Image Credit: Martin Williams
Eight months ago, my cat Star died unexpectedly. The unexpected grief I felt was devastating. His death came as everything else in my life began to come right. He had arrived 11 years earlier when it was all going wrong. A beautiful cat, he came to live with me and my daughter at really difficult time for us both. I was a single mum, she was a teen in turmoil. I'm Trans and my daughter lesbian. When Star arrived, I was facing discrimination at work and she at school. The gift of a new kitten brought us focus, joy and light during distinctly dark times. Whereas others can cast you as less than human, a kitten accepts you without question, depending on you totally.
Fifteen weeks ago, two lesbian friends gave me a black kitten to adopt. His name is Binx. I welcomed him with open arms, yet black cats have a hard time being accepted in mainstream culture. Cat shelters report they are much harder to re-home and often overlooked. Some people are unhappy to have one cross their path. They'll switch to the opposite side of the street to avoid one. Black cats are mistrusted. It is much the same if you're Trans. Early in my transition, few wanted to be my friend outside the LGBT community. Even within the Gay community there was mistrust, especially from radical feminist lesbians. A girly girl, I rapidly learned to be cautious of femininity lest I get put down for it. These were people I had looked up to and I felt hurt to be accused of perpetuating and reinforcing gender stereotypes. So much of that mistrust comes from misunderstandings about the nature of being Trans. Folklore abounds: I was variously told that I was a Gay man who couldn't hack being male, a pervert, a threat to women, delusional, fetishistic and a freak of nature.
I'm a woman with a black cat. I've studied and trained as a therapeutic counsellor. I think independently and write publicly about alternative issues and lifestyles. I am not someone's stereotype of a submissive female with no mind of my own. I am proud of who I am, fiercely defensive of my femininity and I just happen to love felines. Many years ago, lone, learned women skilled in healing and marginalised from society kept cats as companion animals. If you were single and female, just possessing a black cat would raise suspicions you were a witch. Those black cats were thought to be a witches' familiars, their magical servants or personal demons. Just like being Trans, nobody saw these women for what they really were; herbalists, healers, sympathetic with the natural world and too learned for the likes of male dominated society. These women were often convicted at trials on the hearsay of others or simply being acknowledged to be a witch. It seems bizarre today. These poor women were put to death with no justice at all simply on the say so of others.
But maybe it isn't so bizarre. Communities in fear always look to outsiders to blame. In times past, if a child died unexpectedly, witches were suspected of cursing them. Anything unnatural was thought the devil's work. Witch hunts ensued as people struggled to deal with things they couldn't understand. The term witch hunt passed into modern parlance and the practice still persists. Few people truly understand what it means to be Trans. Are Trans females seen as the new witches? When I listen to the arguments around banning Trans women from using female toilets I fear they are. Trans women are suspected of being men in disguise, deliberately invading female only spaces to violate women. I have lost count of anecdotes and hearsay about men in dresses who insisted they were women but clearly behaved in an overtly male and threatening way. The inference is that these individuals are not to be trusted, they are rapists at heart and should be stopped. In reality, we go to the loo to pee, wash our hands and do our make-up. Seeing us as a threat is about as logical as a black cat bringing misfortune.
I hate to disappoint you people, but we need to ascribe bad luck and threats to women to some other cause: Black cats are just cats, and Trans females? They're simply women.