My partner and I are preparing to leave London for somewhere much leafier and I've begun the dreaded task of de-cluttering.
I was determined to be ruthless until I found a box folder buried behind brochures and other trivia. I'd purposefully not opened this particular folder for several years and now found myself tentatively lifting out its contents. The folder held a selection of sepia tinged press cuttings from the early to mid-1990s when I was better known as the "Living Proof of the Third Sex".
I had put myself in that position by initiating a public disclosure that my core identity was inherently neither male nor female. What I had wanted more than anything was acceptance. Disclosure on national TV was my response to external pressure to change my presentation in order that my career aspiration should not continue to suffer. I was resisting attempts to force me back into a rejected gendered role. I did not see myself as a future campaigner and I had initially believed that I could resume my life after disclosure with the greater understanding of all around me. I soon realised how naïve I'd been.
Some articles were better than others but most of what was written said more about the author than about me. It did not take too long before my place within the 'Bizarre!' category was secured. I remembered how I was often positioned somewhere between extreme radical, alien like and the very personification of evil. Stark and dramatic images of my younger self concealed what had been an intensely painful journey towards self-realisation. I reread the words of one columnist who is now a household name "......behind the desire for self-mutilation surely lies the most troubling self-hatred......"
It is true I used the Third Sex definition as I sought to define myself without cultural reference points. It was essentially part of the process of educating myself at the same time as I was trying to educate others and I made mistakes.
I defined as Androgynous, then Third Sex and then Third Gender all within the space of one year under the spotlight and it took a few more years before I embraced Non-Gendered as the correct definition of neither male nor female identity. But the media preferred the headline grabbing "Third Sex".
I had launched myself into the public arena with my eyes wide open but the disclosure backfired in the worst possible way. It appeared that no one was interested in the serious human rights implications behind the issue as my identity was portrayed moreover as an alternative (Bizarre!) lifestyle choice. The media attention was relatively short lived but its impact was life changing.
The negative outcome ultimately led to my campaign for the full legal recognition of non-gendered identity where much of my time over several years has been devoted to campaign work as a writer, as a speaker and as an accidental political lobbyist who does not accept "no" for an answer.
I was invited to provide oral evidence for the Women and Equalities Select Committee's first inquiry and my evidence is referenced in its 'Transgender Equality' Report.
The media has renewed its 'interest' in the issue and the portrayal could not be more different. Gone are fetish imagery and casual salaciousness as a succession of fresh faced and increasingly younger individuals are momentarily put under the spotlight to discuss their personal experience of being neither male nor female. The response typically is that the person is either awesome or abhorrent depending upon where the commentator stands on the political spectrum.
The latest human exhibit is ten years old! When I was ten I knew for sure that something was 'wrong' but I would never have been able to articulate that inner sense of detachment. I did not possess the mental capacity. I rather doubt that a child of ten can rationalise in terms of being neither male nor female - or neither boy nor girl in this instance - unless the child was prompted.
I don't know who decided this kind of exposure was in the child's best interest and I'm really not sure why this 'story' was thought interesting enough to become national news when the mainstream media ignored that 100 MPs had signed a motion supporting non gender-specific 'X' Passports earlier this year. Let's not shy from the fact there are funded 'support' organisations with a vested interest in current media portrayal of the issue with its unhealthy slant on how children and young people are affected.
The obsession with youth in juxtaposition to the issue I care most about is grossly misrepresentative.
I find it odd (Bizarre!) that there appears to be a competitive search for the youngest person able to string a sentence together to explain what "they" feel it means to be neither male nor female.
Yes, progress on the recognition of non-gendered identity has been unacceptably slow and that must change. I do not want future generations of non-gendered people of any age to suffer the indignity of forced gendered classification, invisibility and exclusion from a society that just does not care. The issue has momentum but we are being failed all over again and in an entirely different way.
As for those cuttings? I cannot discard my history. I was scarred by events and the course of my life changed permanently but the experience led ultimately to the work I do today.
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