they could do nothing about it. I know people who have been beaten with truncheons at peaceful rallies, and they’re perfectly aware that they’ll never get an admission out of the police, let alone an apology or (God forbid) charges being levelled against those responsible. In the face of police harassment or violence, we are usually utterly powerless.

Within most states, the police represent legitimised violence. If we’re going to have state violence, then it should at least be regulated and directed in such a manner that it is always focused upon protecting the individuals who happen to live within a state, rather than the apparatus of the state itself. This shouldn’t be a wildly idealistic idea: it should be the philosophy behind the organisation of police forces.

The police claim they’re on our side, and progressive police forces make a special effort to ensure that minority groups in particular know this. As long as innocent people can be killed without consequence though, we are all at risk of police harassment and police brutality, and those who look different are always going to be more at risk.


A version of this article was originally written for a local feminist zine themed around sex.

The poster I see is on the London Underground, but I later find out they’re part of a wide campaign backed in part by the National Health Service. On the poster is a photograph of a person’s face that, due to the limitations of our language, is all too easily described as “masculine”. This individual is wearing somewhat exaggerated make-up: bright blue eye-shadow, bright red lipstick, and a heavy layer of foundation that’s clearly covering up an extensive five o’ clock shadow. Said make-up is quite heavily smeared.

If you drink like a man”, the poster declares, “you might end up looking like one.

Although the model used in the photograph may well be a man, this poster is hardly a reassuring one for women with a “masculine” appearance. “If you’re a woman who looks like a man”, it says, “you’re a skanky whore who drinks too much”. Needless to say, this is a pretty misogynistic message. As a post on the F-Word points out, it relies on narrow and incredibly stereotypical ideals of beauty and gendered norms of acceptable behaviour.

But there’s a further subtext to this poster, and a pretty blatant one at that. “If you drink”, declares an advertising campaign that was apparently “approved” by various equality bodies, “you’ll end up looking like a dirty, ugly tranny*, and then how are you gonna get laid, huh?”

And this is the crux of the issue, and it’s why I’ve been pretty pissed off every time I’ve seen one of these bloody posters. They’re just a tiny, tiny part of the message that can be found on billboards, in magazines, in the cinema, on the television, in newspapers, in books, and in even in freakin’ academic papers. It’s quite a simple message, and it runs as follows: transsexed women are deeply unattractive and undesirable.

I understand where this idea is coming from. Trans women tend to have lived as men (or at least as boys) for some part of their life, and what’s more undesirable than a man? Hell, she might still have a penis. That’s disgusting. What kind of red-blooded male could possibly want to bed one of them? (Since we’re talking larger societal trends here, it is of course men who are supposed to sleep with women…what are you, some kind of lezzer?)

Actually, scrap that last point. This is an issue which is prevalent in the so-called LGBT community as well. Whilst it’s true that not every daughter of Lesbos is a card-carrying separatist who annually attends the Michigan Festival for Womyn-born-Womyn, I’d wager that the majority of gay women – and even a large proportion of bisexual women – are a bit funny about the idea of being attracted to a trans woman, let alone sleeping with one. It’s pretty telling after all that the one trans character in The L Word (that seminal piece of lesbionic television) is a trans man, ‘cos it’s the lady bits and tits that count, innit? The actress who plays him is even made up deliberately to look like a pretty (if slightly butch) woman on the DVD covers. What a cheek.

It took me a fair while to become confident in my own sexuality. Some of that was down to my own body image and related issues, but the media bombardment (“you’re ugly! No one will ever love you!”) hardly helped, and neither did the attitudes of people around me. If a girl’s a bit ugly or has a radical dress sense, she might “look like a tranny”. That, of course, is meant to be an insult.

Regressive stereotypes obviously play their part in this. After all, in this very image-obsessed culture with its very limited repertoire of available attractive body types, why would any self-respecting straight man or gay woman accept their attraction to a woman who looks like a man? (this is, of course, assuming that said man or woman is gracious enough to accept a trans woman’s gender identity in the first place). It’s an attitude that goes beyond image though: if you were to present our disappointingly average straight man (and our gay woman) with a trans woman who conformed to society’s ideals of an attractive female body, they’re still likely to be wary. Once a woman is known to be transsexed, her appearance often becomes irrelevant as gender essentialism and/or misguided homophobia comes into play: she’s  innately unattractive.

