How much do you really understand about what it means to be a transgender person today?
As a gay man, Declan Henry was ashamed about how little he knew about trans people, despite being part of the LGBT community.
He decided to learn more by interviewing 100 trans and non-binary individuals in the UK and Ireland, to shine a light on the challenges people in these communities still face.
“It is my hope that, after you have finished reading this book, you will have a greater understanding of trans people and that, irrespective of whether or not you are part of the LGBT community, you are willing to be their ally and embrace their equality on the same level as you value your own,” he writes in the book’s introduction.
“Equality for trans people can only be achieved when ignorance is challenged and stripped away.”
Read some of the book’s honest and insightful accounts below:
Daniel, trans man:
“For some trans people who decide to transition, it enables them to make a fresh start from the past. They can leave their former lives, their former gender behind, and start afresh.
“But every human being is different and trans people share this uniqueness too in the sense that there will be those who accept personal responsibility for their past misdemeanours, and others who will justify their failings on their identity conflict.
“It is reasonable to assume that some will use it as a scapegoat for other failings in their life, thinking that they can bury all the bad things in their life when they transition. Often they are disappointed.”
Melissa, trans woman:
“A big worry for me before I started transitioning was: Will I pass? This was constantly on my mind. Thoughts of the proverbial pink dress and high heels continuously flashed across my mind, wondering if this really was the way I was expected to present outwardly for people to realise how I felt inside.
“This mindset had undoubtedly trickled its way down from the gender clinic where in the early days, at least, if a trans person did not make an effort to present almost stereotypically in their new gender role, they were not allowed to access services and were denied surgery.”
Trevor, trans man:
”I am aware that I have a body that most medical professionals don’t get. When it comes to health professionals, I always ask who I can go to who will understand my body: somebody who will understand my hormone treatment as a trans man and the surgery I’ve had, and indeed the surgery I have chosen not to have, that is, genital reconstruction.
“In some cases where health care professionals know little of trans issues, people feel cut adrift with their health care. For me personally, I would like to talk to a professional about the risks of me getting cancer but I don’t know who I can go and speak to about this.”
Perry, trans man (on having cervical smear tests):
“I treat that aspect of my body like a car part, like a motorist who goes to the garage to get their car serviced. I go for this test every three years. It’s a part of life – an inconvenience – like getting a parking ticket. I don’t fuss unduly about it.
“I ignore any unpleasant stares I get in the Clinic. In fact, they are fewer these days because I am upfront about my identity. I’m not ashamed any more. I think this comes across because the procedure is usually done in a matter-of-fact type of way and then it’s over until the next time and I feel assured that I haven’t neglected myself.”
On Sex And Sexuality...
Regina, trans woman:
“Looking in the mirror made me ask questions of myself – the basics of who and what I was. I was a man who had always felt different and had now discovered, after years of soul searching, that the moment had arrived. For me to have any true contentment and freedom of mind, the only answer was to become a woman. There was no doubt about this, and deep down perhaps there never was, but for the first time I began to doubt my sexuality.
“Was I gay or bisexual – or was I a heterosexual woman who wanted to have sex with a man? I was confused. What people don’t realise is that transsexuals and sexuality are not opposite sides of the coin. They aren’t even the same currency.”
Finlay, trans man:
“I worry about the effects that having a phalloplasty may have on my girlfriend, who is bisexual. I question if I will cause stress for our relationship by being grumpy while in pain during the weeks of recovery that the multiple operations entail. Will the penis look good enough or could it end up looking off-putting? I have concerns that going through phalloplasty may not improve our sex life and may even actually have the reverse effect and alienate her.
“Could it split us up? I face the dilemma of still wanting to resolve my remaining dysphoria about my genitals, but at the same time fearing the high risks of surgical complications which phalloplasty entails. I know I will have to be careful when making love to my girlfriend because to be too rough may damage the penis. There is also a high risk of infection which could result in me losing the penis, and I know that no matter how effective the surgery is, the erection device has a time span of between seven and 10 years before it needs replacing.”
Farrell, trans man:
”We need more trans journalists. We need better media training for trans people. That way, we will be much better equipped at how best to portray ourselves in the media spotlight.
“Overall, the media needs to listen to trans people, take an interest in what their lives are about and, above all, be more responsible in their reportage. However, some trans people don’t do themselves any favours. They sell their stories to newspapers and magazines for a few hundred pounds, but the financial reward can never undo the damage that is done.
”They are often taken advantage of and have their stories manipulated to suit the tabloid press. Usually this sets a negative tone that inadvertently sets trans people up to be attacked and mocked because they are viewed as fair game.”
Jean, trans woman:
“Trans women bring up emotional issues in heterosexual men. I mean men who like to portray themselves as a superman, Jack the lad or the gym types who love their muscles. They see a pretty woman in the street but when she looks around they discover that it is a trans and not a cisgender woman. They start questioning themselves and wonder if they really fancied a man who happened to be wearing a dress.
“After a quick internalising of the situation, their thoughts turn to anger and revulsion against themselves, which often results in violence towards the person that they had fancied moments.”
‘Trans Voices’ is published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers and is available to purchase for £12.99 here.