June is 'Pride month', my computer screen incessantly tells me. We should all be happy and gay and proud.
But I do not feel proud. When I am laughed at on a subway; when I hear the not so subdued whisper of 'that's a man' or 'tranny'; when people online tell me, repeatedly that I am disgusting, an abomination, that I should die, that I am perverted, sick.
I do not feel proud. Nor part of any big gay loving family. Particularly not when so many LGB voices shout loudly 'drop the T'.
When I transitioned I lost my wife, my friends, my employment and the support of my family. I was alone and very quickly ran out of money. I became a prostitute, something I feel no shame at all for. We live in a society that is not even remotely kind to early stage transitioning people. I had no academic qualifications outside of a GNVQ and was turned away from all customer service jobs I applied for, no matter how low the wage or terrible the contract.
I eventually gained a job with the Open University. Their acceptance and support has left me forever loyal. Further, they fully funded my BSc and MSc in geosciences while working for them. I gained a 1st with honours in the BSc and was half way through the MSc when the University of Glasgow offered me a fully funded PhD with the UK Space Agency.
In recent years it appears fashionable for society to vociferously feign acceptance and kindness towards trans people - at least to attractive media acceptable trans people. Such a self-congratulatory fallacy. Transitioning permanently destroyed the bulk of my confidence. I do not receive a barrage of daily hate now because I 'pass', mostly, not because society and people are any more accepting. I know that if I do not present well on a certain day, or am open about my transgender status, the viciousness and hatred exuded by society instantly returns. I have experimented with this to a high degree of confidence.
I would get spat at and called a tranny while going to get bread and milk in the shop. People would laugh at me on the streets and public transport. People in power, behind counters (and in the university workplace) would insist on calling me Sir, despite my dress and makeup.
These things may sound petty. What does it matter if someone laughs or stares? But when it is on every street, all day, every day, it produces an effect on the individual far greater than the isolated acts. Like dripping water torture. I used be terrified to leave my flat, spending hours building myself up to it; and when I absolutely had no alternative but to leave, I would scuttle along the streets like a frightened mouse trying to avoid people.
Even if one pretends to have a thick skin and not care, it trickles in. Sticks and stones is a false mantra. Words kill.
Suicide attempts by trans* people in the US exceeds 42% with similar numbers at 48% of UK trans* people attempting suicide. 59% have considered it in the UK.
Don't talk to me about pride.
I want to hear about the breaking loneliness of the person afraid to leave their home for fear of abuse. I want to hear the reckless desperation of those who seek to end their lives because they are hounded. I want to hear about the endless pain of those shunned by their families and friends. I would like to hear about the pointless suffering of those made homeless and destitute by transphobia, made unemployed by transphobia. I want to hear about the caged isolation of people who are reviled even under a 'sheltering umbrella'. I want to hear about transgender people turned alcoholic in an attempt to numb the agony of not simply being socially rejected, but socially hated.
I want solutions, anger, rage, change.
Not pride and back slapping well done all rounds. I don't want my grief to be sanitised with commercialised celebrations of exaggerated unity. Keep your coloured bit of rainbow cloth. I do not want it. It means little to me. My reality and lived experience do not relate to it.
I would rather call for a national month of shame.
Let us collectively unite for a few weeks to feel shame on how we treat our fellow persons. Yes, how we treat transgender people. But also shame on how refugees seeking shelter here are treated in the press and on the streets. Ashamed of our growing racism and xenophobia, manifested in our politics of division, our fear of the foreign. Shame of our drone bombings, our illegal wars, our global strategic terror campaigns disguised as bringing democracy and stability. It may be my error, but the middle East is not looking very strong and stable just now after our interventions. Perhaps we should be suspicious of such phrases as strong and stable.
So, June is my month of shame.
Perhaps, if I am skilled enough in my hypocrisy, I will manage to do it with pride.