In an impressive twist, this can even happen retrospectively, with a trans woman becoming hideously ugly after someone has had sex with her if they found out she’s transsexed (or: if the person she slept with already knew and was trying to keep it quiet, but then someone else finds out that a bit of rumpy-pumpy occurred between the two). This kind of idiocy would be hilarious, if not for the treatment trans women get as a result of this. There’s even an exciting legal manoeuvre known as the “trans panic” defence, whereby the defendant attempts to excuse a transphobic assault or murder by claiming that after having sex with the victim, they “panicked” upon discovering that they’d done the dirty with a trans person.

It’s at this point in the article that I realise things are getting a bit depressing. Let’s face it, this kind of bullshit isn’t particularly pleasant. It’s not a lot of fun  knowing that these attitudes are highly prevalent. I’m fortunate enough to “look just like any other woman” (whatever that means), which is all very well and good for ensuring that I don’t get beaten up on the street, but I’m perfectly aware that I’m not meant to be sexually desirable to, like, anyone. This situation is a lot worse for trans women who find it harder to pass as cis women; no wonder the trans community often places so much undue emphasis on looking like “normal people”. It certainly makes life easier if you happen to do so.

But you know what? Fuck ’em.**

Trans people come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. I’ve been talking a lot about transsexed women, but there’s also transvestites, genderqueer people (who might not necessarily consider themselves to be female or male), genderfluid individuals whose identities regularly shift, and a whole spectrum of gender diversity under the trans umbrella. We all tend to look quite different, act quite different, have different interests and ideas and aims and projects, but we’re all bloody gorgeous.

That’s not just my stubborn pride talking either. There are those trans people who do, in fact, conform to societal ideals of beauty. As for those who don’t: in many queer circles, androgyny and gendered ambiguity are highly valued (and the actual gender identity of said androgynous individual is usually respected, regardless of whether that identity is female, male, or something entirely different). In butch/femme lesbian communities, extremely “masculine” woman are often considered to be incredibly hot. We’re all attracted to different people in different ways. I’m pretty certain that there are straight men out there who fancy heavily built women, gay men who fancy men with vaginas, straight women who can handle androgyny. There’s also a good reason why trans men are sometimes fetishised by lesbians and shemale porn is consumed by many, although I’d prefer for that attraction to be there without us being reduced to mere sex objects.

Still, for all our supposed undesirability, I find it pretty telling that most trans people I know are in a happy relationship with someone who’s also pretty damn attractive. Actually, a lot of the trans people I know have several partners; I figure once you’ve dealt with society’s disapproval of your gender identity, you don’t tend to give a crap what others think about ethical, negotiated polamory. By contrast, I personally happen to be a serial monogamist, but to each their own, y’know?

People who have serious body image issues can find someone who has the hots for them. These individuals aren’t deluding themselves in the slightest. The real lie is in societal norms of acceptable attractiveness, but sexual attraction can’t always be restrained by those norms.

And we have a lot of fun sex too. Vanilla sex, kinky sex, gay sex, straight sex; I’m talking everything from straightforward sex to really weird sex. We’ve all got our own ways of negotiating desire, identity and our own bodies. Some trans people just don’t care and will go at it any old how. Others will throw  essentialism out the window and redefine their own bodies. I know pre-operative trans women who describe their genitals as a large clitoris; I know non-operative trans women who describe their penis as a penis. It’s just, y’know, a girl penis. It’s on a girl’s body after all, so what else could it be? Meanwhile some trans people are asexual, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t enjoy happy love hugs.

Quite frankly, a bet a whole load of women would love to be as confident and good looking as I am. I’ve got a pretty face, great hair, fantastic legs, and I’ve recently grown some rather shapely breasts (going through puberty during your twenties is a pretty weird experience, but better late than never!) I’m in a long-term relationship with a sensitive, caring, bloody handsome man, and we have awesome funtimes.

Do you look like a transsexual this morning? No? Well, unlucky. You’re missing out.

* I deliberately use this word only in a sarcastic fashion. It’s a loaded term and can be deeply offensive, so please think carefully about any context in which you use it.

** Actually, don’t fuck them. Find someone else who actually deserves a good shag, and do them instead.

I used to get angsty, but now I get angry

This post is part two of my response to misha the Duck of Doom, who commented on this post.

In the second half of her comment, misha wrote:

“Its easy. Why do so many of you lot {Angst transsexuals}
get in such a tizzy.
Frak, transitioning is dead easy.
So enjoy it

Also stop making it “the world is against me”
coz it isn’t.
TBH, most of the world doesn’t give a stuff & barely notices us.

So get a grip!
And don’t overcomplicate things.
It really is easy.”

I’ve come across various versions of this argument in different trans communities and in different parts of the net. It’s reflected also in the attitude of many cis people who decry identity politics, suggesting that we’d be more accepted if we piped down and stopped trying to claim special rights; after all, this is the 21st century and we’ve moved beyond the need to define people by particular traits they happen to have.

I don’t buy it.

The world is a very, very difficult place for many trans people. When I say “trans” here, I’m not just referring to transsexed people, but also to the wider spectrum and gender/sex diversity…cross-dressers, drag kings and queens, genderqueer individuals, transgender…what brings us together is that we’re all discriminated against for defying societal sex/gender norms in one way or another.

There are those, of course, who don’t have such a hard path. As misha says, transitioning (for those who transition) can be “dead easy” for some. In my case, for instance, I think I’ve been pretty lucky. Despite the fear, shame and guilt about being trans, I managed to come out in my teens, and generally had a good reaction and support from my friends and family. I managed to access most of the medical services I needed for free on the NHS, a process which took a mere six years with minimal incompetence on the part of Charing Cross. I’ve received relatively little direct discrimination: it’s very rare that I’m denied services or harassed on the street, and these occurrences have become increasingly uncommon as my appearance has changed. I’m very grateful for all of this.

I’m also highly privileged to have had such a smooth transition. It helps that I’m a white, abled, middle-class woman, but I’ve got lucky more generally. I had access to online support networks, meaning that I was able to come out to myself and understand my transness at a relatively young age. My supportive friends and parents mean that, unlike some of my trans friends, I didn’t get abused or kicked out of my home as a teenager or beaten up in the street. The fact I’ve always lived in a PCT that has a decent care pathway means I haven’t had to self-medicate, I haven’t had to wait over a decade to get through the medical system, and I haven’t had to threaten legal action to get treatment which is meant to be guaranteed on the NHS. The fact that I “pass” with ease means that my appearance doesn’t constantly mark me out as different.

This doesn’t mean that my path has always been easy. After all, I have been discriminated against, I have been harassed and insulted in the street, I have experienced extreme shame before coming to terms with myself, and I did have to put up with years and years on waiting lists whilst my body became broader and more hairy. I knew that until recently, it was perfectly legal to deny me access to shops and services.

Knowing that these experiences are pretty tame compared to what other trans people have to go through makes me pretty angry. If I shouldn’t have had to go through what I went through, then there’s absolutely no excusing what others experience. Trans people are likely to be discriminated against in every aspect of public life: when accessing services, in the workplace, during leisure activities and in the street. The attempted suicide rate is unusually high, and violence from others is common. Our identities are systematically erased in the media, which (when not portraying us as freaks) ensures that the only trans bodies that are ever seen are those of middle-aged, middle-class white trans women.

I have a good life and am generally happy these days. The positive benefits of transition have pretty much eliminated most of my angst. But I am so, so angry about the injustices committed in the world. I don’t want a complicated life, but I can’t stand by and let others suffer. I want to harness my rage, and use it to bring about positive social change. This is why I’m an activist, and it’s why I’m ready to take on the world.

Transphobia, seen from the outside

I just had an odd experience.

My boyfriend and I had gone down to Crown Way to post a couple of letters and buy some peppers and a card. There were a bunch of boys who must of been in their early teens at the very most hanging around outside, and we were treated to a somewhat confused barrage of abuse that shifted rapidly from homophobia to transphobia.


“Lemon, lemon, lemon!”


“Are you a shemale?”

“Have you got a dildo?”

I haven’t experienced this kind of harassment for a long time, but at the same time I’m quite used to it. I’d kind of resigned myself to it when we left the shop again…only to realise when we ran the gauntlet again that they were exclusively addressing my boyfriend, who is a trans man.

“Are you a boy or a girl?”

“Have you got a dick?”

Transphobia is always uncomfortable and somewhat distressing, but this is the first time I’ve experienced it happening to someone else first-hand whilst knowing I’m not being targeted myself. It shows the powerful nature of “passing privilege”: if you’re assumed to be cis rather than trans, your gender identity is taken entirely for granted and upheld by people around you. Whereas the moment you’re percieved as trans, you’re instantly a potential victim.

I still don’t really know what to do in these situations either. I feel strongly that anyone who harasses someone else in the street for how they look or who they are should be confronted, but there’s so many dangerous ways in which situations like that can deteriorate. We didn’t feel particularly threatened by the children since they were so small and stupid, but what’s it going to be like for any gay couple or trans person they come across when they’re older?

Anyways, quote of the day goes to the woman behind the counter in the newsagents. She was complaining about the kids and then commented that she didn’t know what half of the things they were saying meant.

“What’s a dildo anyway?”